Last month I wrote about traveling to my son's baseball game in northeastern Nebraska and my kids asking me what were those "bread-looking things" in some fields. They were loaf stacks of hay, a method of putting up hay which was once extremely popular and today is not very common.
I also asked if anyone had any experiences with putting up hay into stacks and to let me know your thoughts. A reader did contact me and here is his Vintage Iron story.
"Your article is right on. We have had a John Deere 200 stack wagon since the 1970s. And I know of one original mover is still in the area and it is in use.
"We upgraded to a larger mover that could move five 'loaves' at a time. I averaged the weight of them once with brome and alfalfa hay at 3,500 pounds per stack. Weight would depend on how many times you packed the hay. I'd usually do three and unload but five or six packs added significantly more weight to the stacks.
"Advantages: No string is the biggest advantage! No (twine) cost, no bearings lost and pretty much everyone buys a bale shredder up here in Saskatchewan. Unfortunately, country of origin labeling took us out of cattle so it's sitting collecting rust.
"Disadvantages: It is a heavy machine! So soft ground was interesting. Deere made a walking axle option that doubled the number of tires but few of them were out there.
"They all had a bit of their own personality. Ours would put the hay up just a little tough as we did the paddle upgrade (two pieces flat iron vs original cast one piece) but many complained that the hay wouldn't go up tough at all if the weather was humid.
"Metal fatigue became an issue and we would have bought new one but they got discontinued shortly after the advent of round balers. Conspirators theory on this is John Deere didn't get to sell enough parts. It just worked!
"And another disadvantage was difficulty with moving any distance so hay sales were limited. We had all the hay land within two miles of home."
Wawota, Saskatchewan, Canada
Thanks to Dennis for taking the time and effort to let us know about his experiences with loaf hay stackers. I always like to learn from reading other people's experiences with vintage farm equipment.
I am glad my assumptions about loaf stackers becoming less popular with farmers as the round baler become more popular in the late 1970s/early 1980s were somewhat correct. I thought that was the case but did not have any hard data to back up my claim.
While the number of those who used loaf stackers declined over the last roughly 40 years, those who did use them seem to really like putting up hay this way. I knew several farmers who used stackers to put up hay in this form for many years.
As Dennis stated, the advantages and disadvantages of stackers are pretty obvious. A couple things he mentioned, however, were items I didn't consider.
An advantage of stackers would be you wouldn't have mess with baler twine/wrap. I know with our round balers over the years sometimes you have issues with twine not wanting to come in/out of the twine tub or the twine not wrapping on the bale or, worse yet, wrapping on a roller instead.
I guess it shouldn't be all that surprising that loaf stackers were heavier machines compared to balers. However, the issue with getting stuck on wet soils is one that never crossed my mind.
Most of the time you wouldn't think this would be an issue considering the hay has to be dry for you to be out baling/stacking and thus the ground would be generally fairly dry. I know firsthand it is still possible to get stuck baling hay.
Thanks again to Dennis for submitting his experiences with loaf stackers and if you have any stacker stories please feel free to send them to me.
Russ Quinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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