Numbering the Days of Hay

3 days of work.  15 days of fear.  3 months of worry.  9 months of hoping we have enough stored up.  18 months of hay available at any given time…drought could strike any day now.  Each dry cow needs 25-30 pounds of hay each day to maintain weight in the winter.  Each bale weighs 40-50 pounds.  If I have 10 cows and feed for 120 days (Jan 1 – April 1) I need at least 600 bales to see me through…if they don’t waste any hay.  These are the hay numbers…and I want to believe our days of numbering hay are numbered.

In my last post I talked about how proud I am of my son.  At age 12 he’s eager and able to work.  It’s not just that he has a desire to please me, he sees the value of what we are doing and recognizes that I’m just not healthy enough to put up hay.  And, yes, I equate bad allergies to poor health.  That’s a topic for another day.

My son knocked it out of the park.  I may start referring to him as “Buck”.  He’s 12.  Nearly 6′ tall.  Lifts bales with apparent ease.  How did I get such a son?  With a son like that my allergies are not a factor. Why wouldn’t I want to put up hay (even if he has to re-stack the wagon while I’m eating mulberries)?

HayRestack

Because I am not rich.  Like you, I need the maximum return on my investment.  Like everyone else, I need to make the best use I can of my time.  For example, if I wanted to replace the after-tax income from my day job I would need around 8,000 laying hens.  Then I could spend my whole day washing eggs, grinding feed, moving fence, shooting predators and praying…PRAYING that I’m able to sell all 400 dozen eggs I’m going to collect that day with a minimum of deliveries all to places that buy by the case (so I can re-use the cases to save money).  Let’s compare that to my current job.

I began my day today by making sure my SQL agent jobs were all successful.  Then I verified the status of my weekend backups.  After that I ran a report on the progress of a long-running data migration.  A new employee showed up and we showed him around.  Then I ate a bagel.  Then I took a quick break to deliver eggs to co-workers.  Then there was an ongoing issue with SharePoint backups (you know how those can be) trying to tame our growing transaction logs…an ongoing maintenance issue.  I spent the rest of the morning and a large portion of the afternoon writing the outline for a series of classes I intend to teach on indexing; clustered vs. non-clustered indexes, filtered indexes, indexed views (did you know the first index on a view has to be clustered?  That fact really wows the crowds!).  Finally, toward the end of the day, I needed to truncate and repopulate a set of tables for end-of-month reporting.  An exciting day!  I mean, did you truncate tables today?  I did.

I have a head full of very specific training – so much so I have a hard time breaking down what I do for a living without resorting to jargon.  How can I tell my kids what I do?  “Well, guys, I’m a database administrator.  I make sure electronic file cabinets are sorted.”  Meaningless.  It would be so much easier to tell them I’m a chicken farmer but my skill set solves several problems for our family, even if they don’t understand what I do.  First, it solves my allergy issue.  I can sit in the air conditioning all day resting my body, working my mind…even if I have to rely on farm work to retain my sanity.  Second, it really helps with the whole money issue…you know…eating food, paying for the farm, buying my wife pretty dresses.  Finally, it saves us from having to sell 400 dozen eggs every day.

All of that to say, at this point, it’s not a good decision from a financial, nor from a health perspective for me to ride or even drive the hay wagon.   Heck, just the labor expense of maintaining and running the equipment may force my hand on this issue.  I would be better off to buy in my hay instead of maintaining a tractor, baler, rake, mower and wagons just for that one purpose (26 tires on all that equipment!).  Instead of that, I should manage my fescue stockpile to minimize my own need for hay and, instead, deploy that capital toward appreciating assets.  Again, not putting up hay means I’m dedicating more time to selling things my farm produces, not producing something my farm consumes, feeding it in a feedlot and hauling manure later (more time).

Gabe Brown keeps cattle in North Dakota.  When I heard him speak he talked about planting cover crops to use as winter forage.  48″ snows were not a problem for him.  Low temperatures were not a problem.  The cattle walked a mile or more every other day to get water.  No problem.  He just kept moving the fence a little at a time to give them access to more of the stockpile.

