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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

Rebuilding a John Deere Hay Loader
Rebuilding a John Deere Hay Loader

The hay loader as we found it among other abandoned equipment.

Rebuilding a John Deere Hay Loader

by Stacy & Virginia Thomas of Ketchikan, AK

“The ideal combination of equipment is the side-delivery rake and the hay loader. With these two, highest quality hay can be produced at the lowest cost.”
– The Operation, Care and Repair of Farm Machinery, John Deere, 1945

Our Farm

Our family has been building up a diversified farm for six years now in Northeast Washington. The farm is in a beautiful valley in the foothills of the Rockies, home to wolf packs, huckleberries, and Sasquatch. This area was once the proud milk-shed for Spokane, and we plan to run an all Jersey producer-handler dairy once I retire from the U.S. Coast Guard in a few years.

Rebuilding a John Deere Hay Loader

As a Boatswain’s Mate in the Coast Guard, I have been lucky to gain more experience with wire and rope work, painting, rigging gear and working safely.

A common death knell for farms, especially small start-up farms, is buying feed and other inputs. Our goal has always been to size our operation to our 40-acre farm, where we will graze and hay all we need. A main component of this goal is having economical hay equipment that we can fix and maintain ourselves including a sickle-bar mower, side-delivery rake, hay loader, and wagon. The hay loader was the first piece of farm equipment we bought back in 2011, and its transformation is quite a story.

Rebuilding a John Deere Hay Loader

A hayloader has quite a ‘sail area’ and we were lucky to only have to trailer it about eight miles.

Buying a Hayloader

Early on we decided to put up loose hay for a couple of reasons, perhaps the number one being not having to buy and repair a bailer (“knotters broke”). Enter the hay loader. This wonderful machine rolls over a windrow and lifts hay up a ramp to dump onto a hay wagon. Interestingly, I remembered seeing a dilapidated hay loader sitting alongside the highway north of Spokane while riding in my Dad’s milk truck as a child. I wondered if I should try to buy it. “Do you know when to buy a hay loader? When you find a hay loader.” Wise words from my wife, Virginia.

Soon we were the proud owners of a circa 1942 John Deere A-306 Combination Raker-Bar Loader in very sad shape. What was left of the wood parts was beyond saving. It had broken castings, likely from hard use, or abuse. But the main structure was solid, and we saw potential. I slowly trailered it the few miles of back roads to the farm, with Virginia following behind in another vehicle, stopping to pick up pieces that fell off along the way. We sure gave a few neighbors quite a sight that morning! We unloaded and tarped it while we worked on other projects and searched for parts.

Finding Parts

And there it sat for four years. Other projects would take priority as we took any possible leave periods to work on the farm. There was a well to drill, power to run. We built a shop, and built fences. The military moved us twice, and for multiple periods I was underway off of Central America and Alaska.

Rebuilding a John Deere Hay Loader

This amazingly detailed unit used the best parts from 3 units donated by the Edgar Van Ausdle, Hank Demand & DeBow families. Restored by Steve Herres, Jay Franks and Dean Burton of Pomeroy, WA.

We were able to see a beautifully restored John Deere hay loader at the Eastern Washington Agricultural Museum in Pomeroy, WA. Their museum artifact used the best parts and pieces from three separate hay loaders. Lucky for us, the remaining two carcasses were still at their scrap yard, and for a reasonable donation to support a great museum we could get the parts we needed. I brought home a pickup load of raker bars, castings, and even a complete gathering drum.

I must say, there must have been a determined John Deere salesman in this area as most hay loaders I have seen here are that brand. For those interested in rebuilding a hay loader, perhaps the best place to start is finding out what brand was the most popular in your area. That will certainly help with finding parts, as it obviously did in our case.

Rebuilding a John Deere Hay Loader

Finding the original manual was very helpful for verifying parts and sizes.

