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Buckrakes for haying?

 
Posts: 489
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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I hope this is an appropriate area.

I just recently acquired some farm equipment; led by a 52hp Kubota tractor.with front end loader.  I believe most (all?) Kubota tractors with a FEL come with a bucket attached to the FEL.  I also have a set of pallet forks (both bucket and pallet forks are quick detach).

I have an immediate need to reduce the length of grass on my lawn (4.5 acres), but I can see my using loose hay in the future.

Searching through various articles, I happened across buckrakes.  Some can be quite big.  The article that caught my eye the most is:
https://silktreefarmworld.wordpress.com/2015/08/08/farmhand-friday-hay-on-a-human-scale-part-iii-gathering-hay/

His Mark III buckrake, is meant to fit a bucket.  Since I have pallet forks, it makes more sense to make use of that as a "platform".

The Silk rake, has the fingers protruding 5 feet, I think my pallet forks are 4 or 4.5 feet.  What I think I do, is to make a "pallet" which the forks slip into, designed for a fork spacing of something like 4-5 feet, which has as a "base" on the underside, as a 4x4 to which I will mount the 2x4 "fingers".  The fingers all "bare" (bear? as in bearing) on the 4x4, and the 4x4 si what one fastens (somehow) to the bottom of the pallet forks (or bucket if that is all you have).

To actually use this rake, the pallet forks would have to be pointed down a little (to keep from dragging the wood on the ground).

Maybe 6 inches before the end of the forks, a 1x3 goes across the bottom of the "fingers", and another 1x3 goes across the top of the fingers.  Across the tops of the fingers, in front of this 1x3 tying things together; is a strip of welded wire utility fence of reasonable width (the utility fence I have has 2x4 inch openings).  The idea of the utility fence, is to get "under" the uncut grass level, so as to "strip" as much of the cut hay off the grass as is possible.  Murphy says the hay just gets tangled in all this utility fence and makes a big mess.

The ends of the fingers need to be "radiused" to keep from digging in.  I am guessing one first makes a 22.5 degree cut, then a 45 degree cut and finally a 67.5 degree cut.  And maybe run a belt sander over it to smooth it out a bit more.  You want to run with the tips of the fingers riding on the ground, but with the pallet forks tipped at some angle less than that required to have the fingers "dig in".

As a person is basing this on 4x4 (probably 8 foot long), it might make sense to make this 8 feet wide (and go to 5 foot wide spacing for the pallet forks)?  For some kind of "production" rake, you probably want the "side fence" on either side to contain hay that wants to flow past the sides.

This article at ScytheConnection points to why one might want to gather loose hay.

http://scytheconnection.com/loose-ways-of-making-leafy-loose-hay/


Is my thinking wrong on this?  Is there a better way?  Design improvements?

I am on 40 acres.  I suspect at some point, over half the land will be trees.  Take off the 4.5 acres for the house and lawn, and at most I could have 15 acres for hay.  In practice, I suspect 5 might be a better number?

 
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I have never used one successfully, but I think they work best on flat, smooth ground. If it gets rough, it makes it hard to keep the tines from sticking into the dirt. A lot of it is because I have such a long ways to haul my loose hay, so some of it might be just my farm, but making a smaller width haybuck would keep the tines from sticking into the dirt, but also limit how much hay I could haul all the way back to the barn.

But I have long said we need to go back to loose hay. Hay balers were first used by loggers to get the most hay, in the smallest package, deep into the forests so that the logging horses could eat. But today, with balers costing insane amounts, I think it makes more sense to go to simpler haying equipment and utilize cheap fabric barns to cheaply store loose hay. Small, squat haybales are no longer required.
 
Gordon Haverland
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The Part 4 of Silk Tree ... was about storing the hay.  They were using some kind of fabric storage.

For their situation, I guess one "tent" was bout 1 month of feeding in winter?  Just from memory.

I hadn't ever heard about where bales came from.  Thanks!