Jim Gerrish wrote a whole book on the topic.  In Kick the Hay Habit Gerrish details how expensive hay is, how much better off the cows are if you let them harvest their own feed and how practical it is for almost all of North America.  He guesses that farmers continue to put up hay because it’s “just what you are supposed to do”…and because they like to…even if it is not in the best interest of their wallet.

Greg Judy suggests keeping 30 days of hay purchased in case of an ice storm that the cows can’t graze through.  Julius Ruechel, Gordon Hazard, Cody Holmes…I could keep listing authors/ranchers who agree.  OK, maybe not Joel Salatin.  Or even my friend Matron of Husbandry.

I’m not presenting a case against hay.  I’m presenting a case for why I believe our days of baling hay are numbered.  For now, though, we have fully-depreciated, functional equipment, we enjoy haying (allergies aside) and it’s just what you are supposed to do.  So we’ll probably keep it up for a while.  Long enough to build strength and character in my sons anyway.

Raising My Replacement

Hard to say why but it’s hard to find kids who want to stand on a dusty hay wagon on a 95 degree day and handle a few hundred bales twice.  But it’s time to cut hay.  And I’m massively allergic.  I’ll spend days coughing, sneezing and wheezing after riding the wagon behind the baler.  But this year it’s not so bad.  My son, at age 12, rode the wagon.  I stood back and watched him succeed.

BuckBaler

Since he can do that, I can spend more time eating berries.  I was caught red-handed.  Mulberries were juicy!

MulberryJuiceIt gave me time to reflect on what we are doing, why we are doing it and how to get that last sweet dewberry out from under the poison ivy leaf.

PoisonIvyAndBerriesGood luck with that.  Maybe I should stick to mulberries.  Either way, the days of putting up our own hay may be numbered.

Thoughts and Advice…but not from me

I read Thoughts and Advice From an Old Cattleman while sitting in a hotel in Florida last week…along with other reading.  I thought I would share some of my thoughts, but I’ll keep my advice to myself…short of this one thing:  Get this book.

The author details a plan for moving cattle through your pastures on a regular basis, selling and then immediately buying again.  If the market is down, you’ll buy immediately.  If the market is up, you’ll have to pay more for better animals but still, buy immediately.  Different classes of animals do better at different times.  He goes into long detail about feeding, worming, fly killer…all things we don’t do but also talks about getting the most bang for your buck on grass…using low-cost grass to grow calves up to feeder size.

A recurring theme in the reading I have done lately is the disassociation of ranching and tractor ownership.  Gordon goes so far as to say you are better off with 4 ex-wives than with 4 John Deere’s.

Again, I highly recommend this book.  I found it to be very encouraging that a 70+ year old man runs 1,800 head of calves across 3,000 acres (with zero debt!) and humorously complains that he only has enough work to keep him busy for 3-4 hours each day.  Wow.  Poison aside, he’s doing things right.

I am now rethinking everything we have on the farm.  Iron pile?  Buildings?  Corrals?  Fencing?  Ponds?  Chickens?  Cattle?  Which of these things are increasing in value?  Can I make it with a cow/calf operation or should I consider exclusively running or at least adding stocker calves?  How can I put my debts behind me?

Anything…not Everything

Oh, I could take this post a lot of directions.  A lot of directions.  I’ll start with generalizations then make this about farming at the end.  I pinkie swear.

We are very fortunate.  Very blessed.  I have always had at least one job.  In college I worked at McDonalds (everybody should work food service!), polished floors overnight at WalMart, mowed grass, worked in the labs and greenhouses on campus, did an independent research project, worked construction and did odd jobs anywhere I could including painting little toy soldiers for some hobby shop in Indiana.  Having hit the bottom of our checkbook several times and being too proud to ask our parents for cash, we learned quickly to spend less than we make.  We play strong defense with our cash.  We are a one-car, no cable or satellite or TV at all family who don’t send their kids to karate, ballet, gymnastics, swim team, baseball or even scouts.  We budget carefully making sure we distinguish between wants and needs.  It was only recently decided (after lengthy discussion) that a no-contract cell phone was a need.