Although I felt pretty confident in the overall operating theory of the machine, I also sourced the original manual off of eBay. This was perfect for actually verifying the various parts and their specific sizes. You can view a scanned PDF as a download from this website address: http://bluecreekdairy.com/ resources/HayloaderManual.pdf

Beginning Work

Finally, in 2015, we were able to fix up our hay loader. It looks like a complicated machine with the cogs and drive chains, but by breaking it down to its basic functions, and studying the systems, it’s actually a pretty simple machine. The wood would be easy enough to replace, and we hoped we had enough spare parts from our museum salvaging expedition. Removing the remaining pieces of wood opened everything up and made it easier to work on the mechanicals. We replaced the broken castings with spares, and then jacked up the rear axle and placed it on jack stands. This allowed us to rotate the drive wheel and check the mechanics. Turning it over by hand, nothing seemed to be binding, and everything functioned as it should. So, I broke it down a little bit more, cleaning and lubricating all the mechanicals. There were some other fasteners and such to replace, and I had to do a little sheet metal work. But all in all, it was not in as bad of condition that I originally thought.

Rebuilding a John Deere Hay Loader

Virginia cuts off the remaining raker bars.

With the mechanics in great condition, we turned to the preservation. This was the hardest part, requiring patience and attention to detail. The deck sheets were galvanized, but everything else had long lost its protective coating of paint. With wire brushes and sanders, we attacked the rust. Because of the rust particles we used N-95 particulate masks, safety glasses, and gloves. With so many angles, small pieces, and difficult to reach places, it was a test in stoicism. If you were good at the game Twister as a child, then you may fare pretty well maneuvering around the pick-up basket and rotating arms.

Rebuilding a John Deere Hay Loader

Stacy priming while wearing a respirator. We hope to farm for a very long time and always take appropriate precautions to ensure that we do.

Some would argue everything should have been sandblasted or sanded to bright metal, and this would certainly be applicable to a museum piece. But for a working piece of equipment, and having limited time, the best compromise for us was removing loose surface rust and using a rust-arresting alkyd-enamel primer followed by an alkyd-enamel paint. John Deere green of course! With yellow wheels. Most of the enamel was brush applied, with same brand spray paint used in hard to reach areas. While painting we wore half mask respirators with organic vapor cartridges, disposable gloves, and safety glasses. We finished it off with decals we got, from all places, Binder Books of Sherwood, OR.

Rebuilding a John Deere Hay Loader

The metal starts coming alive once you starting adding the paint.

Turning our attention back towards the wood parts, we were lucky enough to have one raker-bar that was complete. Although we had raker bar dimensions (1 1/8” X 2” X 135”) from the Owner’s Manual, it was very handy to have this example as a template because it gave us the proper raker bar tooth spacing. We cut new raker-bars out of the best vertical grain, clear Douglas Fir we had. While the original raker bars were most likely a hardwood from the East, here in the Intermountain West, Doug Fir is our go-to wood for farm implements. Using the old raker bar as a guide, we drilled new holes and bolted on unpainted raker teeth. A majority of the carriage bolts had to be replaced, and were easily sourced from the local hardware store.

Rebuilding a John Deere Hay Loader

Stacy slides the intermediate metal conduit (IMC) into the PVC electrical conduit sleeve.

All the wood was treated with Linseed oil instead of being painted or varnished for a variety of reasons. First, the bars are wood most likely to be a weak link that would fail before a more catastrophic mechanical failure, and a clear coat would allow easier inspection. We chose Linseed oil as it is not a petroleum product, offers good preservation and water resistance, requires reapplication encouraging inspection, and perhaps is a hold over from being a Boatswain’s Mate in the Coast Guard. As a warning, remember to let all Linseed oil rags dry flat before disposal to avoid spontaneous combustion and a very bad day.

Rebuilding a John Deere Hay Loader

We made the new raker bars a bit thicker and had plenty of teeth thanks to our museum expedition.

A Modern Update

Where we departed from original design was with the rungs. These are the dowels at the top of the hay loader that the raker-bars ride up and down on. The rungs were originally wood measuring 1 ¼” by 26 ¾” with the ends turned down to fit into a socket. We looked at possible wood dowels, but were concerned about whittling down the ends and interested in possible modern replacement options.

Rebuilding a John Deere Hay Loader

The PVC electrical conduit sleeve was the correct diameter for the raker bar roller supports to glide on.

We finally replaced the wood rungs with Intermediate Metal Conduit (IMC) secured with cotter pins on each end. IMC is heavier than regular Electrical Metallic Tubing (EMT) conduit, and its outside diameter fit into the hay loader sockets perfectly. The IMC is sleeved with PVC electrical conduit cut to fit between the hay loader framework. This brought the rung up to a size comparable with the original rung size. PVC electrical conduit was used instead of regular PVC pipe since the electrical conduit is UV stabilized and thus won’t become brittle when exposed to the sun. I wish I could say I came up with this all by myself, but I got the idea from looking at Doug Hammill’s John Deere hay loader in Montana. Thanks, Doc!

