by Haley Ruffner
29 August 2023 | [email protected] | 307.205.6628
For many feed stores and horse customers, 2-string bundles are ideal when it comes to convenience and bale size—unloading a truckload of bundles is quick and requires little labor with proper equipment, and bundles are easily split down into 50-pound bales that are maneuverable and simple to feed. However, a little-known option is quickly becoming more popular in the domestic markets: sliced and strapped bales.
Sliced and strapped hay bales, sometimes conflated with compressed hay, are 50+-pound bales bound with straps that are usually about two-thirds of the length of a regular 2-string bale. When the straps are cut, the bales expand slightly and will flake out to the same amount of hay as a normal 2-string bale. They are made by cutting down and slightly compressing 4×4 large square bales, so they will still maintain their original flakes and not fall apart like rebaled hay can.
Because the outside of a sliced and strapped bale is what was originally the inside of a 4×4 bale, you can guarantee quality with this type of hay because any imperfections will show up on the outsides of the bales. Farmers sort out the most premium 4×4 bales to slice and strap, which are then sent through a machine that slices the bales into strips that are fed through and lightly compressed, then strapped and sliced again to make small bales. These bales end up being the same width and height as a normal 2-string bale, but they are about 2/3 of the length. Sliced and strapped hay that comes out of the San Luis Valley in Colorado is also steam baled, meaning that it will always have the ideal moisture levels to retain leaf, stay soft, and hold a perfect flake.
The precision of the machine used to slice and strap hay also allows for consistency—bales will be the exact same size every time. This quality comes in handy for customers who travel frequently and pack their hay in trailers. A few inches’ difference in the length of bales can mean the difference between fitting fifteen or twenty bales of hay on a trailer, which can make or break a storage situation and hay ration for the duration of travel. With sliced and strapped hay, you will know exactly how much will fit in a given area at any time, thus greatly simplifying the feeding program for people who are on the road often with their horses.
This type of hay is often palletized and net wrapped for shipping, which makes it even more easy to handle and store than 2-string bundles. Even in storage situations where the hay will have to be left outside, protecting it from moisture is easier since it’s already on pallets and up off the ground. Likewise, unloading is made simple even when shipped in a van trailer because pallets can be moved to the back of the trailer with a pallet jack, so no loading dock is required.
The level of compression on these bales is less than in internationally-compressed bales or Standlee compressed bales. Where Standlee’s commercial compressed bales weigh about 50lbs and are smaller than the sliced and strapped, these bales average 53lbs and are much larger, which tells us they are not compressed nearly as much. Although these two products are often confused with each other, they serve different uses within the hay market. If you’re looking for consistency and quality, consider giving sliced and strapped hay a try.
Haley Ruffner is a sales broker for Aden Brook, a lifelong equestrian, and an accomplished writer.