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How Many Cows Will One Round Bale Feed?


Herd of cows


No matter the size of your herd, whether it’s 5 or 500 head of cattle, knowing how much feed you need is essential. Keeping up with their demand for food is a daily job on farms, and being able to estimate how much they eat will help you prepare and forecast your feed expenses and keep on top of their nutritional needs.

How much do cows eat?


According to the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, cows generally have a minimum requirement of feed intake to maintain normal body functions, which is known as their ‘maintenance’ requirement. This minimum requirement for protein and energy is approximately 2% of their body weight.


In this, the importance of dry matter to their diets is highlighted. Maximising the intake of dry matter provides more nutrients to rumen microbes, which provides more nutrients for important productivity functions like:


  • growth

  • reproduction

  • milk production

  • milk composition

  • body condition


Per day, an efficient and productive milking cow will require an intake of dry matter that is equivalent to at least 3% of their body weight. It also means that the heavier the animal, the greater its nutrients requirements and the more it needs to maintain production.


This is a fairly general rule, and it can change depending on a number of factors, such as the age of the cow, the environment and climate, and any extreme conditions such as drought conditions.


Simple calculations from DAF show that a 600 kg cow needs 600 kg × 3% = 18 kg DM/day as an example.

Higher producing cows will likely need more than 4% of their body weight as dry matter per day.


How many cows will one round bale feed?


These calculations can be used as a guide to determine how much hay is required to feed cattle per day. It’s important to remember however that dry matter includes a range of food stuffs, including grain, protein meals, conserved forages, and hay.


While the weight of hay bales does vary, in general a 4×5 round bale of hay or silage weighs between 270kg - 350kg depending on plant variety and moisture content.


If cows are relying exclusively on hay as part of dry matter intake and on average they require 18 kgs of dry matter per day, then one round bale can feed between 15 - 19 cows daily.


These figures are estimates and hay and silage makes up just one part of the dietary intake of cattle.


Nutritional requirements for cattle


All cattle, whether they are beef or dairy cattle, require a few key nutrients for growth and productivity. These are:


  • Water

  • Protein

  • Energy

  • Roughage

  • Minerals

  • Buffers and rumen modifiers


The amounts and percentages that are required of these nutrients can vary depending on a number of factors. For a more detailed breakdown of the nutritional requirements of cattle, take a look at our blog: Feeding Explained: Can Cows Survive On Grass Alone?


About round bales of hay



round bales of hay


Round bales are a common type of hay and silage bales used in Australian farming. They are created with specialty machinery that harvests the hay and packs it into round rolls, ready for transportation. Round bales are generally larger than square bales of hay. The smaller size of square bales makes them more convenient for carrying manually, but they are much less economical for feeding.


Round bales are used across the country for a range of purposes, much of which is providing fodder for livestock. There are speciality round hay bale feeders that can be used to feed out these bales, making the process easy and automatic for farmers.


The beauty of bale feeders and hay feed out carts is that most will be able to carry both square and round bales of hay. This provides a flexible solution to feeding cattle, helping to reduce costs and wastage on the farm.


Best ways to feed round bales of hay


The best way to feed out round bales of hay is by using a round hay bale feeder. These feeders are designed specifically to carry round bales and automatically feed out your bales, without the need for any extra labour.


Round bale hay feeders hold the hay bales (up to seven large round bales) on a tray, then move the bales along the bale chamber up to the feed out tray, where the automatic bale rippers separate the bale and deposit it on the ground. This process is the most efficient and economical process for feeding out round bales. Find out more about this process in our blog: The Best Way To Feed Out Round Bales Of Hay.



WMI Feeders have a range of round hay bale feeders for cattle that are designed for Australian farming conditions. Find out more about our range of feeders here and look for a dealer near you here.


Get in touch with our friendly team if you have any questions!


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