Binding Hay


Hay Binder in South Field Greenhouse

I’ve previously mentioned some tricks like hay bale orientation and wrapping bales in wide opening stock panels to control how fast animals break down and use hay bales.
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Another trick we’ve been exploring this winter is simply putting a binding strap around bales. Shown above is a binder on two bales. We’ve done three bales, which took too binders and one bale too. All ways are options. By holding the bale tightly together it slows the rate at which the animals pull off hay so the bale doesn’t fall apart but rather acts as a rick.

The binder straps are the same type we used to cinch down the tarp on the greenhouse. These have hand operated cinches that let one pull them very tight with ease. Each day, adjust them a little tighter.

The one problem we’ve had is that when the bale finally is used up the strap can drop down into the hay making for a game of “Where’s that Strap!” Ben has an idea to use a rope to attach it to a strong support of the greenhouse so one can just follow the rope to the strap buried under the last of the hay.

Outdoors: 30°F/14°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 66°F/62°F

Daily Spark: If pigs could vote, the man with the slop bucket would be elected swineherd every time, no matter how much slaughtering he did on the side. -Orson Scott Card

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor…

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14 Responses to Binding Hay

  1. Farmerbob1 says:

    Neat! I probably would have tried to control the direction that the pigs came at the bales by putting them into a horseshoe shaped containment, however that would dramatically reduce the number of pigs that can feed off the bales at the same time.

    Looking at the back end of the enclosure, I see an image. A large image. I cannot imagine that the pigs have much interest in it, and I somehow doubt your family values it for it’s artistic worth, considering where it is. So it’s clearly utilitarian. My guess is that the image is an old billboard cloth? Billboards used to be put up like wallpaper, but I’m pretty sure that most of them are printed on large tapestries now, which would be weatherproof and durable. Pretty much exactly what the doctor ordered for Vermont winters. Did I figure it out?

    The two left-most pigs in the foreground certainly seem to be watching towards the camera very intently. Did you say ‘cheese’ ?

  2. Farmerbob1 says:

    Completely out of the blue question here, Walter, but your breeding program seems to me to be almost exactly the same breeding program one might use to slowly develop cold-weather tolerant pigs. I’m curious about how adaptive the pigs might be. Do they eat snow for their water needs if liquid water isn’t available, for instance? Have your pigs developed a tendency for denser, thicker coats as a result of your breeding for healthy survivors in that climate? Do you have any pigs that stay out, without self-harm, in weather conditions that your original herd animals would have definitely sought shelter to hide from?

    • You’ve pegged the nail on the head. Over the years our herds have gradually improved in their cold weather tolerance and ability to thrive through our long winters. We breed for over two dozen major traits as well as a host of minor ones. Among the traits we select for are several related to winter-ability including being able to put on a good condition on pasture through the fall for the breeders and then farrow & nurse without getting peakid. Another set of winter traits is long legs for dealing with snow (also helps with our rough terrain) and shorter, thicker upright ears as well as denser winter coats. Winter farrowing is also harder and requires better sows than warm weather farrowing. I know which lines and sows are not good at winter farrowing and work to have them not farrow in the worst weather. Gradually we select towards the better. It’s an ever moving target as I get more selective as they improve.

      They do eat snow however that has some reduction in energy as calories get used for heating so when I see that behavior I use it as an indicator to double check waterers. It is not unusual for them to eat snow even with water fresh and flowing but I like to be sure. It’s all about having choices.

  3. Farmerbob1 says:

    If you are concerned about losing the straps in the hay, as you require replacements, maybe get colored straps? I have a set of red straps that would be extremely hard to lose in any sort of natural environment short of being stomped completely into the mud. My red straps are for light loads on a pickup truck, but you aren’t using With a twenty-foot length, it would pretty much require an intent to hide it for it to be made invisible in the greenhouse, I’d think.

    • Good idea. These are a very visible bright yellow. That is they are when they start. After being used for a year they’re kind of a dingy grey. The bright blue ones, bright red ones and bright orange ones we also have all end up dingy grey in about the same amount of time. Perhaps the pigs are more devious than we thought… :)

      • Farmerbob1 says:

        Haha, I imagine being stomped into the mud by a few dozen pigs a few dozen times would make them a little less visible. It’s also possible that you’re using straps made of less colorfast materials than the ones I’ve got. Mine have seen their fair share of mud and grease. It’s conceivable that the grease mine were exposed to might have actually protected them from color loss due to water/mud exposure.

        I suspect that the more accurate answer would be that your straps have simply seen a lot more mud.

  4. Ed Allison says:

    Walter, if the straps fall down and get mixed in the hay, is there any concern of the pigs chewing on them and damaging them?

    • I had wondered if the pigs would damage the straps but they seem to ignore them. The natural environment of our pigs out on pasture is so rich with more interesting things that they don’t tend to chew on pipes, straps and such like I have heard of with penned pigs. That is the best reason I can think of for the difference.

  5. Brian Martin says:

    We have been wrapping pig panels around the big bales we feed our mule and cattle has saved allot of waste. Pig panels are available at Tractor Supply for around 26 bucks

  6. Farmerbob1 says:

    Walter, have you considered pouring a concrete cylinder big enough to drop bales into, with arches all the way around at the bottom to allow pigs to stick their heads in for feeding?

    No need for spikes or straps, and the bigger pigs wouldn’t be able to pull/push the bales apart anywhere near as easily.

    You would have to block the arches while dropping bales into the feeder, but that should be fairly easy to do. The easiest that I can think of would just be to have wooden panels that fit into the arches. Since the panels are only in place long enough to load the feeder, you wouldn’t even need to chain or lock them in place, just set them in place, load, then hang them from the side of the feeder again.

    • I’ve considered the tubular bar hay ricks. They would be easier to move about to new locations and a lot cheaper than pouring the concrete as well as less time investment.

      Sometimes I want the pigs to break the bales down quickly and make bedding pack. Sometimes I want them to use it more slowly. I find I can control this well between Hay Bale Orientation and using the binding straps – the investment is minimal and the mobility is maximized.

      • Farmerbob1 says:

        I figured you weren’t using metal hay ricks because the bigger pigs would push any mobile hay ricks around too easily. It’s also clear that you can buy a whole lot of binding straps for the cost of one concrete rick. I didn’t articulate it well, but my biggest concern was saved time. If you aren’t spending a lot of time dealing with hay bales that could be spent doing more productive things, then it’s not a concern

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