In the early days, hay was often cut with hand scythes, pitchforked onto a wagon and then stacked in a barn. This was common in wetter parts of the country, but in the arid West, ranchers learned that the hay did not need to be covered. Ten inches of annual precipitation, including melted snowfall, wasn't enough to cause hay to mold.
Once they no longer needed to haul hay off to distant barns, ranchers started looking for the best way to build haystacks right in the fields where the hay was cut. In 1908, the "beaverslide hay stacker" was invented in the Big Hole Valley in Southwestern Montana. It remains in use on many Montana ranches today.
Did You Know?
“Range Wars” between cattlemen and sheep growers didn’t happen in Montana. For a time, Montana cattlemen found it profitable to raise sheep. Then, when cattle became profitable again, they switched back to cattle. Montana ranges support a wide variety of grazing animals, both wild and domestic.