Farmer ingenuity continues to build better mousetraps — or forage wagons, as is the case of the winning invention at last month's Mid-America Alfalfa Expo in Hastings, NE.

Junkyard scavenger, wagon designer and 60-year dairyman Bill Russ, from Roscoe, IL, speaks proudly of his latest wagon wizardry, the Trap Door Forage Wagon. Not only does it save him time during haylage season, it's simpler, safer and only cost him $700 in materials to build.

The 8 × 16' built-from-scratch 14-ton-capacity wagon has a V-shaped bottom consisting of two 4 × 13' trap doors and a top-hinged end gate.

“As I drive over the bunker haylage pile, I simply hit the hydraulic lever so the trap doors swing down,” Russ says. “Then, as the load drops, it pushes open the end gate to empty the wagon — all without stopping.”

By far Russ' favorite design, he likes the wagon's simplicity without moving parts to wear out. Plus it's safer without pto, beaters or chains, and there's little fear of tipping a load.

“After building it last winter, I used it this past summer to haul about 75 14-ton loads,” he says. “It works so fast I can dump and pack each load myself and get back to the field before the next wagon is full.”

The wagon's mainframe, consisting of 6 × 8" square tubing with 4"-diameter pipe used as secondary framing, houses treated plywood sides. Russ has screens at the top of the walls for air movement. He also added a hydraulic-powered hinged roof “so I can fill it with a loader and sell haylage to neighbors.”

This master tinkerer has spent decades configuring wagons.

“First I built a false-front end gate that pushed the forage out the back. Then I graduated to making two or three wagons with conveyors in the bottom,” he says. “And before this design, I made three or four regular dump wagons. But those tipped over too easily on uneven forage piles.”

The Trap Door wagon was a hit at the Mid-America Alfalfa Expo, and also topped the American Farm Bureau's Farmer Idea Contest in January. Russ is patenting it and trying to sell the invention. Until he finds a taker, Russ has a manufacturer lined up to build his latest creation. Anyone interested can contact Russ at 815-885-3465, where, rest assured, he'll answer from his shop while tinkering on his next creation.