Rebuilding a John Deere Hay Loader

The hay loader pulled effortlessly behind our 1955 Farmall cub. The David Bradley hay wagon is still a work in progress, but that is another story.

Field Test

After about two weeks of labor spread over the summer and around $600, we had rehabilitated the hay loader to its former glory and it was time to put it to the test. It was late summer by now, but we had some swaths of old hay that got rained on still in the fields. We towed it out there, engaged the hubs, and off we went! It worked better than we ever imagined. We brought a 70 year old machine back to life, and with liberal applications of grease and oil, it should last at least another 70 years!

Rebuilding a John Deere Hay Loader

The restored hay loader with new paint and wood looks ready for decades of work.

Blue Creek Dairy Farm is a certified Organic operation located in Northeast Washington. The Thomas family bought land in 2010, and have been building the farm from scratch. While transferring around the country with the U.S. Coast Guard, they have squirreled away equipment and learned much from other farmers. Stacy retires in 3 1/2 years and they very much look forward to being fulltime dairy farmers! They would love to hear from you at midwatch@mac.com.

Spotlight On: Livestock

Horseshoeing Part 6A

Horseshoeing Part 6A

The boundary between health and disease of the hoof is difficult to determine, especially when we have to deal with minor defects of structure or shape of the hoof. Ordinarily, we first consider a hoof diseased when it causes lameness. However, we know that diseases of the hoof may exist without lameness. Therefore, a hoof should be regarded as diseased or defective when it deviates from what we consider as normal or healthy, whether the service of the animal is influenced by it or not.

Expanding the Use of the Heavy Draught Horse in Europe

Expanding the Use of the Heavy Draught Horse in Europe

“La Route du Poisson”, or “The Fish Run,” is a 24 hour long relay which starts from Boulogne on the coast at 9 am on Saturday and runs through the night to the outskirts of Paris with relays of heavy horse pairs until 9 am Sunday with associated events on the way. The relay “baton” is an approved cross country competition vehicle carrying a set amount of fresh fish.

Collar Hames and Harness Fitting

Collars, Hames and Harness Fitting

Farmers who are good horsemen know everything that is presented here: yet even they will welcome this leaflet because it will refresh their memories and make easier their task when they have to show hired men or boys how to adjust equipment properly. Good horsemen know from long experience that sore necks or sore shoulders on work stock are due to ignorance or carelessness of men in charge, and are inexcusable.

Horseshoeing Part 4B

Horseshoeing Part 4B

Forging is that defect of the horse’s gait by reason of which, at a trot, he strikes the ends of the branches or the under surface of the front shoe with the toe of the hind shoe or hoof of the same side. Forging is unpleasant to hear and dangerous to the horse. It is liable to wound the heels of the forefeet, damages the toes or the coronet of the hind hoofs, and often pulls off the front shoes.

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.”

American Milking Devons and the Flack Family Farm

American Milking Devons and the Flack Family Farm

by:
from issue:

On a sunny early September day I met Doug Flack at his biodynamic and organic farm, just South of Enosburg Falls. Doug is an American Milking Devon breeder with some of the best uddered and well behaved animals I have seen in the breed. The animals are beautifully integrated into his small and diversified farm. His system of management seems to bring out the best in the animals and his enthusiasm for Devon cattle is contagious.

Working Steers and Oxen on the Small Farm

Working Steers and Oxen on the Small Farm

by:
from issue:

For centuries, the skills of training steers for work and the craft of building yokes and related equipment was passed down from generation to generation. It was common for a young boy or girl to be responsible for the care and training of a team from calves to the age of working capability. Many farms trained a team each year, either for sale or for future replacement in their own draft program.

Changing of Seasons

LittleField Notes: Changing of Seasons

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from issue:

We are blessed who are active participants in the life of soil and weather, crops and critters, living a life grounded in seasonal change. This talk of human connection to land and season is not just the rambling romantic musing of an agrarian ideologue. It is rather the result of participating in the deeply vital vocation that is farming and knowing its fruits first hand.

