Deliver Your Hay to the Market Safely

Load of hay ready to transport.

Richard PurdinOSU Extension, Adams County ANR/CD Educator

Spring 2022 has been a wet spring and forage producers have had a challenge to harvest forage crops at the proper timing to capture quality. With all the delays farmers have still managed to harvest their hay crop between the spring rains. As a hay producer myself I feel very rushed these days to not only harvest the hay but also getting the hay in the barn before the next rain. As with any chore, rushing can equal disaster! From rushing harvest and putting wet hay in the barn to hauling an unsecure load down the highway. Today’s farming operations cover multiple farm acreage away from the home farm, meaning that traveling state highways, county roadways, and township roadways with equipment and truck and trailers is essential. Forage producers that do not feed the hay they produce to livestock will sale the hay at a local auction house, this means hay will have to be loaded on a trailer or wagon of some sort and transported to the auction site. There are multiple processes hay can be baled, small square, large square, large round, and small round bales. The size and shape of the bale can make a significant difference in how one should secure and transport to the market. It is hard enough to load the hay once, but it is even harder to load the hay twice, especially on a busy highway. Here are some steps to safely secure and transport your load of hay to the market.

  1. Load the hay safely- Make sure the truck and trailer or wagon is in a level spot with room to maneuver loading equipment. Make sure the vehicle hooked to the trailer is in park. 
  2. Read the trailer weight limits- Before loading any bales make sure you know your trailer or wagons weight limit and read and check tire pressure to know the weight bearing capacity of the trailer tires. It might be a good idea to check the weight of the bales before loading if possible.
  3. Keep load heights low to avoid possible overhead obstructions- According to ODOT a permitted vehicle and load must not exceed 14ft, check out,of%20the%20Ohio%20Revised%20Code to learn more about load restrictions in Ohio.
  4. Keep others safe- Make sure farm workers helping with loading process can hear each other and keep at a safe distance when loading with a machine.
  5. No riders allowed- In small square bale production it can be tempting to ride on a load of hay from the field to the barn, but this can be extremely dangerous, leading to injury or even death. Do not allow workers to ride on a unsecure or even a secured load.
  6. Is your trailer or wagon road ready- Making sure the trailer or wagon is equipped with the proper reflector, slow moving vehicle sign (for wagons) and signal/warning lights work properly. Take time to adjust the braking system that trailers are equipped with, allowing for safe stopping. Always have safety breakaway chains attached to the pulling vehicle. If you are pulling a wagon, make sure to use the proper sized hitch pin WITH A SAFETY KEY, hitch pins have a tendency of working out of the drawbar or receiver hitch.
  7. Avoid wide load- try to avoid loading or hauling wide loads, this is any load 10ft or greater. If the load is wider than 10ft think about having someone drive as an escort vehicle.
  8. Follow the rules of the road- It sounds simple but when you are in a hurry it can be easy to forget you are hauling thousands of pounds. Dive at a safe speed (check tire specification for speed limit loaded) and avoid taking curves too fast. Stop every so often to check tie down straps to make sure they have not loosened on long trips.

The price of hay this season is strong, avoid rush and take time to secure your load of hay so you can enjoy the bounty of your hard work and avoid causing an accident or injury on the roadway. Happy hay harvest!

To learn more about transporting hay safely check out these useful resources.

Richard Purdin, ANR/CD Educator Adams County, can be reached at 937-544 2339 or This column is provided by the OSU Extension Agricultural Safety and Health Team.