I recently learned that there are mini-round bales which are vaguely like small square bales (in about the 80 pound range).

My lawn is "smooth" enough, that a lawn mower meant for doing fairways on golf courses works well to cut it; when it works (it hasn't worked in 1 year - because of demands by others I've had no time to get it working again).  So, I suspect this should work okay for the lawn.

The front end loader is more or less meant to provide a 6 foot wide "bucket".  I think the pallet fork assembly is about 6 feet wide, but I haven't memorised its dimensions.  It could be 6 feet.  If I only build the buckrake 6 feet wide, the two steel pallet forks will give better support to the buckrake (pallet).

My two pastures, have lots of ant colonies and wild rose.  The sickle mower should cut the wild rose okay.  If I am careful the first time or two cutting pasture, I should be able to "mark" the ant hills, and then come along later with my tilt/angle blade and relandscape the ant hills.  The ants won't like it; but I don't know that they have been paying rent in any way.  It is possible they have been paying rent, and I haven't realised it.  In places there are willow or aspen growing where I don't want it, but a sickle mower isn't going to take on a big willow bush or an aspen tree.


In terms of composting the hay; if I put it up too wet, combustion is a hazard.  But if I cover the hay pile (lower moisture) with wood chips, that should then allow the moisture to compost the hay.  Maybe?  Or do I need to add soil (for me, that is mostly clay) into the mix?
 
Gordon Haverland
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I'm lousy at estimating dimensions from what I see.

The pallet fork assembly is 4 foot 2 inch wide.  So, making a 6 foot wide buckrake is a much better idea.

 
Gordon Haverland
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From the front of the frame which supports the pallet forks, to the tip of the pallet forks is 4 foot 1.5 inches.  So, approximately square (same depth as width).

The distance from outer rear tire to outer rear tire I don't think can get as large as 6 foot, so that the footprint of the bucket is always bigger than the tractor.

Making a buckrake to 6 foot width makes more sense.


If a person spaces the  fingers at 1 foot intervals, a person can put something like a 10x10 inch gusset in the plane of the bottom of the pallet-buckrake to support the outer fingers.

I don't remember there being any convenient holes for mounting things to the pallet fork assembly, so a person would either need to drill (and tap) holes, or use some kind of clamps.

A person could put a vertical gusset at either end, but is there structure for the vertical element?

My feeling, is that another 2x4 or 4x4 (6 feet wide (or so)) has to be attached behind the pallet fork frame, to support the fingers if there is load present.  This needs to be connected to the 4x4 on the bottom, and the angle will be more than 90 degrees by a little bit.  And any gusset would have that angle also slightly larger than 90 degrees.  Loose hay shouldn't be a large load, so probably a 2x4 on edge is probably sufficient.

This makes things more complicated.  It isn't just a special pallet (with tight slots to slide the pallet forks into) to mount on the pallet forks, I needs other pieces added on afterwards.

If a person is going to have side "rails" extending from the 4x4 base, they should probably be 2x6 boards.  And they could be joined to the upper support (behind the pallet fork frame) by gussets.


This is never going to be something which can lift a lot of hay, there is just no way to transfer load to the pallet fork assembly without making a lot of holes to mount things.  Which probably would reduce the ability of the pallet fork assembly to do its designed job too much.  I am going to try and do this clamps as much as I can.  Maybe some holes need to be drilled?

We are looking at 6 foot wide, 4 feet deep and probably 4 (or slightly more) feet tall.  That is about ?

It looks like round bales get to around 11 pounds per cubic foot.

I am going to guess our loose hay (6x6x4) is 30% of a bale, so about 316 pounds.  For wet hay, we could easily double this or more.

If we have fingers about every foot, that is about 30 pounds per finger, so we aren't going to be breaking 2x4 fingers.


If I am lucky, I caught most of the safety areas.  We don't seem to be lacking strength.  It's wood, and it will move (and wear).  I don't know what the lifetime of such a structure is.


