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Thread: Loading hay

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    E TN, near Knoxville
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    Loading hay

    I was talking with someone the other day about loading hay. He had loaded plenty by hand (as have I!) but had never heard of a grapple.

    I took these pictures today while getting a load.

    hay_grapple_1.jpg hay_grapple_2.jpg

    The grapple on the tractor grabs 10 bales at a time. It doesn't take long to load the whole trailer this way. (I usually get 150 bales per load.) After loading my other trailers by hand for years, I bought a flatbed trailer just for loading with the grapple.

    All the larger square-bale hay producers use a grapple along with an accumulator. The accumulator is a fascinating machine pulled behind the bailer - each square bail that comes out of the bailer is automatically turned and positioned into a big square with 10 bales which it then automatically sets on the ground ready to be picked up with the grapple.

    The cheapest way to buy hay is right out of the field right behind the bailer. I drive out into the field and the grapple operator picks up the 10-bale squares and stacks 15 of them on the trailer. Strap down the load and it's all done, except for the paying, the driving, the unloading, the carrying, and the stacking! (And the feeding every day.) I usually haul 3-5 tons at a time. With the llamas, alpacas, mini donkeys, and horses I'll feed well over 300 bales this season, each 50-60 lbs.

    I'd be happy to never load a trailer by hand again!

    JKJ

  2. #2
    I remember, as a teenager, hand-loading (and unloading) hay bales in Louisiana in the summer. I'd have hay and dust all over inside my clothes - stuck to me because of the sweat. Pretty miserable.

    I told my dad one time that the thing that kept me going in college was the fear that I'd have to go back to the farm if I flunked out.

    Mike
    Last edited by Mike Henderson; 01-29-2019 at 12:19 AM.
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    West Lafayette, IN
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    I remember stacking hay as a kid too on horse and dairy farms. Being up in that hayloft on a 90 degree day it must have been 110 up there, sweating, hay all down my shirt, getting knocked over once in a while on a bad bounce off the hay elevator.... wish we had one of those grapples!

  4. #4
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    Feb 2014
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    Lake Gaston, Henrico, NC
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    I have never seen one of those grapples, but would have loved to have one years ago. We're down to just two horses now, so no major hay handling needed these days. We fed round bales in covered feeders when we had a larger herd. We only need to feed hay 4-1/2 to 5 months, so a tractor never gets started for feeding horses now with only 2 horses.

    Even at 15 bucks a bale, put in the barn, it's still pretty cheap compared to what it used to take. We're not in a good part of the country for growing good horse hay, so it comes with some transportation costs. It used to be not so bad with a full semi load at the time, but I'm glad those days are past.

  5. #5
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    Jan 2004
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    Lewiston, Idaho
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    John, in HS I spent one summer working for a hay contractor who contracted with farmers from the field to the barn. IIRC it was usually a crew of 4, (1 driver, 1 stacker and 2 pitching bales onto the truck) we were paid 1.5c per bale, often started soon after sun up and came home near midnight. That and working on oil rigs for my Dad gave me sufficient inspiration to find another way of earning a living!
    Ken

  6. #6
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    Feb 2014
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    Getting up hay as a teenager was a great way of building a good base of strength. I have a good friend who has never been one to exercise, but even 50 years later, after getting up hay all Summers as a teenager, he can still be counted on when it comes time to lift, or move something.

    We used to get up hay on a mid '60's half ton pickup. It would be piled even on top of the cab. Typically, we would count on getting 90 bales on that pickup, but fortunately, didn't have far to go with it. We would toss it up pretty high in his family's barn, with each of us on either side of a bale, throwing it, and flipping it into place on the stack by the strings.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
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    Somewhere in the Land of Lincoln
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    Bucking bales! What memories. I spent about every fit day for baling in the summer from probably 13 -16 baling hay. The last summer I was hired by a custom baler and I did all sorts of jobs for him. Loaded the rack, unloaded at the barn, sometimes working in the hay mow, traveled the tractor and baler from one job to the next. That was my spending money. The bale grapples like you have John came on the scene well after I baled. Ate 80's maybe? They were the answer for not being able to find capable help any longer. The baler has an accumulator that puts 8 bales down in a cluster to speed loading. While in this part of the country they are used to some degree the majority of hay is rolled into the big round bales. There are some hay producers that raise "horse hay" that is shipped off to horse country. Our rich farmland will produce several ton of hay per acre too. With up to 6 crops in a season if the rain is timely. Of course the first is the largest. Fresh cut curing hay is always a pleasant smell. Thanks for the post and jogging the memory.

  8. #8
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    Sep 2016
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    Modesto, CA, USA
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    looks like a small version of a squeeze truck. I do not understand it. It seems to lift from the top?
    Bill D.

