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?
The Deer Lodge Valley in Southwestern Montana receives only 10” of precipitation a year, counting melted snow. If irrigating water weren’t available from snowmelt on surrounding mountains, the green pastures would be a virtual desert.