How to Bundle Hay

Whether you own a small farm and need to feed their animals during the winter or a commercial farm wishing to make a profit on the hay crop, most farmers have a need to bundle hay. While some very small farms can get away with buying the needed hay bales, it is very often more cost efficient to grow and bale the hay on the grounds. Depending on the needs, storage capacities and climate conditions of the farm and the intended use of the hay, hay can be bundled into different kinds of bales. These can range from 38 to 40 pound small square bales to large round and square bales that can weigh in at 500 to over 2000 pounds.


  1. Image titled Bundle Hay Step 1
    Check the weather report before beginning to gather and bale hay. The best weather conditions for haying are sunny and hot days with low humidity and no rain. A window of 3 to 5 days of sunny and dry weather is preferable. If you bale on a humid day, after the hay is bundled it might mildew.
  2. Image titled Bundle Hay Step 2
    Attach the mower attachment to the tractor according to the manufacturer instructions. Mow the forage (uncut hay plant) as close to blooming as the weather permits. This will give the highest protein yield. Since most mowing attachments are to the right of the tractor, mowing is most efficient when started at the outside of the field and mowed clockwise, in a spiral, towards the center. The un-mowed edge can then be mowed counter-clockwise.
  3. Image titled Bundle Hay Step 3
    Change the attachment on the tractor to the raker and rake the hay in a counter-clockwise direction, again starting at the outside of the field and spiraling to the center. This is sometimes known as "raking out" and exposes more hay to the air for drying.
  4. Image titled Bundle Hay Step 4
    Wait a few hours, up to a day, to allow the hay time to dry before raking a second time. This second raking is done in the opposite direction as the first-starting in the center of the field and spiraling outward in a clockwise direction. This continues the drying process and forms windrows for the baler to pick up.
  5. Image titled Bundle Hay Step 5
    Test the moisture level of the hay with a moisture tester before baling. The desired hay moisture level will depend on the type of bale being created.
    • Aim for a moisture level of 24% to 30% for small square bales. These bales have a large portion of the hay exposed to the air, in comparison to the bigger bales.
    • Look for a moisture level of no more than 15% for large square or round bales. These bales have a much larger portion of the hay inside the bale that cannot release moisture to the air. This retained moisture, if too high, can promote bacterial and fungal growth. This microbial activity can make the bale unusable for feed as well as increase the internal temperature of the bale, making it a fire risk.
  6. Image titled Bundle Hay Step 6
    Attach the baler to the tractor and ensure that it is loaded with ample amounts of twine or wire for securing the bales. Bale the hay by running the baler over the windrows created by the raker.
  7. Image titled Bundle Hay Step 7
    Gather and store the finished bales. If the baler does not have a chute or hay basket, the bales may have to manually gathered. This can be done by hand with small square bales, but will require bucket-loader with a bale spike for large bales.


  • Watch for and try to avoid small animals that take shelter in the forage as well as the dogs that like to chase them while mowing and baling. Aside from the humane aspect, animal remains in the hay can be costly, making the entire bale unusable.
  • Avoid packing bales tight together when storing. Allowing ventilation of the bales can help prevent spoilage and lower the bale temperature. Hay combustion is a major cause of barn and silo fires.

Things You'll Need

  • Tractor (25 hp or stronger)
  • Mower attachment for tractor
  • Raker attachment for tractor
  • Moisture tester
  • Baler attachment for tractor
  • Twine or wire specified for baler
  • Bucket-loader with bale spike for large bales

Article Info

Categories: Farming