And now, after years of sacrifice, I am at a place in life now where, thanks to the miracle of credit and a near-perfect credit score, I could buy anything I wanted.

Anything I want.  But not everything I want.  I can’t afford everything I want.  I have to be selective.

Now, I already understood that completely without really giving it any thought.  In fact, it wasn’t until I heard my parents discussing a similar topic that I realized what it meant…how simple yet profound it is.

Let’s make a list.  First, I need to buy another 40 acres…and soon.  I need cattle to help generate revenue and keep the grass mowed and the pasture fertilized.  I need a new perimeter fence to keep the cattle contained when a deer runs through the paddock fence.  A milking parlor would be nice.  OOH! and a bobcat!  Heck, an excavator and bulldozer would do wonders for the landscape and future water supply.  The barn needs some repair…well, quite a bit actually.  The yellow house needs…well, let’s just skip that.  My house needs to be skipped too.  The machine shed should be replaced.  A real garage would be nice.  Sure would be convenient to buy a few thousand trees instead of collecting and sprouting the nuts.  A walk-in freezer would be a life saver but would probably require a backup generator.  And once the farm starts shaping up wouldn’t it be nice to buy that piece of ground just across the fence?  Or a place to snow bird in Florida?  Or even just a second vehicle?

But we can’t do it all.  Even if we could, we shouldn’t do it all.  I have a limited amount of money and a very limited amount of time.  I have to get the most bang for my buck because I can’t have it all.  Each day I make decisions and live with the consequences.  There is no time for second guessing.  I just have to go.  When I make wrong choices I have to work extra hard to make those bad choices work out anyway.  There is no looking back.  I just have to do it…whatever it is.  If I could have everything…if I could do everything then I could do it right.  But I can’t.  I just do the best I can with what I have.

And that’s enough.

Adding Value the Ferengi way.

In light of my recent post about different ways of raising hogs, dad suggested it would be worthwhile to explain why hogs are raised in confinement at all…and why this isn’t likely to change.  Since I have a sense of humor I thought I could explore this while having a bit of fun.  What follows is my understanding of why farmers raise hogs in confinement mixed with a dash of Star Trek.  Yup, Star Trek.

Now, I want to be clear.  I am neither apologizing for nor accusing the practice of hog confinement.  I am merely attempting to describe my understanding of why farmers do it…and showing my inner nerd.

So.  Why do farmers raise hogs in confinement?

Because farmers grow grain.

Need more detail?  OK.  Farmers grow lots of grain.  And interest rates were low and bankers were very, very much in favor of hog floors years ago.  That didn’t turn out too well in the ’80’s but interest rates are low again and…well, here we go.

Click on link for image source

Let’s say I was the kind of a farmer who grew acres and acres of corn.  Corn, corn, corn, corn.  Being from Illinois, I’m probably going to rotate soybeans through the same ground alternate years.  Every 10 years or so I’ll sow alfalfa, spread lime, etc. but for the most part, we’re talking corn.  Oh, and to get this corn to grow well we have to add fertilizer.  That costs money.  Boy does it ever.  And we’ll have to do something to make sure the weeds don’t out-compete the little corn plants.  Either we’ll cultivate or spray.

A bushel of corn weighs 56 pounds.  I should get 150 bushels of corn per acre on our kind of Illinois ground.  (Maybe 200 but we’ll stick with the 150).  That’s 8,400 pounds of grain that has to be hauled and stored somewhere for every acre and I may be farming 2,000 acres if I want to be a medium-sized farmer.  That’s almost 17 million pounds of corn.  I could maintain my own fleet of trucks to do the hauling or hire a trucking firm to haul for me.  How far do we haul?  The nearest elevator?  Next town over?  Each mile costs money and time.

