Cottage Snowed, Delivering Hay

Curing was the order of the day for the cottage and we caught up, somewhat, on other tasks around the farmstead. It was cold and windy so not a good day to uncover the roof barrel vault and work up high doing more concrete. Everything in its time. Sunday it is supposed to be much warmer and sunnier.

Today I figured out a really great trick for moving the big round hay bales around. I wish someone had shown me this years ago so I’m going to show you

We feed about one bale per adult pig over the course of the winter. An adult pig eats around six pounds of hay a day. Growers eat around two pounds a day. This comes to about one bale to the herd and one bale to the piglets per week. In addition to eating the hay they also bed down in it. Having plenty of hay in their diet makes their poops less smelly, probably because the carbon in the hay binds with the nitrogen. The hay on the ground also binds the nitrogen (ammonia) in their urine. This retains the valuable fertilizer rather than having it out-gas and run off. If you can smell it you are losing valuable nutrients.

The bales weight 800 lbs. With effort the “small” round bales can be rolled on flat ground. We live on a mountain. If they are carefully placed in the fall then it means I can hand feed them out. That didn’t happen this year. There is a bale grabber attachment for the tractor but it costs two arms so it isn’t something I’m likely to get unless I find one used and cheap. My solution has been a chain on the bucket.

Bucket Chain Hook

Last year I had three chain hooks welded onto each of our tractor buckets. There is one hook on each end of the bucket plus one in the middle. For this discussion we’re only looking at the outer two hooks. These hooks allowed me to, among other things, easily transport round bales of hay. Last week I had set down a bale and released it by just tipping the bucket. Hmm… could I pick bales up the same way? Yes! It works! Here’s how to do it:

Start with the chain hooked on the outer two hooks and draping down in front. I’m using a 14′ long chain. About 13′ of the chain is actually used on a small 4′ round bale. That is important relative to the bale size. While the bale here is unwrapped, this also works most excellently on wrapped bales – with care you can avoid damaging the wrap. If you do damage the wrap and it is warm weather then slap a piece of packing tape on the hole.

Approach the Bale

I start by driving up square to the bale and swinging the loop of chain out over the far side of the bale so it drops down past the far edge of the bale.

Lower bucket to bale so chain hooks.

Bring bucket back below bale near lip.

Grasp bale between bucket and chain by tilting the bucket.

Lift the bale by continuing to tilt bucket.

Lower bale near to ground for safe transport.

Kita supervising the delivery of hay to her pigs and sheep.

Releasing the bale is the same as grabbing it but in reverse – easy as pie. Just don’t set the bale on any of the livestock. If you go slowly they move out of the way as the bale is lowered.

Pigs eat hay and interestingly, so will sheep. :) Yes, I realize that some people think it is the other way around. I’ve had people tell me pigs can’t eat hay because they don’t have the multiple stomachs of ruminants. While ruminants may be more efficient at digesting course hay, the pigs can and do. In fact, we have raised and wintered pigs solely on pasture and hay. It works and they thrive. They do grow a little slower than pigs fed grain or dairy. The difference is about one month. That is why confinement pigs are fed grain, to get them to market as fast as possible.

Happy Pigs gathering hay for their nest.

We feed the pigs hay for the winter when they can’t get out on pasture. This is our third year with round bales. I’ve found them to be better quality hay than the square bales. Part of that is because I buy wrapped round bales. It adds a three dollars to the cost per 800 lb bale but is worth it. The hay stores better covered, avoids the need for a barn, has a higher moisture content, is greener, fresher looking, and smells good. We also feed some square bales as they are easier to handle individually but the big round bales are better if you can maneuver them. There is the issue of the waste packaging… I’m still working on a good use for it.

The hooks on the front buckets had been so useful I added a chain hook to the backhoe bucket this fall. This turns the backhoe into a crane. The hook is much easier and safer to use than wrapping the chain on the bucket. Highly recommended – I wish I had done these hooks years ago!

Fine print: O
f course, any modifications you make to your equipment are your responsibility, things can go wrong, don’t get hooked on it, work safely and all that stuff. I don’t take responsibility for your actions, this is not engineering advice, merely my experience, etc, etc.

I have been having more troubles with so this post may appear a bit late… More incentive to move to WordPress. Need more time. :)

Also see this article about Feeding Hay.

Outdoors: 18°F/4°F 4″ Snow, Partly Sunny, Windy
Farm house: 57°F/47°F First Fire 3 logs
Tiny Cottage: 41°F/33°F

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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9 Responses to Cottage Snowed, Delivering Hay

  1. rich says:

    I’m intrigued by this contraption

    especially since I don’t own a tractor.

  2. Nice. That would work well on flatter, smoother terrain if we had a pickup truck to tow it. Looks like you could even make your own without too much difficulty.

  3. karl says:

    it is nice to read your comment about the hooks. they are one of those things that upon first seeing them you say to yourself “how obvious” but never think to share with others because it is like it was always there.

    i must say that i am curious how they un-load the balebuster? loading may seem easy but where is the crank to tip it back up. i have seen similar units home made as a bumper attachment for a truck. but they never tip them past the balance point so they can be easily lowered.

  4. Mark V says:

    Excellent ideas. Thanks for sharing them here Walter.

  5. jonathan says:

    Thanks for the great insight on the hay. We used large square bales this year and I prefer the small bales, especially since we stored them inside. I like the idea of using the wrapped round bales.

    PS – regarding WordPress, I moved about six months ago and recommend it highly!!


  6. steven says:

    That’s a very inventive use of the chain and chainhooks. Did you have to have those them (the hooks) welded on?

  7. Julia Cronin says:

    Walter, I notice in the picture that you have roumd bales wrapped in white plastic. Around here, they are referred to as “baleage”. Have you had issues with fermentation and/or mold in the hay? We recently bought a couple of bales and are really happy with the quality, but have concern that as spring is here, warmer temperatures will cause problems with spoilage. It takes us about 10 days to go through a bale. We’ve been letting our nose guide us…as long as it smells sweet and not acidic or yeasty, we are going with it!

    • Twice we have had problems with farmers who sold us wet, spoiled junk hay in wrapped bales. Always open a few to test and reseal them or feed them out immediately if they are good. We have bought thousands of bales from our main source and he has always provided us we excellent wrapped bale – slightly sweet and fermented, never bad. We buy all of his hay and unfortunately we need more than he can produce so we end up having to source a little more every year. I have yet to find anyone else who meets his high standards. Hunt around until you find a good source.

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