There are many ways to protect your assets, from the horses to their food, without spending a fortune—all you need is a little construction know-how and some helpful friends.
TARPING A STACK
Sometimes hay can be adequately protected with tarps, particularly if it’s not going to be stored very long. First, stack the hay on wooden pallets, or on a well-drained site that will not wick moisture into the bottom bales. When you stack the hay, take into account a wet climate. If you live in an area where rain and snow are frequent, it helps if the tarps can be sloped to allow the water to run off rather than pooling and possibly running down through a hole into the hay. A “ridgepole” of straw bales along the center of the top of the stack can create such a slope.
The last bit of advice for tarp users is to have plenty of extra hands around to maneuver the tarp into place, and then to check often for leaks, which can damage a whole line of bales from top to bottom.
BUILDING A HAY SHED
If you are feeling more industrious and want an even better solution for hay storage, build your own shed. And while lumber is expensive, a pole-barn hay shed can be built fairly cheaply, using tall posts for the supports and poles for the rafters and roof trusses.
To start, set well-treated posts, 21 feet long and 10 to 12 inches in diameter into holes at least three feet deep (a tractor loader can be used to lift each post by chaining it to the loader bucket). After setting the posts in the ground, their final height should be about 17.5 feet high. This makes the shed tall enough to stack the hay inside it with a tilt-up stackwagon. Posts should be set every 12 feet to create a square shed 24 by 24 feet with an open front. Or, make the shed as long as needed to cover more hay.
After the posts are set, a few poles can be nailed up along the side and back wall of the hay shed to tie the structure together and provide a place to put boards to use as scaffolding or for bracing. The poles at the back provide the backstop to stack hay against when it is unloaded.
Once the walls are in place, it’s time to tackle the roof. First, put in a few loads of hay after the back wall is built to give you something to stand on while starting to install the roof.
Back on the ground, assemble long poles (6 to 8 inches in diameter) for the roof trusses. Each truss should have a 4-foot peak, and the poles creating them should be bolted together on the outside ends, where the top pieces join the bottom pole. At the peak, the trusses should be braced with an angled V for extra strength.
The big challenge is getting these big heavy trusses up to the top of the hay shed. For this task, my husband made a special boom to attach to his tractor loader bucket, to extend its reach about 12 feet higher—making the loader able to raise something as much as 25 feet off the ground. We attached ropes to each end of the truss, so two people on either side could help guide it while being safely out of the way and not underneath it. A third person was placed at the top to guide the truss and secure it once in place.
The trusses we built are strapped onto the support posts with 1.5-inch by 3/16-inch metal pieces, bent over the truss pole and securely nailed to the sides of the support posts; thus the wind can never lift the roof off. The shed is also braced securely with poles on the underside of the roof in several directions.
The trusses overhang the shed structure to create a 2-foot overhang on each side, to give the haystack within the shed more protection from driving rain or snow. Since the stacks inside the shed do not come clear out to the outer wall, this gives about
6 feet of overhang protection for the hay. We have found that the sides of the stack do not get wet at all under normal conditions, and even a very windy storm will only dampen them, which quickly dry out—nothing like the soaking run-off from tarps.
Before we put the roof on, we stacked the hay under the shed, to give us a “floor” to work on and a safety area, so if someone slipped, they could not fall clear to the ground. We used 4-inch diameter poles for the rafters, which run the length of the shed and are spaced at two-foot intervals. Make sure to choose very straight poles to make as flat a surface as possible for the roofing metal to rest upon. If poles are not available, 2 x 6 inch lumber can be used for the rafters.
The metal sheeting for the roof was put on in sections, using long screws to secure the metal sheets to the pole rafters (going deep into the poles) so it can’t blow off.
Since we built our hay shed a few years ago, we no longer have any spoilage in the top bales of our stack and none in the bottom (we built up the area and hauled in coarse gravel for a base after we set the tall posts). The labor and costs have paid for itself many times over. —HST
WASHTUBS AND OVERHANGS
When my husband and I moved from Illinois to Kentucky this past spring, the first thing we did was build a barn for our horses—even before our own house. In the course of building, we came up with some good ideas that make life easier for both horse and human.
The first is a simple washtub placed in the middle of the barn with hot and cold running water, which we use for everything from washing feed tubs to cleaning out wounds and from rinsing syringes to throwing some cold water on our faces. The key was in the placement of the sink, which is at the end of the main aisle, easily accessible and out in the open. We chose a plastic basin to avoid potential injuries with a loose horse.
Our second idea was to build an overhang of about 10 feet off of the barn where the horses can get out of the sun on really hot Kentucky days. We installed ceiling fans in the overhang for added comfort. The footing under the shelter is 18 inches of gravel and crushed rock for drainage and ease of cleaning up manure. However, we have found that manure is not an issue because the horses enjoy the area so much that they go elsewhere to do their business. —LH
Linda and Roger Humbert are Stable Management advertising representatives.