Worse, what do I return to the land when I haul all of my crop away?  Really just the crop residue.  Remember, I have to buy fertilizer.

Well, what if there was a way to avoid hauling the corn, add value to that corn, increase my profit percentage and lower my hauling costs AND make fertilizer I can sell to the neighbors or return to the soil?  That’s why there is hog confinement.  It’s not simply a bunch of greedy, heartless, evil farmers throwing as many pigs as possible into the least space possible to squeeze profit.  It’s a way of taking something of surplus and low value and turning it into something of higher value.

To bring Star Trek into the picture, there are several Ferengi Rules of Acquisition that apply here.  Law of Acquisition #2 says:

The best deal is the one that brings the most profit.

I think that’s pretty self-explainatory.  At one time, every house on the road had a few sows out on dirt.

Click on image for source

They are thrifty, independent and marketable animals.  When you look at the bottom line and begin to evaluate how Pareto’s Principle applies to your farm, pigs usually look pretty good.  If a few pigs look good, more pigs look better.  How many pigs can we raise before efficiency and the market snap us back to reality?  This brings us to Law of Acquisition #45:

Expand or die.

It didn’t take long.  Farmers went from a few pigs at every home to larger groups of pigs at fewer homes.  Then they started building Cargill floors and, ultimately, climate-controlled hog houses.  But, at each stage of the way, the farmer was looking for a way to bring home a little more income to the farm…and every farm needed more money, especially at the time when confinement houses were becoming popular.  You get from healthy, environment-enhancing pastured pork to unhealthy, destructive pastured pork to confinement pork in just a few easy steps and it is well summarized in Rule #98

Every man has his price.

Click on image for image source

But I have gotten ahead of myself.  Why did the farmers have pigs in the first place?  Partly because bacon tastes great but mostly because they already had the feed.  Should we move the mountain of grain to the pig or move the pig to the mountain of grain?  If nothing else, the pig can walk.  Transporting meat makes more financial sense than transporting feed.  I mean, with $6 corn it costs me $0.33 to make $0.61 worth of lean pork (at $0.86 lean pork futures).  So we sell the corn to ourselves and sell the pork on the market to nearly double our money.  Rule #12 tells us:

Anything worth selling is worth selling twice.

Then he can sell it one more time by “selling” the manure either to himself by replacing his fertilizer bill or actually sell it to his neighbors.  Those friends I mentioned in the previous article have entirely cut out their fertilizer bill and they make a bit of cash on the side selling the manure to neighbors.  Not only is that enough to make any Ferengi tug his ears in jealous rage but also means their farm won’t be spilling Anhydrous Ammonia into nearby ponds.

Obviously there are ups and downs in commodity production, weather you are producing commodity coal or commodity pork.  Massive expansion following Rule #45 meant there were a number of lean years for pork producers.  The late ’90’s were particularly awful.  But some survived even by the skin of their teeth.  This proves Rule #162:

Even in the worst of times, someone makes a profit.

So, confinement commodity pork production is a tool used to add value to commodity grain production.  In its original form, it saved on transportation.  That’s not really true anymore.  Rather than haul the grain from your own field to your own hog house, growers are usually contracted through a vertically integrated operation and the feed is trucked in from a contracted source.  Believe it or not, that’s more efficient…somehow.  All of commodity production depends on cheap fuel prices.  As fuel prices go up, it costs more to fertilize, cultivate, plant, spray and harvest the field, then haul the grain away.  It costs more to build and heat the hog house.  It costs more to haul and grind the feed.  It costs more to haul the hogs to the slaughter plant.  It costs more to haul the bacon to the store.  Unfortunately, when you are in the commodity food paradigm there really is no alternative.  Once you have that huge building, all that concrete, tons of rebar…all that stuff, you’re married to it.  Even I have a Cargill floor as a relic of previous generations on our farm.  What do I do with it?  Right now it stores lumber and odd bits of things but, for most people, as Rule 217 says:

You can’t free a fish from water.

