Moving hay bales in barn

How can I move 4x5 round bales of hay in my barn where my tractor isn’t nimble enough?

I have an original settler bank barn with a central post at the edge of the threshing floor, so my tractor could only access 12 bales of a potential 56 I could store in the hay mow (off the threshing floor). I tried stacking (3 high) on pallets but pallet trucks won’t navigate the floor boards under load. Electric pallet trucks aren’t recommended for unheated spaces (and are too expensive). I could roll by hand, but then I can’t stack bales.

Any suggestions?

I would pulley them up into place. Install a load-appropriate pulley over the stack and attach the rope/chain to the tractor outside the barn. Then you gently back the tractor away and pull up the bales with a helper in the barn to manually guide the bales into place. Depending on the size of your opening, you might need a second pulley to guide the rope/chain at the point of entry.

I moved 4X4 bales utilizing an old Hay fork track and pulley with a lockable block and tackle and a hay fork. The hay fork would be plunged into the bale standing on it’s end and then the locking mechanism engaged to hold the bale - the block and tackle was attached to the hay fork pulley mounted carriage on the track - I could use the block and tackle to lift the bale and then lock it in the raised position. Then I could move the bale pushing on it and in the peak of the barn the carriage would roll along on the track - I only stacked them one layer deep but it was on an mow floor 8 feet above the barn floor. It would be hard to stack them higher than two deep - the track is in the center of the barn. in thinking about it - once you got the first layer complete you could raise the bales - lower them on that layer - roll them to where you want them and tip them up (if you are a mighty person - 4x5 bales are pretty large) - I found that the single layer stacked on end made a pretty solid floor to build on with small square bales. No reason you couldn’t roll round bales across it. Good luck Rob.

If I may suggest an alternative, we find outdoor storage to be quite acceptable. At first we just stored the bales on clay but soon realized that about half the spoilage was from below. We laid down a fair bit of round gravel on a high spot which has been very effective at keeping the bottoms reasonably drive (plus a nice surface to drive on in wet weather).
We unroll our 4X5s and find that after the first couple of rotations the hay is pretty good. The outer stuff isn’t really wasted because they may use it for bedding and it’s eventually soil builder.
We used tarps for many years, stacking the bales 3-2-1 and then covering. But we eventually quit doing that: too much work, too much plastic waste and again, the current method (storing them in long lines with a foot or so between rows for ventilation) is quick, easy and not really all that wasteful.
Gravel is the key, in my opinion.
Good luck with whatever method you choose.

Have you considered buying a skid steer?

I’ve had similar challenges here – pole barn with dirt floor, and a tractor that can’t navigate into all the corners. I’ve come up with several work-arounds, including storing round bales outside. I’ve found the same as rmj… not that much waste, since whatever gets left by the cattle is good for soil building. Since we have to buy in much of our hay, I’ve found a trucker that will bring his skid steer along when he delivers the load, and for a very reasonable hourly rate, he very efficiently unloads and stacks bales 3 high in all the tight spots. Cheaper than buying a skid steer. I’ve also looked into renting a skid steer – may be worthwhile if you could move bales AND also get last years manure pack cleaned out at the same time. Hope a good solution emerges for you!

Many years ago I tried storing large round bales outdoors on pallets and under a tarp. Tarp is great provided it is properly secured and ventilated. Pallets on soil, not so much, I wouldn’t recommend that. The bales would have fared better on pallets over a thick layer of gravel over well drained soil.

Yes, but rejected since prohibitively expensive for the size of my operation. Renting is an option but I would have to rent it in the dead of winter too to shift bales from the hay mow to the threshing floor. My RWD tractor needs tire chains to get up the barn ramp in winter so I am not sure a skid steer or its delivery truck could get it in the barn.

Thanks for the suggestion.

My outdoor storage is limited since the available area is constrained on either side by a tree line and the barn. I’m already storing 45 bales outside (on pallets). Since it is sloped I think I will get rill erosion if I lay down gravel, but the pallets freeze to the ground in winter restricting access (or in emergencies I drive over them and replace them for next season).

I just figure that I’ve got this space in a drying barn and would like to use it if I can.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Thanks @dheraud, that outdoor storage has been working for me so far, probably because the pallets are on a sandy slope so they don’t sit in water. I will explore the pulley idea.

Good idea, @vasteinmann. I’ve been dealing with different suppliers and truckers, but I will ask.

@mcqufarm: you’ve reminded me that there is a block on a rail in the peak of the barn… maybe I can get that working if it can take the weight of a 4x5. Thanks for opening my eyes.