I was visiting my older son on his farm a couple of days ago, and he was facing moving some 750 bales of hay into his barn from a large stack of them a hundred yards or so away. He has three large Belgian work horses, and they consume a great deal of oat hay. Granted this is more than a year’s supply, but he had planted more oat hay than necessary, sold some at a high price, and wanted to keep quite a bit inside of his barn, where it will last at least a year without being attacked by mold and other such things.
When I was younger, I would occasionally come up against bales of hay, usually to make myself archery targets and such things, since my family had graduated to tractors and no longer kept horses. I still move them around occasionally, but it is not easy, especially in the hot sun. A well packed bale can weight upward of 100 pounds, and hay hooks can hold one, but the result takes a fair amount of muscle, especially if the goal is to stack them.
Fortunately, Bob has a friend who owns a hay squeeze, an overgrown combination truck and fork lift, that squeezes the bottom of a stack of bales, picks up the stack, and moves it either onto a truck, to some other location, or in this case, into Bob’s barn. The operator position in the hay squeeze machine can either face the bales he/she is moving, or turn 180 degrees and drive it a highway speed down a road—hence a combination truck and fork lift, although a fork lift slides its forks under a load, and a hay squeeze does not need to do this, depending on the squeeze on the bottom bales in the stack to move it. The photograph below shows Bob’s friend and his hay squeeze at work.
Since his friend operates his hay squeeze for a living, he is highly skilled at using it. In fact, if the stack is uneven, he simply squeezes various levels, jiggles them around, and straightens the stack. And he places the stack within an inch or so of where he desires it, because the squeeze machine can move the stack a bit sideways as well as front and back.
I was fascinated watching this operation, because I could not help imagining moving 750 bales from the pile to the barn on a hot summer day in the Sacramento Valley with nothing but a pair of hay hooks and my pickup. The hay squeeze grabbed 60 bales at once, and completed the job beautifully in well under an hour. Wow!
Of course, moving the bales by hand would have made work for someone. The hay squeeze is another machine that obsoletes people. But since I had a bit of experience moving bales of hay on hot days, I found it difficult to mourn the loss. Bob and I could perhaps have moved the pile in a couple of days, but would have required a great deal of beer and naproxen sodium.