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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PST

A Horse Powered Round Bale Unroller

A Horse Powered Round Bale Unroller

A Horse Powered Round Bale Unroller

by Tony McQuail of Lucknow, ON

The reason for doing this winter fencing was that we wanted to try feeding our cattle outside for the winter to increase the nutrients available to this field in the spring and reduce the amount of manure we would have to deal with in the barn. To this end the plan was to feed hay in a systematic way on top of the snow moving across the field so that every area would receive a coating of manure dropped while the cattle were feeding and any waste hay materials. Our friends on the prairies lay out a grid pattern of large round or square bales before snow in the fall and then use their portable electric fencing to meter it out. We had experimented with leaving round bales outside and felt that in our more humid climate it was better to store bales under cover until they were to be fed. Our plan was to feed them daily or every other day and let the positioning of them distribute the fertility and the timing meter them out.

We had experimented with unrolling the bales the year before and had decided to make a device that would let us move them with the horses and then unroll them. I used square tubing to make a simple frame with two arms attached to a cross piece which connected to a tongue. Small diagonal braces made the arrangement rigid and the arms had a right angle piece of square tubing on their ends which allowed a pin to be driven into the middle of the round bale from each side. I have 4 x 4 bales and the pins penetrate about a foot. The pins act like an axle allowing the bale to roll. I first tried rolling the bale out to where I wanted to feed it. It worked well for distances under 500 meters but the axle “bearing” in the hay could get pretty sloppy when going a long way.

A Horse Powered Round Bale Unroller

I made up a sleigh that goes under the bale for transportation and is held to the frame by two chains and a grab hook. I tie some bale twine to a link on each chain the same distance from the sleigh. This becomes my guide when I’m hooking the sleigh to the unroller. I take the chain with the hook over the cross piece of the roller around the tongue and back over the cross piece – I leave it slack and then hook the other chain in the lock hook so the two twines are at the same level. With the grab hook hanging down from the frame, and the other chain hung through it, gravity keeps the chains hooked until tension takes over. When I start off the chain tightens and the sleigh keeps the bale from rolling. With this system I can take the twines off the bale in the shelter of the pile or shed where the bales are stored, slide the bales out to where I want to unroll it, back the horses up to get some slack on the chains to unhook them and then walk on unrolling a 4 foot wide strip of hay until I get down to the small core of the bale. Then I pull the pins and store them in the side arms of the unroller (they fit nicely in the square tubing if you weld it so the side arms are open at the top.

I then haul the frame back to the sled and hook it back on. After a couple of times riding back on the sled I realized it would be a lot better to have it securely attached to the unroller frame rather than sliding forward and backward. I welded a couple of short pieces of square tubing to a 4 foot long piece of angle iron which I bolted to the front of the sled. Now when I get back to the empty sled I pull the two pins out of the arms and put them through the side brackets of the unroller and the square tubing at the front of the sled. I drilled a hole in each pin near the point and have some heavy spring pins which I push through the holes to lock the pins in position. I tied the two pins together with bale twine so I can kick them out and not lose them in the snow. It also keeps them together in my coverall’s pocket when I’m riding out with the bale. I flip the chains up onto the sled so they don’t drag underneath it.

Riding back on the rigidly attached sled is a lot more secure and has the added advantage that I can back the sled up to the next bale and get it in position with the horses rather than having to drag it around by hand. Once it is in position I kick out the spring clips, pull out the side pins and roll the next bale onto the sled. I back the horses up a little and lift the side arms so I can push the pins into the center of the bale on each side. I attach the chains to the unroller and then cut and pull the strings off the bale and I’m ready to feed my next bale.

A Horse Powered Round Bale Unroller

We piled our bales at the edge of the field in a long row with a 6 bale cross section — 3 bales on the bottom, then two then one. We put the lower bales on skids to keep them off the ground. We covered it with a tarp, which kept most of the snow off, but did let the moisture and snow freeze to the two bottom bales on the outside. After a few times breaking bales loose with human powered digging bars we decided to use the horses. We used a heavy nylon rope with a big loop in it and a clevis at the end. We put the loop around the bale pushing the rope down behind the back of the bale and the loops up the side. I then back the unroller and sled up to the pile and use a light logging chain with a lock hook to attach to the clevis. I attach the grab hook to the chain that is dangling from my logging double tree which is attached to the bale unroller chain hitch with its grab hook.

I then walk away from the pile, the slack is taken up and the bale is popped off the pile or broken loose from the other bales or the skids that they sometimes freeze to. We can then position the bale onto the sled and hook up the unroller. If both Fran and I go out one of us works on positioning the rope on the next bale while the other feeds this one.