Words for the Novice Teamster

Words for the Novice Teamster

by:
from issue:

Many people who are new to the world of draft horses are intimidated by what seems to them to be a foreign language. This “workhorse language” can be frustrating for novices who would like to use draft horses, or who would just like to understand what people who do use them are talking about. The knowledge of some basic draft horse terminology can end most of the beginner’s confusion about the special jargon used in this trade.

Determining the Age of Farm Animals by their Teeth

Determining the Age of Farm Animals by their Teeth

by:
from issue:

Establishing the age of farm animals through the appearance of the teeth is no new thing. The old saying, “Do not look a gift horse in the mouth,” is attributed to Saint Jerome, of the fifth century, who used this expression in one of his commentaries. Certainly for generations the appearance, development, and subsequent wear of the teeth has been recognized as a dependable means of judging approximately the age of animals.

Sheep A Logical Choice

Sheep: A Logical Choice

by:
from issue:

Sheep have numerous uses on a smallholding. They are excellent grazers and are ideal at revitalizing old pastures as well as an excellent follower of the cows in a rotational grazing system. Cropping the grass at 2-3 inches that the cows have left at 8 inches encourages new growth in the spring. Their manure is usually in pellet form and is spread throughout a pasture as they graze. A sheep shares a ton a year of fertilizer with the earth.

Ayrshire Ambassadors Cooperative

Ayrshire Ambassadors Cooperative

The Ayrshire Ambassadors Cooperative was founded in 2016 by a group of dairymen who want to be outspoken advocates of the Ayrshire breed. Ayrshires are one of the most cost-effective breeds for dairy farmers, as the breed is known for efficiently producing large quantities of high-quality milk, primarily on a forage diet. These vigorous and hardy cows can be found grazing in the sun, rain, and cold while other breeds often seek shelter.

Haltering Foals - Training Workhorses Training Teamsters

Haltering Foals

Lynn Miller’s highly regarded book, “Training Workhorses / Training Teamsters,” is back in print! And that’s not even the most exciting news: The Second Edition is in FULL COLOR! Today’s article, “Haltering Foals,” is an excerpt from Chapter 8, “Imprinting and Training New Born Foals.”

Ask A Teamster Halters Off

Ask A Teamster: Halters Off!

When my friend and mentor, the late Addie Funk, first started helping me with my horses, he suggested that we get rid of my halter ropes with snaps and braid lead ropes on to all the halters permanently. Actually as I think about it, it was more than a suggestion. Knowing him, he probably just braided the new ropes on, confident that anyone with any sense would be pleased with the improvement. In any case, when the task was completed I clearly remember him saying to me, “Now nobody will turn a horse loose around here with a halter on.”

Praise for Small Oxen

Praise for Small Oxen

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from issue:

Every day in the winter, and a fair number of days in the summer, I choose to work with a team of Dexter oxen, just about the smallest breed of cattle in North America. Harv and Mr. Whistling Sweets are three years old, were named on a half-forgotten whim by my young children, and stand 38” tall at the shoulder. Sometimes, perched on top of a load of hay, moving feed for my herd of thirty cows, I look and feel comical — a drover of Dachshunds.

Horseshoeing Part 2B

Horseshoeing Part 2B

If we observe horses moving unrestrained over level ground, we will notice differences in the carriage of the feet. Many deviations in the line of flight of hoofs and in the manner in which they are set to the ground occur; for example, horses heavily burdened or pulling heavy loads, and, therefore, not having free use of their limbs, project their limbs irregularly and meet the ground first with the toe; however, careful observation will detect the presence of one or the other of these lines of flight of the foot.

Work Bridle Styles

Work Bridle Styles

Here are fourteen work bridle styles taken from a 1920’s era harness catalog. Regional variants came with different names and configurations, so much so that we have elected to identify these images by letter instead of name so you may reference these pictures directly when ordering harness or talking about repairs or fit concerns with trainers or harness makers. In one region some were know as pigeon wing and others referred to them as batwing or mule bridles.

Ask A Teamster Tongue Length

Ask A Teamster: Tongue Length

My forecart pole is set up for draft horses. My husband thinks we should cut the pole off to permanently make it fit better to these smaller horses. What would be your opinion? Like your husband, my preference would be a shorter tongue for a small team like your Fjords. The dynamics and efficiency of draft are better if we have our horse(s) close to the load. A shorter tongue will also reduce the overall length of your outfit, thereby giving you better maneuverability and turning dynamics.

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