Diggin’ this hay!


Joy Ufford photos

Feeding cattle takes work and skill

BONDURANT – What a horse team can’t do, perhaps a machine can accomplish. If a machine can’t do it, a person must follow through.

Feeding loose hay – unbound grass hay mowed down into swathes by horse teams or an old tractor in late summer, then dried and stacked by a crew of strong hands into overstuffed “loaves” for the winter into spring – uses all three techniques.

The winter hay-feeding crew is much smaller than the summer hay crew. For the Campbells on in Bondurant, it’s whittled down to one or two men who work the horse team, the machine and themselves every day they feed.

A “haydigger” was once a common sight throughout Sublette County, a backward-turned tractor with hydraulic hoses, limbs and teeth designed to drop onto a tall haystack, scoop out a large crawful of hay, turn and set it down just right on the haywagon.

Over and over and over again, so each additional layer of hay is settled and counterbalanced – a skillful coordination that is honed by trial, error, practice and success, as the load grows wider and taller.

An experienced haydigger operator is usually the same one to climb on top of the load, get balanced then carefully peel the loose hay off with a pitchfork in time with the horses’ pace up the feed lanes. Too much hay will get trampled; not enough might be ignored. When it’s all done, he’ll turn the obedient team and head back to the stackyard and start the haydigger for another sweeping load.