Hay equipment manufacturers have fashioned various machines for mechanical handling of small bales. But many hay buyers and sellers still move those bales by hand.

“Somewhere along the line, that hay is handled by hand, or at least a percentage of it is,” says Tim Hall, Idalia, CO.

Hand labor sometimes is needed to achieve the maximum legal weight when loading vans, for example. And when hay is shipped to feed stores and horse stables, it often has to be unloaded by hand.

“Our system can eliminate that,” says Hall. “We've made a package that any forklift or tractor or anything with a pallet fork can handle.”

He and his father, Ed, designed and built equipment that puts small bales into easy-to-handle packages bound by polypropylene straps. Their Bale Unitizing System packages 18-bale stacks of 16 × 18" bales and 18- or 24-bale stacks of 14 × 18" bales.

Bales are stacked on a platform. Then the machine squeezes the stack to compress and align the bales and applies straps in two directions. The completed package then moves out and another stack is loaded.

The fully automated system is operated by wireless remote control. The operator can make adjustments on the go and controls several functions, including the number and placement of straps. The Halls say a truckload of hay can be processed in about an hour under optimal conditions.

A second system packages recompressed bales headed for export. Labor reduction isn't its advantage, because export sales are already fully mechanized. Rather, it's an alternative to stretch-wrap plastic, which currently is used to package more than half the hay that leaves the country.

Stretch-wrap plastic is expensive and non-recyclable. Plus it locks in moisture, which can lead to mold growth. The Halls believe their system can solve some of those problems. The polypropylene straps are about half the cost of stretch-wrap plastic, they say.

Their export unitizer can package several recompressed bale sizes and configurations. It also can be used to make six-packs of three-tie bales for domestic sales.

“Then you've got a nice little 600- to 700-lb forklift pack,” says Tim Hall. “They can be loaded two wide and two high in a van and anybody with a dock can handle the hay.”

The father and son are partners in Hall's Hay and Equipment, LLC. They grow hay and also buy hay for resale, focusing on alfalfa-grass mixes for the horse market. In total, they handle about 8,000 tons a year.

They built their first unitizer to eliminate hand labor in their operation. They've placed one export system at El Toro Export, El Centro, CA, and hope to sell more of both types.

For more information, call 970-354-7352.