Commodity production, it appears, is here to stay.  You, as an individual, can choose to participate or you can opt out by finding a good steward raising pastured livestock.  Not only are our pigs raised in the sunshine and allowed to express their “pig-ness”, they are leaner and more flavorful than confinement hogs, not to mention various health benefits from pastured meat sources.  Having butchered from both sources I can tell you the pastured meat lacks that distinct confinement smell.  But, these decisions are always difficult for us as consumers because of Rule #23:

Nothing is more important than your health, except for your money.

In For Repair

My Oliver 550 needed a little work.  Not only was it missing horribly on cylinder #2, it didn’t have any oil pressure.  Oil is the stuff that keeps the metal from touching metal…preventing the engine from wearing out.  “Missing” means that the four-cylinder engine was running at 75% capacity.  And it sounded bad.  And I had gas in my oil…you know, the stuff that’s supposed to protect my engine.  That’s not a good thing.

Oliver

Fearing the worst I took my tractor to a local machine shop, asking him for a worst-case estimate.  He said if it needed an overhaul it would be $2,500.  I only paid $3,000 for the tractor to begin with and there is another in better shape on CL right now for $4,500.  So, now what.  At what point do you pull the plug?  When do you send your equipment off to become scrap and parts?  What happens when I get worn out?!?!?

Three weeks later it turns out that the top end of the engine looked fine.  The shop put in new rod and main bearings, rebuilt the oil pump, replaced the relief valve and are sending it home.  All for much less than the worst-case scenario.  This is work I probably could do.  But there’s only so much I can do.  It’s not the best use of my time to wrench on my tractor.  Heck, it’s not the best use of my time to move a chicken tractor either.  I’ve written about this before.

My tractor came home.  We mowed a little bit with it to get ready for grandma’s funeral.  I used it to pull some logs and move a few things and …guess what!  It died.  I can’t even get it started.  I haven’t determined if this new problem is a fuel issue or an electrical issue.  It’s just dead.  I’m hoping it’s something simple this time.

At what point do you decide it’s not worth repairing?  Is it better to have a payment on a depreciating tractor that probably will work or no payment on a depreciated tractor that may or may not work?  We are really working to embrace option #3: no tractor at all.

The Steel Hay Wagon – Wagon Series Part 3

Part three of my series on hay wagons is less for the woodworker and more for the welder.  I can’t imagine building this at current steel prices but, in a pinch, it would do and seems it will last forever.  This too is a guest post from my father.  I’ll hand it over to dad now.
Back to the farm auction.
Here I am hands in pockets, lots of temptations at another farm sale.  This time a neighbor is selling his equipment. He is cleaning out his sheds as he is quitting farming and has rented out his farm to a high rent farmer.
I am doing pretty good, I only bought a sloppy joe and a soda so far.  Then there is this old flat wagon with a steel bed.  The tires are holding air.  “Alright boys what am I bid for this wagon? $250, 200, come on what will you give? $100, $50, here 50 now 60,70,80.”. Who bid $90?  Oh that was me!  “$90 once, $90 twice, sold for $90 to that fellow.  What’s your number sir?
SteelWagon1
There you go, a $90 wagon that has hauled thousands of bales through the years (maybe 15 years).  And has been a work bench, a storage unit, hayride wagon…you get the idea.
SteelWagon2
We had our first flat tire on this wagon this year and that is the only repair we have had on it in maybe 15 years.  This wagon has a diamond tread on the deck but it still gets slippery, especially with loose hay.  [Editor’s Note: the deck can also get hot!]
Someone told me once every auction has a soft place, this auction had a cheap hay wagon.
The construction is simple and straightforward.  Instead of wooden runners they used a pair of I-beams.
SteelWagon3
There is a frame of bent steel around the perimeter and the tread plate top supported by U-shaped joists on 14″ centers.  In the rear we bolted a 2×4 to each I-beam to support our headache rack.
SteelWagon4
The headache rack is also held on by a couple of brackets up top.  It’s easy to remove the headache rack this way…just 4 bolts.
SteelWagon5
One of these days we may go crazy and paint it. Who knows.

