Hey everyone! Today I’m talking about beaverslides, which are not fun devices located on playgrounds for flat-tailed furry mammals, I’m sorry to say. A beaverslide is a way to stack loose hay.
In the eastern part of the United States, it wasn’t necessary to store as much winter forage/hay as it was in the west. Due to the long, harsh winters, western ranchers often needed to store more hay than the average hayloft could hold. Thankfully, due to the low humidity, hay could be stacked outside, rather than under a barn roof, without rotting as it would do in the east.
When my mom was a kid, the field hands pitched loose hay from the fields into wagons, where people (kids) would stamp down the hay to make room for more. The trick, she said, was to not get a pitchfork in the leg. Having once had a pitchfork in my leg, I think about that often. The wagon of loose hay was then pitched into haylofts where it was protected from the weather, or it was stored in stacks. In the early 1900s, however, two ranchers in the Big Hole country of Montana, very close to where I now live, invented the Beaverhead County Slide Stacker, soon to be known simply as a beaverslide, which provided a quicker and more efficient way to stack loose hay.
Now I saw these contraptions in hay fields as a kid, most of them falling apart from lack of use, and while I knew they had something to do with haying, I didn’t know how they worked. Here’s how:
I’m happy to say that while most farmers and ranchers bale hay, the beaverslide is still being used today. Here’ a beaverslide in use close to where I live:
How cool is that? Using a beaverslide today might be more labor intensive than using a baler, requiring a crew of 6 to 8 people, but it saves on fuel, which is huge. A beaverslide can stack hay up to 30 feet high. They are usually made of lodge pole pine and wooden boards, but some have metal components.
About 24 tons of hay can be stacked before the beaverslide is moved to make a new stack in a new area. An average size cow consumes 24 pounds of hay a day, so one stack will feed 2000 cows for one day, or 500 cows for 4 days. We have 50 cows on our place, so a 24 ton stack would last us for about 5 weeks.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our adventure in loose hay today!