Over the last few years I’ve been able to find good deals on round bales of oat straw for the pigs’ winter bedding. There are sometimes a small number of oats in the bales, but the raking and baling processes tend to dislodge most of the grain. I don’t count on the grain as amounting to enough to provide feed. I like oat straw for its body. Unlike hay, even coarse hay, straw doesn’t pack down into a sodden mat as quickly, so the pigs benefit from warmer, dryer conditions. This year a neighbor’s oats were so overrun by weeds they weren’t able to combine them and they just mowed down the field. But word has gotten around that I’m always looking for cheap bedding straw and hay, and I was able to purchase 4×6 bales of bedding straw.
Things were going well until the pipe framework on the bale wagon’s ancient Montgomery Ward running gear picked an inopportune moment to come apart. The front and rear axles thus untethered from each other, the running gear did the splits from the weight of 6000 pounds of straw and from the jarring travel along the farm lane. Something didn’t seem right, but the wagon was being bounced in and out of deep puddles on the way out of the field, so I didn’t realize my predicament until I was on the shoulder of the county highway. Traffic was light enough that I decided to drag the wreckage home again, home again, diggity dog.
Running gear (and all manner of trailers too) seem to hold their resale value without regard for their actual serviceability. When I bought this particular heap, it required a lot of straightening and welding. But while doing the initial repairs I didn’t see one earlier welded patch on the 2″ stretcher pipe that holds the front and rear together. As always, it’s the one you don’t see coming that gets you… I was able to replace the stretcher pipe with a somewhat stouter black pipe. Now the wagon is back together and ready for the rest of the bales. Until the next thing breaks.
Garth over at Cairncrest put out a post on buying stuff that echoes my experience. Items like hay wagons are hard to justify spending investing in, at least on my farm. I use them on a few occasions during the summer, then they spend the rest of the year rusting and rotting. In an ideal world, limited use items could be shared among neighbors, and while we have a generous neighborly lending economy around here, I’ve found that some equipment tends to be needed by everybody at the same time. When it is raining, nobody is making hay; when we have a hot dry stretch, everybody is making hay. Shared hay wagons aren’t very practical.