Hay Trailer Tips to Save You Time and Money
Moving hay can be a pleasure or a chore, depending on whether or not you have the right equipment.
Hay. It’s heavy. It’s bulky. It’s subject to rot and mold. It’s often in the wrong place and sometimes stacked the wrong way. But it’s an essential part of work and life for modern ranchers and farmers, who spend more hours and dollars than they’d like getting it baled, collected, stacked, and hauled around – not just on fields but on roadways, too – to where they want it.
That’s why the choice of hay-moving equipment, once limited but now wide open, has become so important.
“Most farmers have their own ways of handling hay, and they're used to doing things the old ways,” says Jim Herzog, a livestock auction market owner in Butler, MO, and a cattle producer who handles a lot of hay every year. “So it’s difficult to point to a single piece of equipment and say ‘That’s what you need to haul your hay.’”
But even so, there are some basic considerations that can help you select the best piece of hay-moving equipment to meet any combination of wants and needs.
Hay Trailers vs. Pick-Up Hay Beds or Tractor Feeding
“Relying on a bale bed that can move only one or two bales at a time is both time consuming and expensive,” says Bruce Byers, a farmer in Beggs, OK, who grows and either uses or sells some 4,000 to 8,000 bales each year. “For longer hauls, it’s much better to have a trailer that can carry half a dozen bales or more at once.”
But not all hay trailers are created equal.
“If you’ve got enough equipment and can afford to leave some near your hayfields and others where you like to stack your bales, you can get away with almost any kind of flatbed trailer,” says Jerrod Latta, who has seven years experience helping his father-in-law, Ronnie Patrick, with hay and hauling hay around Mounds, OK. “But if you’re concerned about fuel costs and operating expenses, not to mention maintenance issues and the number of man-hours you need to spend working with hay, you need hay-moving equipment that will save you time and money.”
Roller-Fitted Trailers for Easy Loading and Unloading
Hauling bales on a conventional flatbed requires a loader to put them on and a loader to take them off. But when you replace that fixed, flat bed with a series of heavy-duty rollers, you don’t need any additional equipment to unload the bales wherever you want them.
With a roller-bed trailer, like the HayRoll trailer from GoBob Pipe and Steel, you can load your bales from the side or the back of the trailer.
“Load from the side,” says Jim Herzog, “and later the bales will slide on the rollers, right off the back of the trailer, into a side-by-side stack that leaves them easily accessible to bale beds.
“But if you prefer conventional tootsie-roll windrows,” Herzog continues, “you just push the new bales on from the back of the trailer. That way, they set up correctly in your stacks just as they come off the trailer.”
Because the bales move so easily and smoothly on the rollers, there’s less wear and tear on your truck or tractor, too, so you can save fuel by using lighter-duty equipment.
The better roller-bed trailers are designed for easy unloading, without elaborate and expensive hydraulics, jacks, or other powered systems. They use plain old gravity and smart design to tilt the loaded roller-bed so the bales slide off without any effort, exactly where you want them.
No Loaders Necessary
Side dump trailers allow you to leave your loader in the field, and haul your hay over fields or roads, then dump it when you get where you’re going with it.
Most side-dump trailers are set up to dump the whole load at once, but some hay trailers are capable of dumping just one bale at a time, which can be important if you’re feeding smaller herds in several different locations. Side dump hay trailers come in a range of sizes and capabilities, from 4 or 6-bale models like GoBob’s Red Rhino to its 11-bale kin, the Red Ox.
Load, Haul and Dump Without Ever Leaving Your Truck or Tractor
One of the most exciting innovations on the farm scene in recent years is a trailer capable of loading, hauling, and dumping bales of hay up to 2500 pounds all by itself, with only a truck or tractor to pull it.
The 2EZ Hay Hauler is the most advanced hauling system now on the market. Like many hay haulers, it features two rails running the full length of the trailer to support the hay. What’s unique is that these rails can descend under precise control to ground level, so you can back up your truck or tractor to slide the rails under the bale(s), one at a time, or several at once. As you load more bales at the back of the trailer, bales already on board slide forward until the trailer is full.
“Because you do all the loading and unloading from inside your cab,” says Bruce Byers, “the system is the fastest I’ve seen. It turns a two- or three-man job into a one-man job using only one vehicle.”
“From what people tell me, shoving bales onto a trailer with the truck in ‘park’ is bad for the transmission and u-joints,” advises Jerrod Latta. “Sliding the 2EZ trailer under the bales puts less pressure on expensive truck parts. Even on rough terrain, I’ve never had a problem.”
The system uses a “power up, gravity down” design, with massive hydraulic cylinders to lift the rails to traveling height. But they drop back down using only the force of gravity. An ingenious “lock out” system prevents any possible malfunction from dropping your hay before you’re ready. A separate “equalizer” valve ensures the rails rise as one, so your hay bales are always supported securely for cross-field hauling or long-distance delivery.
“I gather all my hay with it,” says Byers, “and use the same trailer for hauling, too. I feed with it in the wintertime. I just hook the tractor to it, and I can drop bales where I want them.”
Available with either a gooseneck or a bumper pull, the 2EZ trailer can collect up to six bales of hay, one at a time from wherever they sit, haul them miles over fields or roads, and then gently set them down – all at once in a stack, or one at a time, for feeding.
“Year-old or two-year-old hay has a flat spot,” points out Jim Herzog, “and any kind of flip trailer will make a new flat spot. That’s a waste, because cows won’t eat that and you wind up throwing it away.” Trailers like the 2EZ Hay Hauler and the HayRoll eliminate this waste by always setting bales down on their original groundside, no matter how many times you move them.
Today’s farmers and ranchers are under growing pressure to cut costs, save time, and work more efficiently in the face of difficult and demanding conditions. Fortunately, there is equipment on the market that has been designed and built to meet these specialized needs
With any hay hauler, strength and reliability are paramount. Look for heavy duty materials, thick-walled steel tubes and flux-core welds – the strongest. You want simple overall designs, easy to operate mechanisms, and minimal hydraulics or other components that can fail or require too-frequent maintenance.
“I'm just a dumb farmer,” says Byers, of his 2EZ Hay Hauler, “but I can run one easy. At first, people lined up on the highway, watching me gathering hay with it. Now practically everybody in a 30 mile radius around Mounds (Oklahoma) has one.”
GoBob Pipe and Steel offers a complete selection of hay trailers, feeders, fencing, pipe and guards, all designed to provide farmers with top quality product that saves them money by helping them work better and more efficiently.
For more info, call 1-877-851-2365 or visit www.gobobpipe.com
By Robert Moskowitz
Robert Moskowitz has been a business writer since 1968.