Round Bales vs Square Bales: Are Round Hay Bales Safe for Horses?

There is a lot of discussion about feeding round bales vs square bales of hay. Is the round bale a source of good quality hay for your horse? Round bales certainly are convenient. They are less expensive than square bales. After all, it may start out in the field as the same great hay you get in a square bale.

The cause for concern is typically when the large round hay bales are exposed to the elements causing the hay to mold. They’re also generally known to be a bit dusty.

So: Are round bales healthy enough for horses to eat? Do they provide enough minerals to help maintain a healthy diet in horses?

These questions are asked and answered in SmartPak’s Ask the Vet video series. Certainly this is a topic with opposing views.

The video presents this veterinarian’s understanding and explanation of the risks versus benefits of feeding round bales vs square bales to your horse.

What are the Risks of Feeding Round Bales vs Square Bales?

  • How much hay is your horse actually eating? Is your horse gorging, or getting bullied away?
  • Does the hay in the round bale retain its quality, once exposed to laying on the ground, uncovered.
  • Is the round bale wrapped loose enough so air can get through it?
  • Are you in an areas where botulism is a concern?

The vet’s overall opinion is a good reminder of the mantra of all horsemanship: err on the side of caution. Since the round bale can provide inconsistent nutrition, watch your horses closely, hopefully every day. Round bales work fine for some horses and not others.

Knowing there is higher chance for loss of nutrition and the hay getting moldy, take the steps to make sure the hay is properly stored and handled.

Expert: Dr. Lydia Gray, SmartPak’s Medical Director and Staff Veterinarian

Bio: To see more from their Ask the Vet video series, visit SmartPak’s Horse Health Library (