  9. #9
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    You rural boys have the coolest toys.

    Please help support the Creek.

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  10. #10
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    That's the accumulator on the baler I referred to. The grapple actually buries multiple hooks or teeth into the bales to pick them up Bill. Watch the video Bruce shared and you can see them engage the bales before the loader picks up.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    E TN, near Knoxville
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Dufour View Post
    looks like a small version of a squeeze truck. I do not understand it. It seems to lift from the top?
    Bill D.
    The frame presses the 10 bales on the side and back to square it up as needed, the top presses the 10 bales flat, then curve hooks rotate down into the bales under the strings and relying, I think, on the tightness of the bales. In the first photo you can see the hooks on the top in the unhooked position. In rare circumstances a bale might fall off then I grab, carry, and heave it onto the trailer.

    I used to buy hay in small highly compressed bales which would be plastic wrapped in a big almost-cube, each tightly strapped and the whole thing wrapped with clear plastic. They used a squeeze device to pick up the whole bundle and set it on a pallet then load onto my trailer with a fork lift. Maybe that was the squeeze truck you mentioned.

    I loved that hay since it was high quality, tested and certified for nutritional value, and sold by weight. Unfortunately, they are no longer in business.

    In TN hay is almost never sold by weight but sold by the bale which is not a unit controlled by the Bureau of Standards. A bale can be 30 lbs or 70 lbs, can be short or long, can be wonderful grass or full of weeds. Before I buy I check it carefully, lift a couple to judge the weigh, sometimes split a random bale open to feel and smell. The friend I buy from now has fantastic quality hay, heavy bales, and incredibly good prices! (He produces hay mostly for fun and to have something to do, not to get rich.) I drive 35 miles one way but it's worth it.

    JKJ

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom M King View Post
    Even at 15 bucks a bale, put in the barn, it's still pretty cheap compared to what it used to take.
    $15, yikes! I pay $4 a bale for good grass hay, maybe $6 for bermuda, more for alfalfa. I think to have hay delivered is an extra $1 a bale but I don't know anyone who will deliver then put it in the barn so I usually do all that myself, hopefully with someone to throw bales off the trailer. I feed three horses, three mini donkeys, and six camelids at the moment.

    For storage I bought an aluminum shipping container, 8x8x40', cut vents in the sides and put rotating vents on the roof. The thing is in the shade in the summer. (It's a lot cleaner now that I found a neighbor who loves to pressure wash things!)

    shipping_container_A_IMG_20.jpg shipping_container_B_IMG_20.jpg

    I can fit enough hay inside, stacked 6 high, for almost an entire winter.

    Here's a load of hand-loaded bales on a different trailer ready to put into the storage. Stacking that high in the field was fun. Good exercise though! - this load was probably 6000-8000 lbs and I handled each bale 6 times from the trailer loading to the animal feeding. I transfer 14 bales at a time to two smaller storage areas near where I feed. (14 since that's how many are easy to carry with my little 4wd Kubota truck!)

    Hay_IMG_20141008_170536_565.jpg

    JKJ

  13. #13
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    One summer of my teenage years bucking hay in northern Washington convinced me raising a lot of hay eating animals wasn't for me.

    My animals tend to be cats and chickens. No chickens currently.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
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    Griswold Connecticut
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    6,142
    Who knew?
    I guess I was an "accumulator" and a "grappler" once?
    I'm not sure, but I think we could have once loaded that hay wagon faster by hand than the guy on that tractor.
    Now, I'd rather use the tractor.
    "The first thing you need to know, will likely be the last thing you learn." (Unknown)

  15. Father-in-law works around 300 acres of hay a year. He has one of those big cages that tows behind the bailer. It just kicks the bales up into the cage and will hold like 110 bales. Big bottom gate opens to dump them where ever. Then they have to be stacked and put away. Cutting time is usually when I plan a dive trip to some exotic far away place. I like the idea of the grapple and trailer, especially for the "putting away" part...the problem is that not too many folks around here store hay in a drive in floor level facility. Just about all our hay storage involves being upstairs over a stable. Which in hind site is about as stupid as it gets, and I have long thought so even without a grapple. I mean, who was the first genius that said , "yeah, 75 pounds a bale...we gotta store these so you carry them up a flight of stairs!!!" Horse people are just not practical...wouldn't it work better to store the hay at ground level and lead the horse up a ramp?? If he flipped out and killed himself on the ramp you are still ahead of the game...you just got rid of a hapless idiot horse!!!
    I had a tee shirt made for my wife that says, "Horse till you puke"....she was not amused.
    Last edited by Martin Siebert; 01-29-2019 at 9:35 AM.

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