Why are Hay Bales Left in Fields? It is Risky

I live in the countryside because I enjoy being surrounded by the greenery. I go out for a drive every evening just to see the beautiful landscape. As I was driving out today, I passed a few fields and noticed many hay fields had been cut and baled but sit on the field. It’s been raining this evening, I’m worried that the hay bales may get lost or damaged.

I wonder what could be the possible explanation why farmers leave hay bales in the field? Why go for all the efforts when they have been cut, baled, and left on the field to be ruined. It poses a fire risk as well. So, the next evening, I decided to go to the farmer for a possible explanation and luckily I got one. 

The rolls of hay contain cut, dried, grass, legumes, and other plants. These hay bales are useful when there is no grass to graze on for the livestock during the winter months. Storing in round bales makes it easy to feed to horses and cattle as just roll them along and the hay unravels. 

Round bales are more common than square bales because of the ease of use. Round bales do not cut to be fed whereas square bales do need cutting. The equipment for creating bales rolls is less complex and more reliable than square one.

Coming back to the subject being discussed, why are bales of hay left in the field? Here is the answer, stay to learn.

Why Are Hay Bales Left In The Field?

I have to confess hay bales make the countryside more scenic with several bales scattered among the harvested fields. Ever wondered why they sit on the fields for days, weeks, even months. For one, it is convenient to leave bales out in the field in the absence of a storage area.

Sometimes, the farmers are in a hurry or out of time to get bales in. Often, it’s just farmers being lazy, after harvesting a field, they like to take some rest and finish off in a few days.

Because of the good keeping quality, farmers tend to leave them where the baler spat them out. It is also cost-effective to leave bales in the field to avoid handling and storage costs.

Rolled to store on the land, these hay bales stay in the field for longer than anticipated and provide forage for grazing animals in the winter. One possible other reason they have occupied the empty land is that the landowner intends to sell them for profit. 

Weather Impact On Hay Rolls

It would not be wise to leave hay rolls on the field for them to get ruined by the weather. Areas that get a fair amount of weather will quickly damage the bales. Leaving them out for too long will spoil the bales eventually. 

All the handling and storage costs you saved would be of no use. Leaving bales out in the field after the final cut may come at a price, the price often being the hay bale itself.

According to research, Rainwater can get in the bale and spoil the bale, bales soak up water either from the top or from the ground. Round bales have less ground exposure which allows the water to run off instead of soaking in. One way to not let rainwater spoil rolls is to pack more in the bale which would make it harder for water to infiltrate. (source)

It is best to store bales in storage as inclement weather can ruin the bales or sweep them off the ground, creating a bigger mess. Read our guide on how you can save wet bales by hay steamers.

Risks Of Leaving Hay Bales On The Field

If more harvests are expected from the field, delaying bales removal can cost future yields. Timely action is crucial if the farmer is preparing for the next harvest. Leaving bales may not matter as much but if more harvests are expected, delaying removal should not be an option.

Here are some potential disadvantages of keeping hay bales on the field. 

Smothering Forage Plants

Forage plants planted under the bale or stack are often killed or smothered if covered for a week or two. Forage has difficulty recovering where the bale was once placed. 

Weed Growth

Even if the hay bale has no impact on future yield, there is one other potential problem you need to be aware of, weed growth. Hay bales or rolls would provide safe haven for different types of weed to grow and spread quickly.

Decrease In Production

Most damage is done through wheel traffic on regrowth. Many pieces of research indicate that plants driven on right after harvest and before regrowth will yield less around 5-7% at the next cutting.

According to research, Things get worse when you delay hay bales removal, even a delay of mere 7 days would cost over 25% reduction in yield, and the survival of plants would be at risk too.

Further Yield Loss

Do not even mistakenly remove bales when the field is wet. Worse yet, wheel traffic will cause more damage, compaction, and increase the yield loss by 30%. According to rates determination round hay bale cost can be reduced after damage.

Bales Damage

The damage is not restricted to the field only, with time, bales would flatten out and soften. They will soon start to fall apart, making it harder to load, handle, and haul. Hay bales can become moldy and not good for us.

Tips Of Removing Bales From Hay Fields

After reading the risks, it’s a no-brainer you have decided to remove them before it’s too late. Here are some tips that may come in handy when removing bales from the hayfield.

  • Many studies emphasize and back the idea of removing bales from hayfields as quickly as possible after cutting. One reason for this is to minimize driving on wet soils.
  • Do not take another route, follow the same wheel track when removing bales or stacks to reduce losses by limiting the total area damaged.
  • Control the damage done and future yield loss by choosing wisely where, when, and how often you drive.

Putting it all together, Unless the hay bales are used for bale grazing, it would prove expensive to leave them in the field. So, get going, remove bales rolls to prevent future yield loss.


Hi, I am Waqar and active in the horse world since 2012. I have MSc (Hons) in Agriculture from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad. I love to solve equine health care issues and note down in the form of research papers. I have written hundreds of equine health care, accessories, names, and history-related blogs. My equine related work is watering a lot of horse-related magazines and blogs.

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