Russ' Vintage Iron

The Lost Art of Loaf Stacking Hay

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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A couple weeks ago we got to travel to Wakefield, Nebraska, (which bills itself as the baseball capital of Nebraska) for a post-season baseball tournament for my 11-year-old son. For those of you not familiar with the region, Wakefield is located near the Nebraska/South Dakota border probably over 100 miles north of Omaha.

On our trip through the rolling hills of northeastern Nebraska, the kids noticed in a couple alfalfa fields what they called "giant bread things" sitting at the edges. At first I didn't know what they were even talking about but then it finally hit me -- they were talking about loaf stacks of hay.

One again my kids made me feel old. I had to explain to them once what pay phones were after they saw one as well as what the little, yellow building destroyed in the mall scene in the 1980s movie "Back to the Future" was. Their now 11-, 7- and 5-year-old little minds can't seem to grasp a world without cell phones and digital photography.

Putting up hay in this form was obviously more popular decades ago. When I was growing up I can remember several of our neighbors/family friends having loaf stackers.

One my good friends from high school and his dad farmed and he had a John Deere 200 loaf stacker and as well as a 200 stack mover. His dad passed away last year and they are having a farm equipment auction for his estate in late August and sure enough these two pieces of equipment where listed on the sale bill.

Good friends of my family who used to milk cows also put up hay in stacks. He is a "red man" so he had an International stacker and stack mover. In addition to putting up alfalfa hay, they used to also put up corn stalks into stacks.

My dad would once in a while buy some stacks of corn stalks from him and he would bring stacks to our place with his big Case IH tractor and stack mover and unload them. This had to be the late 1980s and I believe this may have been the first time I ever saw a Case IH tractor (well up close at least) as he had a relatively new Magnum tractor at the time.

While I don't have any data to back this up, it seemed to me loaf stackers became popular in the earlier part of 1970s as a less labor intensive way to put up hay. Then, once large round balers became more widespread in the later 1970s and into 1980s, fewer and fewer farmers put up hay in stacks.

I know my dad had a New Holland small square baler and in '77/'78 he bought his first round baler, a Gehl, so we never put up any hay in loaf form. Our haying equipment lineup over the years included two New Holland small square balers, four Gehl round balers and now a John Deere round baler, but never a hay stacker.

There are, I would imagine, advantages and disadvantages to put up stacks of hay instead of baling hay.

On the plus side, I would guess you would be putting up fewer stacks compared to the equivalent number of large bales as the stacks are larger than bales. While you would need to buy both a stacker and a stack mover, maybe you become more efficient moving hay if you don't have that far to move the stacks.

As far as disadvantages, I kind of touched on a couple points already. You need both a stacker and a mover and if you have to go long distances hauling the stacks this perhaps limits your efficiency compared to loading bales on a trailer being pull by a truck.

I also wonder how loaf stacks stand up to summer rains and winter snows compared to bales of hay. I know stackers pack the hay, but is it at the same pressure density as a baler would?

Do you have experience putting hay with a loaf stacker, whether it be 40 years or four days ago? Drop me a line, I would love to hear your stories about haying with this rapidly disappearing method.

Russ Quinn can be reached at russ.quinn@dtn.com

(ES/SK)