We have also used the sled and unroller to move hay when we are going to be away for an extended period of time and want to set the bales up in a grid which our neighbor can meter out with electric fencing. We set out the number of bales that would be fed for the week or ten days we will be away and then surround them with electric fencing. Our neighbor can then feed them out by shifting the fence. We have him feed two days worth at a time so that every animal no matter how dominant can get a belly full of hay and then hopefully the hay will get mostly cleaned up on day two. When we roll out the bales dominance isn’t such a concern because the feeding area is large but if the bales are still rolled up the feeding area is smaller and it is good to have several bales for them to work on and for the dominant cows to have full bellies while there is still lots of hay left for the second day.

A Horse Powered Round Bale Unroller

A Versatile Chain Hitch for a Regular or Hook Clevis for the Logging Sleigh

One of the challenges when going to the bush in the winter was having to take a second double tree. My logging double tree is equipped with a swivel and a chain hook with a ring on it so I can pick it up easily to hook to a chain around a log. It took extra time and wasn’t really convenient to take the clevis and hook off the logging double tree so it could go on the sleigh — then when I got to the bush having to disconnect it from the sleigh and put the hook and clevis back on. I tended to use two double trees but I still had to disconnect the horses from the sleigh.

A Horse Powered Round Bale Unroller

I decided to solve the problem by replacing my double tree strap with a chain with a flat piece of steel welded to the end of it — a hole the diameter of the double tree pin was drilled through the steel and the chain was welded to a short piece of 2 inch square tubing in such a way that the chain allows the hole in the flat piece to line up with the hole in the tongue. This way a regular double tree can be used on the sleigh with a pin or I can use the logging double tree hooked to the chain. When I get to the bush I just unhook from the chain and walk the horses off the tongue and I’m ready to skid logs. When I’m done I just step the horses over the tongue – put it through the neck yoke back them up and catch the chain with the hook and I’m ready to head back to the barn.

A Horse Powered Round Bale Unroller

I also set up my bale unroller with a chain and only use the logging double tree with it. We stored the big round bales under a tarp back at the bush so we ride back to them with the sleigh and then switch the double tree onto the bale unroller. We loop a heavy piece of rope around a bale and then flip it out of the stack with the horses pulling on it. I also made a little sled which goes under the bale which allows me to take it to where I want to feed it. So after we get the bale off the pile we roll it on to the sled making sure that the hay is oriented to unroll. To move the bale the arms of the unroller are positioned on either side in the centre of the bale and then 2 foot long pins are pushed in from either side. There are two chains on the front of the sled which are hooked around the cross bar of the unroller. We cut and remove the bale twine from the bale. When the horses step forward the bale starts to roll off the sled until the chains get tight at which point the sled and bale move together and we head off to where I want waste hay, manure and urine to boost the fertility. When I get to where I want to start unrolling I back the horses to slack off the sled chains, unhook them and then walk forward unrolling the bale. Initially, I tried riding the sled back to the pile with only the chains holding it to the unroller — this was not very pleasant as it would slide up on the horses going down hill and was not very secure. So I built a bracket on the front of the sled out of a 4 foot length of angle iron and 2 short pieces of 1.5 inch square tubing which lets me use the bale pins to securely anchor the sled to the unroller. I drilled a hole in the hay pin so I can use a spring pin to lock it in place. This makes for a much nicer ride back to the hay pile and also means that it is rigid so I can turn it around and back it up to the pile. I use the hook from the chain to the bale rope to the unroller chain and then can pop the next bale off the pile without unhooking the sled — I position the bale, back the sled up to it and then pull the pins and move the arms up to the bale center and start the process over again.

Spotlight On: Crops & Soil

Peach

Peach

by:
from issue:

The Peach is a showy tree when in bloom. There are double-flowered varieties, which are as handsome as the dwarf flowering almond, and they are more showy because of the greater size of the tree. The flowers of the Peach are naturally variable in both size and color. Peach-growers are aware that there are small-flowered and large-flowered varieties. The character of the flower is as characteristic of the variety as size or color of fruit is.

An Introduction To Farm Woodlands

The farm woodland is that portion of the farm which either never was cleared for tillage or pasture, or was later given back to woods growth. Thus it occupies land that never was considered suitable, or later proved unsuitable, for farm enterprises.

Soil, Vegetation, and Acidity

From Dusty Shelves: Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide teaches us about soil acidity.

Making Sorghum Molasses

Making Sorghum Molasses

by:
from issue:

Growing sorghum doesn’t take much work, according to Buhrman. You plant it in the spring, work it a couple of times and that’s about all that’s required until late in the growing season. That is when the work begins. Before it is cut, all the stalks have to be “bladed” – the leaves removed from the stalks. It’s then cut, then the tassles are cut off, and the stalks are fed through a crusher. The crusher forces the juices out of the plant. The sorghum juice is then boiled in a vat for four to five hours until nothing is left but the syrup.

