January 23, 2019

The Hayloft Challenge

Thankfully, we haven't had to buy much hay this year. We were able to grow and harvest much of our own, just not a year's worth. So far this winter we've bought two round bales of hay.

In the past, we've just rolled it to wherever we're storing it. But the new barn has a hayloft, which presents the challenge of getting that heavy awkward bale up there!

What you're probably wondering, is why not get smaller square bales? They'd be infinitely easier to handle. The answer is that my Frugal Self won't let me! I can't get past the math.

Small square bales weigh around 45 pounds and sell for $7 - 9 (or more) each, so we're looking at somewhere around 16 - 20¢ per pound of hay. A round 4x5 bale weighs between 600 to 800 pounds and costs $45 - 65, making it 7 - 8¢ per pound. See what I mean? I can get twice the hay if I buy large round bales. That monetary savings, however, comes with a different price - moving it!

The right equipment to get these round bales into a hayloft (or to stack them) is either a hay fork attached to the front of the tractor or a tong-like fork that lets one grab and hoist the bale with a block and tackle. We haven't found this kind of equipment in our price range yet so we've had to improvise. Here's how we got the first round bale into the loft.

This actually worked somewhat okay, until it was time to pull it into the loft. That proved to be a real chore. This time, we decided to try something different.

The first thing was to move the manual hoist from the beam outside the barn doors to the center post in the hayloft.

Then Dan laid a piece of angle iron inside the doors and hooked two ratchet straps to it.

He set two pairs of 2x4s on the trailer and leaned them against the barn wall. The straps ran from the angle iron, down the 2x4s, under the bale, around the back, and back over the top. They were attached to a gambrel which was attached to the hoist chain.

The hoist made it fairly easy to lift the bale.

Because of the length of the hoist chain, we had to stop several times to readjust it. Below it's resting on two more 2x4s as we pulled out the chain and reattached it.

Once we got it to the loft doors, it needed to be adjusted again. But this time we had nothing to rest the bale on while we loosened and adjusted the chain.

So Dan gave it a boost with the tractor boom.

The boom raised it higher but not quite in the door.

From there we both pulled on the top straps and in it came!

Ah, sweet success! What a great feeling. Sometimes we think that maybe one of these days we'll find the proper equipment and the job will be all the easier. On the other hand, maybe one of these days we'll be able to grow a year's worth of hay. That would be even better.

The Hayloft Challenge © January 2019 by


Gorges Smythe said...

The mother of invention strikes again!

Leigh said...

Gorges, good thing she was in the neighborhood when we needed her. ;)

Sam I Am...... said...

Well, I think you're genius for figuring it all out...I'd still be scratching my head come Spring!

Mama Pea said...

Put a couple of great minds together and you can do anything! (Strong muscles attached to the minds don't hurt either.) We had enough of a challenge safely getting the two round bales we got this fall off our flatbed trailer and onto the right position on the ground! They're now covered with tarps and upwards of two feet of snow since they're outside. But we knew this hay wasn't going to be good for much except bedding so it's okay it's outside unlike yours which will be used as feed. Anyway, informative to see how you did what might seem like an impossible task. Great pictures which made the post, of course.

J.L. Murphey said...

I can relate to the economics of buying rounds versus squares, we did it this year too. But the weight of the rounds is a major drawback. Glad Dan and you found another way to get it into the loft. Here we don't have the use of a big tractor nor a hay loft so it's easier and harder. 2x4s off the back of the truck onto pallets, but it does mean manual labor to roll it with a come along. Still not sure whether we'd do rounds again. 45-50 lb bales are more expansive, but much easier to move.

Ed said...

Once in a similar situation, I used a chainsaw with a long bar and cut a round bale into manageable sized chunks for transportation. It worked okay. It dulled the chain but nothing that couldn't be sharpened and there was some chaff from the saw that had to be raked up and carried in afterwards.

Channeling your inner pyramid builder!

Retired Knitter said...

Oh my. Being a condo dweller and never having lived on a farm, I never gave a thought as to how you move those big rounds of hay I see in fields. You guys are amazing in your ability to find a 'work-around.'

Rain said...

Well done and very clever!!! Pulling it in must have been a chore, my gosh, good for you two! I wouldn't get around that math either. That's quite a price difference for a "convenience".

Leigh said...

Sam, I have to say that having limited financial resources has bee our best source of creativity. Of course, without Dan, I'd be dead in the water!

Mama Pea, thank you! Moving those huge rounds is a challenge anywhere they're going!

