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Home > History of Development > Technology Through Time > Soil and Agriculture > Haying > Horse Haying > Stacking Hay

Technology Through Time

Stacking Hay

This homebuilt sweep rake being pulled up a homebuilt slide (in 1915) looks rather precarious!Field stacking cut out days hauling hay in the short haying season. Farmers built big stacks of hay in their fields or hay meadows. The literature on haymaking repeatedly emphasized the importance of building good stacks, as hay spoiled whenever rain or moisture penetrated the stack. To minimize seepage, farmers built the stack layer by layer, carefully positioning each forkful of hay by hand. The hay had to be packed most tightly in the centre of the stack, and less so towards the outside. The centre of the stack was also kept higher than the outside edges. A loosely packed layer of breadloaf-shaped stack: the higher it was, the less chance of moisture penetrating its interior.

Numerous machines could be used for making hay stacks. One of the cheapest and simplest, particularly well suited for upland hay or fescues in Alberta's parkland, was the pushpole stacker. A homemade slide made out of lumber was placed against the foundation of the stack. A team of horses pushed loads of hay up the slide onto the stack using a pushpole type of sweep rake. The farmer then backed up the team and sweep and went for another load of hay, while the crew packed and positioned the load on the stack. As the stack built up, the slide was moved along, allowing the crew to build a long stack. The advantage of this system was that the equipment could be built on the farm, but the disadvantage lay in the limited height the stack could attain.

A technique requiring slightly more expensive equipment and more manpower, but suitable for haying in many different areas, was the use of a sweep rake in combination with an overshot stacker. The hay was swept up with a sweep rake and deposited on the forks of the overshot stacker. The forks of this stacker were mounted at the end of two long arms that were in turn hinged to another frame placed vertically against the hay stack. A pulley and cable system powered by horses raised the arms and their attached forks up and over the top of the stack dumping the load. Alberta farmers were in the forefront in the development of these overshot stackers. Although it also had to be moved forward as the stack built up, the overshot stacker was generally considered superior to slides because it allowed much taller stacks to be built. Overshot stackers were a common sight on Alberta farms until the 1950s.

Judy Larmour. Making Hay While the Sun Shone: Haying in Alberta Before 1955. n.p.: Friends of Reynolds-Alberta Museum Society and Alberta Culture and Multiculturalism, Historic Sites and Archives Service, 1992. With permission from
Friends of the Reynolds-Alberta Museum Society
.

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