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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 PDT

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: Livestock

Ask A Teamster Ten Common Wrecks With Driving Horses

Ask A Teamster: Ten Common Wrecks with Driving Horses

One of the things I’ve learned over time is that the truly great teamsters rarely – if ever – have upset horses, close calls, mishaps or wrecks, while the less meticulous horsemen often do. Even though it may take a few minutes longer, the master teamsters constantly follow a series of seemingly minute, endlessly detailed, but always wise safety tips. Here are 10 of them:

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.

Training Workhorses Training Teamsters First Time Hitching

First Time Hitching

More from Lynn R. Miller’s highly anticipated Second Edition of “Training Workhorses / Training Teamsters.” Today’s excerpt, “First Time Hitching,” is from Chapter 12, “Follow Through to Finish.”

Calves that Don't Breathe at Birth

Calves that Don’t Breathe at Birth

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Heart rate is one way to tell if the calf is in respiratory distress, since it drops as the body is deprived of oxygen. Normal heart rate in a newborn calf is 100 to 120 beats per minute. Place your hand over the lower left side of the ribcage, just behind and above the elbow of his front leg. If heart rate has dropped as low as 40, the calf ’s condition is critical; he needs to start breathing immediately.

Rabbits

Rabbits

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The domestic rabbit has the potential to become one of the world’s major sources of meat protein. As human populations continue to put pressure on the resources of the food providers, the farmers, the rabbit is likely to begin to interest, not only the farmer, but the family interested in providing food for it’s table. They convert forage more efficiently than do ruminants, such as cattle and sheep. In fact, rabbits can produce five times the amount of meat from a given amount of alfalfa as do beef cattle.

Horse Labor Instead of Tractors

Horse Labor Instead of Tractors

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Three different parcels of land were committed for a series of tests to directly compare the impact of tractors and horses on the land. One side of each parcel was worked only with horses and the other only with tractors. There were measurable differences between each side of the worked areas; the land’s capacity to hold water and greater aeration were up to 45cm higher in areas worked by horses as opposed to tractors.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 4

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 4

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Over the last few years of making hay, the mowing, turning and making tripods has settled into a fairly comfortable pattern, but the process of getting it all together for the winter is still developing. In the beginning I did what everyone else around here does and got it baled, but one year I decided to try one small stack. The success of this first stack encouraged me to do more, and now most of my hay is stacked loose.

Cultivating Questions The Cost of Working Horses

Cultivating Questions: The Cost of Working Horses

Thanks to the many resources available in the new millennium, it is relatively easy for new and transitioning farmers to learn the business of small-scale organic vegetable production. Economic models of horse-powered market gardens, however, are still few and far between. To fill that information hole, I asked three experienced farmers to join me in tracking work horse hours, expenses and labor over a two-year period and to share the results in the Small Farmer’s Journal.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 1

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 1

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For the last ten years, I have made hay mostly with a single horse. This has not necessarily been out of choice, as at one time I had hoped to be farming on a larger scale with more horses. Anyway, it does little good to dwell on ‘what if ’. The reality is that I am able to make hay, and through making and modifying machinery, I probably have a better understanding of hay making and the mechanics of draught.

Multiple Hitching with One Set of Lines

Multiple Hitching with One Set of Lines

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A great deal of interest has been shown the last several years in using multiple hitches in horse farming, especially in spring fieldwork. The question often asked is how to keep it simple and easy in driving and assembling the hitch as far as lines are concerned. We demonstrated our method at the Horse Progress Days at Mt. Hope, Ohio in 2003 and have been asked numerous times how we drove four, six and eight-horse hitches using only two lines.

A Greenhorn Tries Draft Horses

A Greenhorn Tries Draft Horses

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We have tried a workhorse, and for our needs he has proven quite satisfactory as well as satisfying to use. Thus we feel it is possible for someone with little or no experience to learn to care for and use a horse or a team for farm and woods work, although, obviously, this is not a process to be undertaken lightly. One of the basic aims of the farm operation for us is self-sufficiency, and we thought that the horse would be more efficient than a tractor in achieving this aim.

Laying Out Fields for Plowing

Laying Out Fields for Plowing

There are four general plans, or methods of plowing fields. These are: (1) to plow from one side of a field to the other; (2) to plow around the field; (3) to plow a field in lands; and (4) to start the plowing in the center of the field.

Happs Plowing A Chance to Share

Happ’s Plowing: A Chance to Share

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Dinnertime rolled around before we could get people and horses off the field so that results of judging could be announced. I learned a lot that day, one thing being that people were there to share; not many took the competition side of the competition very seriously. Don Anderson of Toledo, WA was our judge — with a tough job handed to him. Everyone was helping each other so he had to really stay on his toes to know who had done what on the various plots.

Ask A Teamster Perfect Hitching Tension

Ask A Teamster: Perfect Hitching Tension

In my experience, determining how tight, or loose, to hook the traces when hitching a team can be a bit challenging for beginners. This is because a number of interdependent dynamics and variables between the pulling system and the holdback system must be considered, and because it’s ultimately a judgment call rather than a simple measurement or clear cut rule.

Shoeing Stocks

An article from the out-of-print Winter 1982 Issue of SFJ.

The Anatomy of Thrift: Harvest Day

On the Anatomy of Thrift Part 2: Harvest Day

On the Anatomy of Thrift is an instructional series Farmrun created with Farmstead Meatsmith. Their principal intention is instruction in the matters of traditional pork processing. In a broader and more honest context, OAT is a deeply philosophical manifesto on the subject of eating animals. Harvest Day is the second in the series, which explores the ‘cheer’ that is prepared on the day of slaughter, and dives deep into the philosophy and psychology of our relationship to animals.

Boer Goats

Boer Goats

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The introduction of the Boer Goat has stirred up a lot of interest in all sectors of agriculture. The demand for goat meat exceeds the supply; goat meat is the most consumed meat in the world. One of the main points about South African Boer Goats is that out of all meat goat breeds the Boer is the top meat producer whereas in the cattle business you have over 100 breeds of beef cattle that all compete for the beef dollar.

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