I still would like people to comment on this.  People should not regard what has been talked about here as a proper design.

 
Travis Johnson
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The haybucks I always saw used as a kid, and the ones I have seen pictures of online were wide devices, like 16 to 20 feet wide. I think it is because there is a lot of loose hay in a given acre. I mean on average (here in Maine anyway), an acre of hay ground produces 100 square bales. Considering they are compressed, that is a lot of hay to shovel up, and move.

I can still see loose hay making a comeback, but it may not mean using a haybuck, but some of the losee hay machines of yesterday. They are no longer being produced, but with hay balers approaching $50,000, what is old, just may be new again, and there will be a market for said machines.

I saw a few small round balers, and while they were pretty pricey in cost, round bales have the wonderful ability to shed water so there is no need for hay storage facilities at all. I have a log loader trailer that would be able to pick those haybales up, and load them onto its trailer with little fuel, or hard work. I could never afford what they cost though, and sadly I am not sure I could fabricate my own mini-round baler.

My plan was to go with silage, that is chopped hay or corn to feed my sheep. I know I can fabricate my own mower and rake, so it would just be a matter of picking up a used flailmower. With that, you would mow you grass, let it wilt to get the moisture out of it, then rake it into a windrow, and then mow and pick up the windrow with the flaim mower into a trailer so it could be put up into a silage pile. That only requires cheap plastic to cover, and no barn as a storage facility. And sheep do well on silage. That was always my plan, but I am selling out of sheep, so it does not really matter now.



 
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Some sweep rake / buckrake links:

https://smallfarmersjournal.com/i-built-my-own-buckrake/

www.archive.org/details/buckrake

http://ejackson.net/FarmPlans/NorthDakota/plans/nd334-3-1.pdf

USDA Farm Bulletin 838, June, 1917:
https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc96479/

I wonder if hay could be harvested loose, then baled in the barn when it's not sunny and dry out, to avoid loose hay fires and to spread some of the work out.

Brian
 
Gordon Haverland
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Brian Cady wrote:

I wonder if hay could be harvested loose, then baled in the barn when it's not sunny and dry out, to avoid loose hay fires and to spread some of the work out.



I built the North Carolina pine straw bailer a couple of years ago, and it has been used in the barn to bale hay.

https://www.ncforestservice.gov/publications/LongleafLeaflets/LL11.pdf

If I build another one, I think I would make use of some glass cloth and epoxy.  Probably most important is to seal end grain to keep water out of the plywood.


I'll look into the other links.  Thanks!

 
Gordon Haverland
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I can see where loose hay production methods probably keep more of the leaves in the product; compared to producing bales.  Forage harvesters have long been considered an alternative (at least in the eyes of salespeople).  Presumably this involves fermentation in the storage of the haylage/forage.  And I have looked at lactofermentation of vegetables in the past.  So, it at least seems possible that forage/halylage  could get more of the nutrients than baling, and make more digestible nutrients.  Why don't people follow this route?  (Yes, I have not studied this, and I am taking the easy way out asking a question.)
 
Gordon Haverland
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That USDA/UNT link is very opaque.  I can see snippets of the article, but I don't see how one can see the entire article.  I guess all the people involved in setting this up were trying to obfuscate things?
 
Travis Johnson
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Gordon Haverland wrote:I can see where loose hay production methods probably keep more of the leaves in the product; compared to producing bales.  Forage harvesters have long been considered an alternative (at least in the eyes of salespeople).  Presumably this involves fermentation in the storage of the haylage/forage.  And I have looked at lactofermentation of vegetables in the past.  So, it at least seems possible that forage/halylage  could get more of the nutrients than baling, and make more digestible nutrients.  Why don't people follow this route?  (Yes, I have not studied this, and I am taking the easy way out asking a question.)



I am not sure either. I grew up on a dairy farm, and in the end we did not even have a hay baler because 99% of what we fed out was silage. That being said, there are a few cautions.

