Small round bales

Bales of hay seem to be something from the past as many farmers feel silage made in big round bales and wrapped in black (usually) plastic is a better, more guaranteed option.

Bales of straw produced from what comes out of the back of a combine harvester have become enormous and need machinery to handle them.

Time was, not so long ago, that the small cuboid shaped bale was the thing. A bale of hay was heavy, but a decent farmer could pick them up with no problem. Straw is much lighter and they were easy.

Of course, before that and really before my memory in the prosperous south of England hay had been stacked loose. Straw was stacked in sheaves with the ears still attached to await threshing. In both cases the stack was then thatched to keep the rain out.

Back in the 1950s I recall seeing, somewhere near Firle in Sussex, some small round bales, probably of hay. I recall my dad commenting on their advantage of being like thatch and the shape meant rain drained off them. He also pointed out the disadvantage that round bales, inevitably, leave gaps when stacked. The small round bale didn’t seem to catch on, but I did see some on another occasion, near Alton Barnes in the Vale of Pewsey. This was in 1973 and I had by little Canon Demi camera and got a photo.

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I should say these bales were no more than18 inches in diameter but the shape of the end shows they have been rolled rather than compressed and so water will drain off well.

Thirty years on, in 2003, and in a similar area, this was the scene.

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Well clearly bales are now much bigger – and cameras have improved as well!

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