Safely handling round bales

Large round hay bales are convenient to leave in the field until you need them, but they’re also pretty heavy. If you have to move them from place-to-place, you need the right equipment.

Dennis Murphy is a retired extension safety specialist at Penn State University. He says to use a grapple hook or bale spear on the front of a skid steer or tractor. Also, make sure the machine can handle the load.

"Because of the weight in the front, even if you use a grapple hook or a spear, you’re going to move the center of gravity forward, and you have to have a large enough machine that the weight of the tractor itself – or you can put weights on the back of the tractor – will keep it from tipping forward," says Murphy. "If you have too much weight forward, then your machine’s going to tip forward."

As you raise up the bale, you’re also raising the center of gravity. And the higher the center of gravity, the easier the machine tips over.

Murphy says to carry the bale as low as possible on the front of your machine.

"That becomes difficult sometimes because if it’s a large bale you can’t see straight in front of you and so the temptation is to raise it up high so you can see under. But that’s not good because that’s raising your center of gravity," he says. "So if you have a bale and you can’t see forward, you still want to keep it low to the ground. The thing to do is to turn around and back up your machine and just back for whatever distance that you need."

There's some skill involved when operating a tractor loaded with a round bale. Avoid ruts and bumps and drive slowly with no sudden turns.

If the bale falls off and starts rolling down a hill, let it go. With that kind of weight and momentum, it'll be too dangerous to stop the bale.

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