Hay bale hooks might seem like one of the least important tools on a farm, but, in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Securing and moving hay bales with maximum efficiency can save farmers precious time and energy, making tedious work much more enjoyable. Imagine, day in and day out, having to bend over and manually grab thousands of haystacks—the hay is often packed too tight for gripping, especially with bulky gloves in the wintertime, resulting in plenty of sore limbs and frustrated feelings. When it comes to smooth transportation, no other kind of instrument will do the job like a hay bale hook.
Hay bale hooks have a fairly standard appearance. They are typically characterized by a wooden handle, since steel is cold to the touch in winter, and an iron hook. Some farmers even fashion their own hook by drilling a hole into a steel pipe and making the neck and hook out of a rod, bent and sharpened to suit their particular needs. The curvier the hook, the easier it is to miss when turning loose the bales and to lose the hook along with the bale. A good guideline to consider: less curve for shorter arms and more for longer ones (longer arms=larger diameter in turning bales loose).
As far as handles go, there are benefits and disadvantages to both d-shaped and t-shaped ones. Hooks with d-shaped handles (offset or closed) are valuable to provide a wide range of motion, but there is a danger of getting one’s hand stuck in the space when dealing with heavy, cumbersome bales, especially if you have a hand that’s bigger than average in size. T-shaped handles ensure less slippage yet can cause blisters between the fingers (even when worn with glove protection). They can be harder to grasp, causing soreness. Handles with leather ridging, whether t or d, minimize the need for gloves and allow you to push on the bales with the leather portion.
The exact length of the handle and shape of the curve on the hook purchased will vary according to users’ height, load amount, and other specific preferences. For instance, hooks with long handles are better suited to tall individuals than short. Some people choose to take advantage of two hooks, while many simply place a hook in one hand, grab hold of the bale’s strings/wires with the other, and let their knees do most of the work. If your arms have a small “wingspan” so to speak, two hooks can actually be detrimental because you lose strength and control in the process of stretching out so wide. Experiment to find which kind of hook works best. Using hay bale hooks can be an art form, as it’s easy for a beginner to throw both bale and hook, but, as with any skill, practice makes perfect. Having a large quantity of hay bales means the hook wielder will become an expert in no time, seeing to it that every grazing animal in need of fodder is nourished.
When picking up hay bales, there are a couple tips to keep in mind: to be on the safe side, always wear gloves and long sleeved clothing. Unless watching a large quantity of hay go down your shirt and feeling a burning sensation in your hands sounds appealing, stay as covered up as possible. Chaps are great to save your jeans while bucking hay. Hooks, especially of a rusty nature, can also pose a safety hazard: if a hook slips out of someone’s hand without being picked up right away or is put in an inappropriate place, it can go unnoticed and inflict serious pain later on (e.g. if somebody steps on the hook by accident). Painting hooks a bright color such as blue is an ideal solution to easily retrieve a lost hook and make sure everyone sees it, thus preventing any injury. Be careful to ensure your hook is the farm’s greatest asset, not its most formidable liability.