Saturday, January 2, 2010

Hay in the loft

hay in the loftDuring the summer, Dad and I bale as much hay as we can off of the fields here on the farm. It’s not the best hay, yet, but it is improving, I think. This last year we baled over 500 bales. For some people, that isn’t very much, but it’s a good amount for us. It’s enough to feed our cows during the winter and Dad’s goats year-round. My old hay equipment makes the job take longer than newer, more expensive equipment would, but I could afford it.

It’s a wonderful feeling to have the loft full of hay. If you don’t cure and store hay properly, you can create a fire danger, though. I don’t put hay in the loft of my barn unless I’m confident about it’s state of dryness. If hay is baled before it is properly cured, it will grow mold and/or mildew. That’s not what I want for my animals.
more hay in th barn loft
My barn is an old tobacco barn. In years past, the people who farmed the fields on our place grew Burley tobacco. When they took it out of the fields, they hung it from tier poles in the barn to dry/cure for a couple of months. Of course, the growing of tobacco year after year depleted a lot of nutrients from the soil – something we continue to work on, especially in the garden areas on the farm.

I don’t grow tobacco, and have no desire to. So, I’ve worked to convert the barn to be serviceable for animals. A few years ago, I put about 800 square feet of hay loft space in it. We used tier poles we took down in the barn for floor joists and nailed onto them a couple bundles worth of rough sawn oak barn lumber for the floor. We added some cedar posts in places on the first floor to help support the loft. I figure that I could store about 800 bales of hay in it. This year after summer ended, we had close to 700 bales in it, counting what we baled and what was left from last year.Buster eating hay

I designed the hay feeder so that hay can be dropped from the loft down to the animals. It makes no sense to make extra work feeding livestock. It’s a fair bit of work putting the hay in the loft during the summer (we put it in as soon as it’s baled so it doesn’t get dew on it or rained on), but in the winter it’s nice to be able to feed it easily. As I’ve also said before, having the animals in the barn during the winter months allows their nutrient-rich manure to be collected for later use on the fields and garden. If they were out on pasture during the winter months, they’d really make a mess of the wet ground, and their manure would not be able to benefit the soil and plants as it does in the summer. Besides, they wouldn’t be as warm and secure as they are while in the barn.
The hay loft
Another benefit of having hay in the barn is that the children love to play there. They climb on the stacks of hay and play hide-and-go-seek. Last summer, they even slept in the loft overnight when they had cousins visiting. I routinely find “ropes” of baling twine that they’ve made and have tied to the rafters for swinging on.

There are stairs for getting into and out of the loft (there are other ways, of course, as my children would readily show you). They are steep but are quite serviceable. A friend gave them to me after we took them out of his house and built a new set of stairs for him. All in all, having a hay loft with hay in it is a great blessing for which I am quite thankful.


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