Wild Potatoes and Calcium

Wild potatoes bring increased calcium for better tubers.Have you ever cut into a potato to find a dark spot or hollow part? Early research shows that these defects are likely the result of calcium deficiencies in the potato — and that tuber calcium is genetically linked to tuber quality.

Planting Calendar and Other Diagrams

From Dusty Shelves: A 1943 calendar for seeding your vegetable garden.

Farm Manure

Farm Manure

Naturally there is great variation in manure according to the animals it is made by, the feeding and bedding material, and the manner in which it is kept. Different analyses naturally shows different results and the tables here given serve only as a guide or index to the various kinds. The manure heap, by the way, is no place for old tin cans, bottles, glass, and other similar waste material.

Seed Quality from Two Perspectives

Seed Quality from Two Perspectives

by:
from issue:

We are approaching this from a seed quality standpoint, not just a seed saving one. Saving seed is fairly simple to do, but the results from planting those seeds can be very mixed; without a basis of understanding of seed quality, people can be disappointed and confused as to why they got the results they did. Both the home gardener and the seed company must understand seed quality to be successful in their respective endeavors.

An Introduction Into Plant Polyculture

An excerpt from What’s Wrong With My Fruit Garden
Companion Planting for Beginners

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

We were inspired to try no-tilling vegetables into cover crops after attending the Groffs’ field day in 1996. No-tilling warm season vegetables has proved problematic at our site due to the mulch of cover crop residues keeping the soil too cool and attracting slugs. We thought that no-tilling garlic into this cover crop of oats and Canadian field peas might be the ticket as garlic seems to appreciate being mulched.

Cultivating Questions Ridge-Till Revisited

Cultivating Questions: Ridge-Till Revisited

Delay ridge building until early fall so that the cover crop on the ridge does not grow more than 12” tall before winter. The residues from a short cover crop will be much less challenging to cultivate than a tall stand of oats, especially if tangly field peas are mixed in. Waiting for the winterkilled cover crop residues to breakdown as long as possible before ridge-tilling in the spring will also make cultivation much easier until you gain familiarity with the system.

Prairie Grass A Jewel Among Kernels

Prairie Grass: A Jewel Among Kernels

by:
from issue:

Years ago, my brother advised against plowing the patch of prairie on the back forty of our Hubbard, Iowa farm. “Some day,” he predicted, “that prairie will be as valuable as the rest of the 40 acres. We know how to grow corn; but that prairie was seeded by the last glacier.” Left untilled by generations of my family, the troublesome treasure has now become a jewel among a cluster of conventional crops on the farm.

Evolution of a Permanent Bed System

Evolution of a Permanent Bed System

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After three or four years we could see that the nature of our farming practices would continue to have detrimental effects on our soils. We were looking for a new approach, a routine that would be sustainable, rather than a rescue treatment for an ongoing problem. We decided to convert our fields to permanent planting beds with grassy strips in between where all tractor, foot and irrigation pipe traffic would be concentrated.

Raised Bed Gardening

Raised Bed Gardening

by:
from issue:

Raised beds may not be right for everyone, and our way is not the only way. I have seen raised beds made from rows of 5’ diameter kiddy pools, and heard of a fellow who collected junk refrigerators from the dump and lined them up on their backs into a rainbow of colored enameled steel raised beds. Even rows of five-gallon pails filled with plants count as raised beds in my estimation. Do it any way you care to, but do it if it’s right for you.

Cultivating Questions

Cultivating Questions: Concerning the Bioextensive Market Garden

One of our goals when we first started farming here was to develop the farm as a self-contained nutrient system. Unlike the almost complete recycling of nutrients which can take place on a livestock operation, we are always amazed – even a little disturbed – to see how many tons of fertility and organic matter leave the market garden each year with so little returned to the good earth.

Cultivating Questions Winterkilled Cover Crops for a Mild Climate

Cultivating Questions: Winterkilled Cover Crops For A Mild Climate Part 1

Our mild climate makes it too easy to overwinter cover crops. Then the typically wet springs (and, on our farm, wet soils) let the cover put on loads of topgrowth before getting on the soil. Buckwheat is the only crop that I can be certain will winterkill. Field peas, oats, annual rye and crimson clover have all overwintered here. Any suggestions?

Swallow

Rotation As A Means Of Blight Control

Every farmer knows that when a crop is grown on the same field year after year, it becomes inferior in quality and the yield steadily diminishes.

Cultivating Questions: Alternative Tillage & Inter-Seeding Techniques

Our intention is not to advocate the oddball living mulches we use with this single row inter-seeding system, but just to show how it is possible to utilize the between-row areas to improve insect habitat, reduce erosion, conserve moisture, fix some nitrogen, and grow a good bit of extra organic matter. If nothing else, experimenting with these alternative practices continues to keep farming exciting as we begin our twentieth season of bio-extensive market gardening.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT