Sunday, July 31, 2011

Stacking Hay

Today I got more hay and wanted to do a post about stacking hay, since this is a pretty big deal to me. Yes, that's right. Stacking hay is important to me. Some people are obsessive about their woodpiles, you know. One of my favorite former coworkers actually took pictures of his woodpile and showed us because he was so proud of it. Every piece had to be stacked just so!

Back to the hay. When I was working on the campus farm when I was in college, my boss was very particular about how the hay got stacked, and for good reason. When you're stacking 600+ bales in a loft it's important the hay is stacked very neatly and tightly so it doesn't fall over. Also, it's sometimes necessary to walk/climb on the hay and you don't want to be climbing all over a wobbly hay stack.

As I was stacking my hay today, I took pictures of the steps with my cell phone since I was too lazy busy to go get my real camera which was in the house. The pictures came out pretty badly. See Exhibit A, below.

I decided to use a few old pictures since they turned out much better. These pictures are from 2 summers ago. I'm amazed at how green everything is! We have had such a bad drought this summer the only things still green are the tree leaves. Our grass is brown.

Ok, back to stacking. When you load hay you want to stack it so the hay bales interlock and create a solid stack. You lay out the bottom row one way. With our trailer, it works best if the bottom row of bales run lengthwise front to back. I like to do about 2 rows, then start building up. If you lay out the whole bottom of the trailer first, then you have to walk on the hay to build your stack up, and that isn't as easy as walking on the deck of the trailer. After 2 rows of hay is down, then I put the next bales on top, creating a second level. Only this time, instead of running the bales lengthwise front to back, they go the other direction. They lay lengthwise from side to side. Does that make sense? If you click the picture to enlarge it, you can see the bottom level of bales are running the opposite direction as the second level. See the third level of bales on the trailer? The right hand side is stacked correctly, the left is not. My father in law stacked these, and as much as I love him he doesn't quite stack the hay correctly. I can't really say anything though, because I was glad to have the help when we loaded hay. Pretty much the thing to remember with hay, especially when loading it in a vehicle, is to make a solid foundation. Stack each level in alternating directions so the hay locks itself in.

Now, when you get back to your barn or shed, another thing you want to remember is proper ventilation. Hay will get moldy if it does not have enough airflow. It's good to stack your hay up off the ground, and pallets work great for this. Lay down your pallets and then you're ready for your first layer. The bottom layer of hay gets stacked on it's side, cut side up. How do you know which side is the cut side? It's easy, it's the one that has been cut! It's very neat and tidy and usually the side that hurts your legs if you have shorts on. Not that I'd stack hay in shorts....that's another rule. If you see in the picture above, the second row is cut side out.

Ok, back to the bottom layer. Cut side goes up, so the hay can breathe. And also maybe so it won't wick moisture up from the floor. Or maybe it was just my boss's weird rule. All I know is cut side goes up! It's important to make sure the bales are as close to each other as possible. Then when the second row goes on, the hay goes the opposite direction. In the picture below you can see the bottom row is stacked so the butt end is facing the camera. The second row is stacked so the long side is facing the camera. Third row is butt end to the camera, fourth row is long side to the camera, etc. etc. One thing you want to remember is start working up before you get a whole level laid out. It's much easier that way!

The end goal is to have a neat, sturdy hay stack. One you can be proud of! Am I the only one who gets proud of hay stacks? I mean, look at me, I'm blogging about stacking hay. You know what I miss? Seeing the whole loft of the sheep, horse, and dairy barns full of hay from my college days. Oh, don't get me wrong...I don't miss the long hot summer days spent in a stifling loft, my eyes so swollen and itchy (I'm allergic), unloading tractor-trailers full of hay. I just miss looking at it when it was all stacked! I wish I had a few pictures of that. That was before everyone had a cell phone with a camera. Heck, that was really before most everyone had a digital camera.

Well, there you have it. My essay on stacking hay. Jordan would be proud!

And just because I'm bored and it's Sunday night, I drew a schematic on Paint to show you what I mean. I don't know if it helps, but I had fun making it. You can see the bottom row bales are stacked cut side up. Then the additional rows alternate directions.


Becky said...

You have every reason to be proud of that haystack! Nice job! I love the diagram at the bottom. That really helped me understand the direction each layer was to go. You'll have to teach me how to stack when we finally get some land and animals. :)

Jenna said...

Thank you!

Deb said...

Way to go Katie! I am proud of you and know it feels good to have food stocked up for the animals! I know what you mean about the barns all stacked up for the winter. What hard work hon! I think Jordan was right about cut side up to help with drainage should any get wet. Great job my farmer girl! Love you, Momma

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