The first caution is something I mentioned earlier, but did not elaborate on, and that is "wilt down". Because green grass is 2/3 water, the high moisture content could cause botulism IF a host is introduced. This would be as easy as striking a field mouse and getting bacteria in the silage. So a flail chopper can not direct cut the grass, and then have it ensiled, it must have a bit of wilt-down to get the moisture down a bit. Mowing the grass in the morning, and chopping it up that afternoon, is enough time to do that. (Obviously not in any rain though).

Another reason is a need for protein and energy. Ideally silage is fed to animals in two forms, grass silage, and corn silage. Grass to get the protein, and corn to get the energy, which in human terms is calories. My sheep nutritionist likes that to be a 40% mixture of corn, and 60% grass silage. Obviously free choice minerals are always to be available. Feeding grain though would naturally replace the corn.

The final issue is, small livestock cannot have silage...PERIOD. Again this goes back to the 66% moisture content. Because young livestock are growing so fast, they need a lot of nutrition, but because 2/3 of what they consume would be water, that means they are only getting 1/3 in food. This is not enough and something called "Rumen Pack" occurs. It is really simply, their bellies are full of silage so they stop eating, yet they ultimately die of starvation because 2/3 of it is water. But this only happens in newborn animals up to about 60 days old. After that they can eat silage just fine, and THRIVE! On our dairy farm, we just bought a few bales of hay to feed the baby animals. It was cheaper to do that then maintain and buy a hay baler.
 
Travis Johnson
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I mentioned corn which I know has a negative connotation in the Homesteading World, but it really is too bad because it holds so much promise. I mean an acre of corn contains 24 tons of feed, and the Homesteader already has the tools in which to grown and chop into silage, corn.

Obviously we all know how to get corn to grow, but back when I fit had sheep, I made my own corn silage, and it was just as good as what came out of our 1/4 million dollar silage chopper.

For me, I used a chainsaw to cut down the stalks though a bladed weedwacker would work also. Then I ran my stalks through a small woodchipper to get finely chopped silage, but a lawnmower would work just as good. Just take a cheap, used push lawnmower, drill a hole 3-4 inches in the top of the deck near the outer part, or use a hand grinder with a cut off wheel to cut a hole, and then as the lawnmower is running, feed the stalks down through the top to chop up the corn stalks.

I never really never understood why more Homesteaders did not do this. I mean if they had only a few acres and had to buy hay, just having 1/3 or 1/2 an acre of corn would really cut down on the hay purchases.

Along the same lines, potatoes will really fatten up an animal. Sheep and cows love potatoes as is, but a pig has to have them boiled first. Still nothing will fatten a pig up like potatoes. We used to do that when we grew potatoes, and you can grow an awful lot of potatoes in a small garden or field!
 
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I don't pretend to have read the entire thread but would it be possible to use something towed behind to group up the grass and then pick it up?

Travis that price you keep saying for a baler is insane! I just had a look in our local adverts and they ranged between $39k for a under 10 year old round baler to $2.3k for an older small baler and of course everywhere in-between. I would never want to use loose hay it takes a ton of room is very hard to move and hard to use.  (here round bales that have been outside uncovered and gotten wet are not saleable as they do develop mold on the outside)
 
Gordon Haverland
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A long term idea of mine, is to build a robot (based on a hedge trimmer).  The grass is 2 or more feet tall, and the robot is maybe 6 inches tall.  It would cut and probably crimp the hay (maybe something like a Roots blower could crimp the hay?).  I burned up the hedge trimmer motor in question, as it doesn't have enough cooling.  A person would probably need 2 "snorkels" to draw air in, and to exhaust air.  You would probably put a GPS antenna near the top of one of those snorkels.

Not going to happen in the next couple of years.

 
Gordon Haverland
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The USDA/UNT pamphlet is something I should sit down and read.  The Sweep Rake in question, is quite a bit bigger than I am looking at in the near term.  The "fingers" on the front are _MUCH_ longer.

