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!




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Jeannie Watt raises cattle in Montana and loves all things western. When she's not writing, Jeannie enjoys sewing, making mosaic mirrors, riding her horses and buying hay. Lots and lots of hay.

16 thoughts on “Beaverslides”

  1. We net wrap the large round bales and our 50+ cows go through 2-3 every couple days when it is really cold – great info!

  2. Welcome I grew up on a farm in CA and we always helped out others when they were bringing in the hay. But I never saw one of those. These are so cool. Thanks for sharing.

  3. How cool to see how the beaverslide actually works. My husband has tried to explain it to me for years. There are still a few sitting in fields in Eastern Washington. Next step,how do you get the hay out of the stack? Before my dad and a neighbor went together to buy a chopper and blower (many years ago) we put up loose hay in the hay mow. A loader was pulled behind the wagon and the hay taken off the wagon with a fork that pulled down to the wagon on a rope and back up to a track mounted on the rafters of the barn. The fork would go along the track and be pulled down again to drop the hay in the pile. I remember how hard it was to fork that hay out of the mow to feed the cows and horses. It seems like there was some kind of knife used to cut out sections of hay. It, too, required several people to get the job done.

  4. Wow, this is so very interesting , I had never heard of them. It sure seems like it is a big time saver. I have only seen bales of hay and the big round ones also. Thank you for sharing this very interesting post and different way to store hay. Have a Great rest of the week. God Bless you.

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