The One Hundred Twenty Dollar Hay Wagon (Wagon Series Part 2)

Part two of our Hay Wagon series is a guest post from my father.  You’ll see comments from “Not Caretaker” from time to time…that’s him.  Don’t be fooled by the pictures.  This is a great hay wagon and cost about half as much as any of mine and pulls straight.  We have put thousands upon thousands of bales on this beauty over the years.  Let me step out of the way and had the microphone to dad.

I would describe myself as thrifty.  That said I am willing to repurpose rebuild or do without.  I bought a wagon running gear from a local fertilizer dealer for $100.00.  It had an anhydrous ammonia tank on it at one time.  This running gear had one distinction from most other running gears in that the whole front axle turns on a center king pin where the usual farm gear steers like a car, both front wheels turn together with a tie rod.   Either running gear will do but the gear like this one will follow whatever is pulling it quite well.

At about this same time I was at a farm auction trying to keep my buyers number in my pocket.  The auctioneer came to a pile of used lumber (oak, spruce) of various dimensions and lengths.  Some of this was new 16’ lumber that had been use for concrete forms .  “What am I offered for this lumber?  $25, $25, $20, $20, ok boys someone start off, what’ll you give?”  I heard myself say “$10”.  The auctioneer said “alright I got $10, give me $15, $15, $14,$11, sold for $10 to number 313”.

Back to how to build $120.00 hay wagon you can see where the money is going.  I sistered  two of the 2X6X16’s together to make a stringer for the foundation of the wagon bed.  Made two of them and fastened them to the wagon gear about forty inches apart.  Then I used 8’ oak boards for the deck and nailed them across the stringers placing them about an inch apart basically building a deck like you might have on your house.  The spacing of the deck gives the guy riding the wagon a good footing and is not slippery like the solid decked wagon written in the first of this series.

There you have a plan for an economical wagon.  You may not be able to buy a used running gear  that cheap as iron prices have driven up the price of farm machinery , but there are still bargains out there.   Used lumber is still a bargain you just have to find it.

Now I want to mention  something about using these wagons.  We stack bales right off the wagon (see videos in earlier posts).  I had an old neighbor, Tommy M, who helped me bale until he retired.  He would run the baler and I would ride the wagon and stack hay.  He always told me he knew how fast to drive by looking back at me, if my tongue was hanging out and I was breathing hard he knew he was driving fast enough.  How I wish he could still drive the baler.

Now that I drive the baler and Head Farm Steward rides the wagon, I know just how fast to drive.

HFS again.  In case you missed it, Part 1 is here.

There’s Only One Way Outta Here

Under normal conditions you could exit my house by driving West or by driving East.  Starting Friday you could only go East.  Though it hasn’t made the international news, somebody turned over an anhydrous ammonia tank on the road to Rockbridge and dad described it as the scene from E.T.  Plastic, flashing lights, evacuations, teams of “scientists” in suits.

OK.  Well.

Let’s lay a foundation here.  First I want to say that I don’t believe anyone was injured as a direct result of this accident.  From what I have put together, the driver of the truck lost the tank somehow (hitch came loose?) and it started chasing him down a hill.  He tried to stop but ended up in the ditch next to a pond with the anhydrous tank crashing through the back window of his truck.  He escaped before ammonia flooded the cab of the vehicle.  Had he been in there…

Now, I’m not a big fan of anhydrous ammonia.  We (as a planet) use 1% of the power we generate manufacturing it.  Depending on who you read it kills a lot of earthworms when used in a field.  It falls deeply under the umbrella of chemical agriculture.  It is used to store cheap nitrogen in the soil to boost corn yields the following summer.  It is dang-near ubiquitous in modern agriculture.  We have bulldozed out the fence rows (where rabbits and quail lived) in favor of flat, tiled fields farmed all the way to the ditch.  We have to farm every square inch and need every advantage we can get.  Farming is a business after all.  It’s a business, requires efficiency and 100% resource utilization.  Tomorrow we’ll invent solutions to the problems we are creating today.  Today we need anhydrous.