Jo, they are a bear to move. As with all things, it's a constant weighing of pros and cons. Of course, if this hadn't worked out I'd be kicking myself for not getting the squares!

Ed, we've wondered about breaking a round bale apart without unrolling and yours actually seems like a good idea. Damage to the saw's chain doesn't sound good, though, so it would be a question of trade-off. Not sure which would win here!

RT, usually they use prong-like forks on the front of a tractor to lift and move them. It would be nice to have one of those!

Rain, with the chain hoist it wasn't that difficult to pull up. The biggest problem was that the chain wasn't long enough to go from ground to loft. We're still happy with our choices, so that's a good thing. :)

Michelle said...

Your work ethic and ingenuity always impress me!

Mike Yukon said...

Sure hope you don't have to do that too many more times! :-)

Leigh said...

Michelle, for some reason it always works out! (Thankfully :)

Mike, me too!

Henny Penny said...

Well, where there's a will, there's a way! That sure looked like a job. You two work good together. I love your new barn with the hay loft!

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Somewhere out in a back field at my parents' place is an old small square baler. One of those things I always said I was going to work on - until I ended up so far away.

Great innovation!

Su Ba said...

Wow, you guys are amazing! When I lived in NJ, I often thought about buying round bales but I could never figure out how to handle them.

Robbie said...

Hi Leigh... this is my first time commenting on your blog, actually first time commenting on any blog! You know I can get "long winded" at times so I'll try to keep it short and sweet! :) I had stressed over finding quality hay and proper storage for a while but a couple of really good things happened. I found an old friend from years ago that has horses and he sells me his round bales of horse hay for the same price as regular fescue bales. That's what most people feed their goats here, plain old fescue. I have tried to pay him extra for his horse hay but he will not take a penny more than $30. What a blessing! As far as storage we converted an old storage shed that my grandfather had built into a hay barn. It's always a great feeling when problems are solved. Oh, and Racer is happy with it as well!

Leigh said...

Henny, it was a job and not one we looked forward to. But Dan's idea worked out so well it was exciting to accomplish the task with victory!

TB, that kind of baler would be perfect for anyone growing their own hay.

Su Ba, yeah, they are hard to manage, especially by hand. If they are truly round (some aren't) them they roll easily. We don't store hay on the ground, however, because of our humidity and ground moisture. So we always struggling to get it up onto something like a pallet. That took the two of us. This took the two of us too, but it was worth the challenge. Hopefully we'll improve on it next time!

Robbie, it's so great to hear from you! And to hear about Racer. :) That hay is a blessing indeed. It's hard to find anything other than fescue to feed livestock. And I can't tell you how many times we've been given hay so bad that the goats won't even touch it. I'm not sure if it's because we have goats (and goats will "eat anything" or so the misconception goes) or because we can only buy one at a time, but we often seem to end up with old junk hay that doesn't describe what they were advertising. Very discouraging. Growing more of our own is a major goal.

Pioneer Woman at Heart said...

That's awesome. Hay is so much heavier than straw. Glad you had the equipment to get that job done.

M.K. said...

Good work!! I can just FEEL the head-scratching, light-bulb moments, and sore muscles! It must feel good to get that done.

Cozy Thyme Cottage said...

That was a lot of work! But being frugal keeps us motivated. Hope you can soon grow all your own. Nancy

Evi Erlinda - Brain Plasticity said...

great works and excellent ideas.
greeting- evi erlinda

Leigh said...

Kristina, me too!

M.K., we do a lot of head-scratching around here! Dan really gets the credit for the idea. :)

Nancy, it wasn't so much physical work and mental. Still, I'll be glad to grow more of our own!

Evi Erlinda, welcome! And thank you. :)

Chris said...

I like the sounds of being able to grow your own hay. But it's nice to have a system, to bring it from elsewhere too. Wondering if a series of pulleys would make it easier to lift? Farmers are such great inverters when they've only got themselves to rely on.

Leigh said...

Chris, the hoist really isn't all that hard to pull; I was able to do it without much trouble. The problem is that the chain wasn't long enough. It has a circular chain for pulling and a length of chain to attach to the hay. Even when we pulled it as far as the chain would go, it wasn't long enough. Maybe a longer chain is the answer.

Rose said...

Necessity is the mother of invention! I did not realize what hay bales cost now! Whew, a person would have to be rich to buy the old-time bales.

Leigh said...

Rose, those prices are for fescue, which isn't the best hay in the world. Really good hay costs more like $10 to $12 a small square; alfalfa is somewhere around $17. All the more reason for improving our pastures and harvesting more hay of our own.