Hay Baler Vs Corn Silage Baler [Side By Side]

When you’re shopping for farm equipment, it’s important to understand what you’re getting yourself into. Knowing the differences between a hay baler vs corn silage baler is one distinction you’ll need to make. 

Can I Use a Hay Baler for Baling Corn Silage?

Can I Use a Hay Baler for Baling Corn Silage
Hay Baler

Before we delve deeper into the differences between hay balers and corn silage balers, it’s important to answer a question that a lot of people have.

Can you use a hay baler for other tasks, like baling corn silage? If the answer is yes, then that’s good news because it means you can cut back on the long list of other equipment you might need to purchase.

However, the answer is more complicated than a simple yes. 

The issue with baling corn silage (or silage of any type) is that it’s much wetter than what you would normally bale. So while you can use a hay baler to bale corn silage, there’s a good chance that the wet forage will rot – that is, if it even stays in the bale. 

There are balers that are designed specifically to handle the task, which is called baleage. In this process, each bale is wrapped in airtight plastic. This allows fermentation to occur within the bale – something that would happen in a traditional covered pit or silo, too. Most baleage is made with hay but you could also use corn as long as it is properly chopped. 

Hay Baler vs. Corn Silage Baler – the Differences

Corn silage baler difference
Corn Silage Baler

Here are some key differences between hay balers and corn silage balers. 


Hay balers are meant to bale dry hay, while corn silage balers are used for silage. 

What’s the difference between the two? 

Hay is simply dried grass – usually with a moisture content of 12%. Silage has a moisture content of up to 60%. While the latter can be stored in bales, it’s usually not. Instead, it’s compacted and stored in airtight conditions without being dried. Here, it is allowed to ferment.

Hay can be covered with plastic to keep the elements off of it, but it doesn’t have to be. Silage is always covered tightly. 

Silage can feed all kinds of animals, just as hay can. Cattle can eat both types of feed. However, silage has a higher energy content so it can go a bit further on the farm. It is more easily digested as well. 

You don’t have to have a corn silage baler in order to produce corn silage. However, having a corn silage baler is helpful, offering many advantages over storing silage in silos. It offers animals:

  • Increased milk yield and live weight gain
  • Improved milk and meat quality
  • Better animal healthy
  • Improved nutrition 

Wrapped silage bales also take up less space and can increase overall profitability. Silage bales remove oxygen at baling and keep oxygen out, leading to less spoilage and waste. 

Here’s a video showing you how maize silage is baled:

History of Use

Hay balers have been around for many years. In fact, the first baling machines were stationary units that were developed in the 1800s. Corn silage balers, on the other hand, are much newer types of technology. 

These have only been used since 2003, with the first chopped maize and corn silage produced by the Orkel MP2000. 

Despite the fact that the technology is relatively new, corn silage balers (also known as maize balers) are extremely common and easy to find, used in more than three dozen countries. 


Hay balers cost around $500 to $25,000 depending on what kind of technology you’re interested in purchasing. Small square balers are less expensive than those that produce large round bales.

Don’t forget that you’ll also need to invest in the machinery to operate the baler, too, such as a rake, mower, and tractor. Many of these are also needed when operating a silage baler, too. 

A corn silage baler will cost anywhere between $50,000 and $70,000 for a new machine. It is possible to find less expensive used models for sale, too, but these are less common since the technology is still relatively new.

It’s also important to remember that you will need to buy wrapping machines and plastic for wrapping when you’re considering the cost of silage balers, too. Although these are expenses that might be included for hay balers, too (if you choose to wrap your bales), they are optional for hay balers while they are mandatory for corn silage balers.

Expect to pay $6,000 to $12,000 per wrapping machine and around $3 to $4 in wrapping per bale of silage baled. 

An alternative to wrapping silage bales is wrapping. This can be less expensive, but also more technically challenging to execute. 

Longevity of Bales

You might be wondering which machine will produce bales that last longer in storage – a hay baler or corn silage baler. The answer to this question is tricky, too, since you’re talking about different types of finished products.

The average hay bale will last indefinitely if it is stored in ideal conditions – but ideal conditions are hard to find. Even when hay bales are wrapped they’ll only last (at best) for three years). The time is dramatically reduced if moisture is present or if the hay is kept outdoors.

Silage bales will maintain their feed value for about 12 months. Again, this is under ideal circumstances. The appropriate moisture level needs to be attained and the plastic has to have minimal holes in it. Even so, it’s best practice to feed silage bales within nine months. 

Where To Buy 

You can purchase hay balers and corn silage balers from most agricultural equipment dealers. Of course, there are plenty of online retailers to check out as well as trade shows you can attend, too.

There’s not much of a difference here when it comes to where you will buy your machine. The only one to note is that, since corn silage balers are relatively new technologies, they can be harder to find within a used resale market. 

Which is Better?

When determining whether you should buy a hay baler vs. corn silage baler, it’s really up to you to decide which one will be best.

Again, neither is better – but each does have very specific applications. Get the right tool for the job instead of trying to cobble together a solution with machinery that’s not properly suited for the job!

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