So.  We have a compound of Nitrogen and Hydrogen.  A naturally occurring compound in unnatural concentration.  This compound is being sprayed on all the fields in the midwest where corn will be planted next Spring but you spill 1000 pounds on the side of the road and the hazmat team has to show up and deal with it?  Where is the hazmat team when it is being injected into the field outside of my home?  I mean, even if it got dumped into the pond at the bottom of the hill you’re going to end up with ammonium hydroxide…a household cleaner.  Is this a big deal?  YES?!?  Is it a big deal because of the scale or should I not have ammonium hydroxide in my home?  We can at least be consistent!

Now, I don’t want to be misunderstood.  I am no fan of chemical fertilizers of any flavor but I am also not a fan of state and federal bureaucracies infesting neighboring hillsides.  Why are they here?  Get the neighbors evacuated and let things run their course.  I mean, it’s not like the hazmat team is going to clean up the lawyers too!  If anhydrous ammonia is a problem why do we spray tons and tons of it on the soil surrounding my farm?…on the soil that washes into my pond?!?!

So anyway, there’s one way outta here.  Practice crop rotation, diversify our farms again and fertilize with composted animal manure or (gasp!) composted human manure.  But what do I know?  I don’t have a job with the department of ag, I don’t clean up spills, I’m not a firefighter, I don’t work for the EPA, I’m not a legislator, lobbyist or lawyer.  I’m just a computer geek with a biology degree pretending to be a farmer…certainly not an expert.  I do know my road has never been blocked for a week because horse manure got spilled on it.

Looking up a Hay Wagon’s Skirt Part 1

I get a ton of searches for “hay wagon rebuild” or something similar to that.  I assume readers are looking for these two articles.  Those two aside, I think I can provide more detail.  So, this is the first of a series looking under each of the four wagons on our farm and my thoughts on each one.  Hopefully you’ll find them to be helpful as you plan out your next hay wagon rebuild.

This is the wagon we rebuilt above.  It really isn’t a hay wagon, though we used it as one this summer.  It’s a grain wagon, complete with sides.  It was pretty rotten when we hauled it home and we are working to rebuild it as time allows.  Time hasn’t allowed so it’s still just a flat platform.  We used the original design as our pattern when rebuilding this one and it turned out well.  Most of the iron we need to rebuild it as it was is laying on the bed waiting for me to clean it up.

The running gear is sound.  It has good rubber and turns well in both directions.  You may not realize why that’s important so just trust me.  It’s important.  We bolted two 4×6 beams to the rear of the running gear.  This allows the front to flex over uneven ground.

Above the beams we knotched 2x4s to support the floor.  These could be doubled up.  Each are bolted to an angle iron which is then bolted to the 4×6.  We knotched them to match the design of the previous bed.  It helps to keep the bed lower to the ground.

Then we used treated 2x tongue and groove flooring across the platform.  The surface can be a bit slick but it’s solid.  We started with a reasonably straight board and the tongue sticking out on the edge which we later cut off.  Each board was …convinced… to snuggle up to its neighbor.  Finally we put 2×4 edging around the bed.  This should be a 2×6 because of the thickness of the floor but we were anxious to get into the field.  I have since purchased the 2×6 edging but, like so many other things, haven’t installed it yet.

Finally we attached a headache rack to the back.  Maybe it looks a bit hoosier but when it’s time to bale, it’s time to bale.  We had to get on the road.  It worked so it stayed even though one of the scrap boards we made it with has broken.  (Just to show how cheap I am, one of those horizontals are discarded treated boards from my father-in-law’s fence.  A fence he built 5 or 6 years ago.)

So there you go.  You can stretch them out so they are long and heavy if you want but I prefer them to be shorter.  There are any number of ways to build your deck on the running gear and I’ll be detailing our other wagons soon.