Bob Hilger believes his "handy hay handler" could help commercial hay growers find customers for big rectangular bales.

"I contact a lot of dairymen in northeastern Iowa and Wisconsin to sell hay and am told, 'I can't use mid-size or large rectangular bales - I have a tie-stall barn,' " says Hilger.

He built the hay handler to help counter that resistance. It's easily slid under a bale after the twine is removed.

"Using the hay handler, farmers can easily maneuver large sections of hay through the narrow doorways, alleys and feedways of tie-stall barns," says Hilger, who grows 1,000 acres of alfalfa near David City, NE.

He packages several tons of alfalfa in 4 x 4 x 8' bales each summer.

Hilger entered the simple and inexpensive machine in the invention contest at last month's Mid-America Alfalfa Expo in Hastings, NE. To build it, Hilger first bought a two-wheel dolly from Sam's Club for $37. The original metal base was approximately 14 x 14". To increase the machine's hauling capacity, he welded a piece of triangular-shaped sheet metal to the base, making it 14" wide by 28" deep.

Next, he bent and flattened one end of a 15" piece of metal tubing, creating a hook. Then he bolted the tubing to the top of the dolly. This 1"-diameter "arm" comes down and the hook is pushed into the hay, holding it in place.

Hilger drilled a second set of holes about 15" down the vertical portion of the dolly. The arm can be taken off the top and screwed into this lower set of holes for moving portions of 3 x 3 x 8' bales.

"If you have a potential customer who says he can't use your big or mid-size bales, it would pay for you to make one and give it to him," Hilger advises hay growers.

"I think this invention will open doors for me to sell more hay. It's easier and quicker to use the hay handler to move a 200-lb piece of hay than it is to move five 40- to 50-lb bales by hand."

Other growers are welcome to copy his idea. For more information, call him at 888-ALFALFA.