Since this document is so small, what might be possible is to suck out the text, and cut the images out, and rebundle the entire pamphlet as a PDF with LaTeX, and include the images in that.  Not that I don't already have too much to do.

I think the prose (text) is probably the more useful to me at the moment, but who knows?

Some people (like Silk ...) are using 2x4 oriented vertically.  Another person is using 2x6 oriented horizontally (with tapers towards the ends).  Pretty much everything needs some kind of "bevel or chamfer" on the point, to keep from digging into the soil.  Almost everyone is using fingers on what appears to be 12 inch centres.  Which just points to people educated in feet.

If I am to use a 4x4 for seating the fingers into, and I set the 2x4 or 2x6 horizontally, a person could cut tenons in the 4x4 to insert the fingers into.  Does that leave enough "meat" around the holes to support things?  If I do something similar with horizontal members, I think their orientation would be different, and I would want to switch to a 4x6 so that I am setting the 2x4 into the x6 dimension.  But that sounds more like a winter project to me.
 
Travis Johnson
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That is one reason I never had a lot of luck with a buck rake; it seemed the wooden connection was too weak, and when one of the tines hooked into the ground, tines would break off, but maybe there is a better way to make one. I never really considered steel too much, but mostly as I said in my first reply, that on my farm, my hay can be a considerable distance from the barn. It is not that they do not have merit, it is just they would not work well for me due to the amount of hay I have, and the distance it would have to be hauled.

The only cheap workaround that I thought of was, instead of using a buck rake to move loose hay, why not use long lengths of chainlink fence? With say an 8 foot high fence, a person could drag the fence with their tractor to the field, then use a cheap side delivery rake (star reel or pin wheel) and rake the hay onto the chainlink fence, then drag that hay back to the barn. That would allow loose hay to be moved without a lot of physical work or expense. I have built my own pin wheel rake, and it was cheap and easy to do, but you can buy used ones cheap as well.

As for the USDA Link cited on making a Buck Rake: it must be a problem with your computer because I can view all the pages in detail Gordon.
 
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Skandi Rogers wrote:Travis that price you keep saying for a baler is insane! I just had a look in our local adverts and they ranged between $39k for a under 10 year old round baler to $2.3k for an older small baler and of course everywhere in-between. I would never want to use loose hay it takes a ton of room is very hard to move and hard to use.  (here round bales that have been outside uncovered and gotten wet are not saleable as they do develop mold on the outside)



Yes, that is an insane amount of money for a baler. I have seen used ones that went for $18,000 and the dealership was proud of the "low" price. But the worst part is, it takes a lot of horsepower to make round bales, so not only does a person have to buy the baler, they need a costly big tractor to power it. Holy crap, the money just keeps adding up, and adding up, just to feed your animals.

They have mini round balers and $18,000 was their price as well. That is a brand new price, but still, how can homesteaders even pay that much money?

I did figure it out that with a 2 wheel tractor like a BCS, a person could produce hay for $8500 instead of $27,000 which was what a dealership had for a "hay making special" that included mower, rake and baler. Neither prices included the cost of the 4 wheel, or 2 wheel tractor though.

I am convinced that loose hay will make a come back. The biggest reason baled hay took off for the farmer was because compressing it, they could get more volume of hay inside a barn. But back then, barns were a major undertaking, but now with fabric barns, the cost of having storage is so cheap, and so easy to set up, that it would be much, much cheaper to have a bigger fabric barn, then what a baler would cost that would eventually wear itself out. On European farms, loose hay is making a comeback already.

Here in Maine, our round bales stored outside get yucky on the outside too, but we just throw that hay away and are left with plenty of good hay on the inside. It is only like four inches of waste all the way around, so it is really not worth having a place to store hay for that little amount of loss. I always figure 1-1/2 round bales per winter feed per head of sheep (150 feed days). Obviously my sheep are on pasture from April until November.
 
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