So, for Valentine’s Day this year, I asked Hubby for a homemade hay steamer.
Yes, there are a few not homemade hay steamers out there, but Hubby would have a fit if he saw the prices… so until the less expensive varieties are created here in the US (there are a few easily affordable models in the UK), we had to make our own.
(For those of you who missed my previous post on Hay Steamers, click here.)
WHY STEAM THE HAY?
I’ve never needed to steam my hay previously because I was always able to get lovely hay at reasonable prices all year round. This lovely hay lived in my hay barn and was used in a timely manner.
Well… around the end of summer last year, I decided to stock up on hay because I knew hay prices were going way up. So, I used all three stalls plus the hay barn as storage.
I was quite pleased with myself. I had stockpiled enough hay to get me through April and maybe May of this year. <pause> …but then as I started getting into the middle and bottom layers of the stacks… I found some bales that the horses wouldn’t touch.
Hmmmm. What was wrong? After some close sniffing and examination, I determined that the suspect bales were either extremely dusty, somewhat mildewy or just old and dry. I’m not sure. But, to absolve the hay grower, I saw all the hay myself before I purchased it and have been purchasing from this farmer for a few years. Hence, I knew the issue had to do with the dust, moisture and air of my barn. Plus, I think the ground water can seep up into the stacks because I thought my mats covered every inch of the dirt floors. But, they don’t. I should have used pallets.
Anyway, bottom line, the horses are pushing the hay around instead of eating it thus totally defeating the purpose of stocking up on hay.
Since I had written about hay steamers previously, I knew steaming the hay would kill any bacteria (has to heat up to 180 degrees), evaporate the dust and moisten the dry.
So, I re-read my post about hay steamers and gave it to hubby. He scratched his head and drove off to Home Depot.
So, I started with a plastic storage box that I got from Home Depot:
The nice thing about this one is that it has wheels (although I’m not sure how durable they will turn out to be). It’s big enough to hold about 7-8 flakes of hay (flat, instead of vertically – and I now think vertically would be better). The steamer was also from Home Depot, a steal at $12.50:
The fitting at the end of the hose is just about 1” diameter, so it fit nicely in the hole I drilled with a spade bit in the middle-bottom of the box. I glued it into place with Gorilla Glue.
The hose end fitting also fits nicely into a ¾” I.D. PVC Schedule 40 slip coupling, so I went with ¾” PVC for the diffuser. Easy to make from a few feet of pipe, a tee, a couple of caps, and the slip coupling:
I drilled ¼” holes every 2” across the top.
Getting a seal between the hose end and slip coupling proved to be a problem. The hose end is ribbed (and the inside is threaded, to attach the wallpaper steamer attachment), so just gluing it in there wasn’t going to work. I made a foam gasket out of pipe insulation, glued it inside the coupling:
And then hand-drilled a hole in it with a ½” spade bit:
Not pretty, I know, but I think it will work. You could use the remainder of the pipe insulation to cover the hose for better efficiency.
I then used Gorilla Glue to join the diffuser to the hose end. Gorilla Glue is perfect in this application because it expands as it dries, and will (hopefully) seal any spots where steam could leak out.
To keep the flakes of hay off the bottom of the box and ensure we have good steam circulation, I put a few pieces of 1-1/2” PVC in there as well.
To seal the top, I used some adhesive-backed foam tape, also from Home Depot.
When going around the corners, make sure to cut out a notch on the inside of the corner so it doesn’t bunch up.
The steamer took about 30 minutes to start producing steam, and about another 30 minutes to cook the hay. The taste testers approved, I am told!
Hay loaded and ready to go.
Sterilite 45 gal wheeled tote $25
Wagner 705 wallpaper steamer $12.50
3’ of ¾” Sched 40 PVC pipe $3
5’ of 1-1/2” Sched 40 PVC pipe $4
¾” Sched 40 slip x slip coupling $0.25
¾” Sched 40 tee $0.30
2 – ¾” slip caps $0.70
Gorilla Glue $5.50
PVC Cement $6.50
1/8” x 2” Armaflex insulation tape $7
¾” x 6’ Armacell pipe insulation $2
(Sorry, I couldn’t get this list to line-up nicely… it looks fine on my screen but not when published.)
USER NOTES! – IN ADDITION…
There is no question that they like the steamed hay more than the non-steamed hay! I used halves of a bale as an experiment. I put out one flake from the steamed half and one flake from the non-steamed half to all of my horses.
They all ate the steamed flakes and pushed around the non-steamed flakes.
However, there are a few things to add to this process as I’ve been using it.
1) You have to make time to steam the hay. It takes half an hour to heat up and about 25 mins to steam the hay, maybe less if you use less. I filled mine to the top.
2) If the steam gets ‘drippy’, something is wrong. You have to level the bin to make sure the steam flows correctly.
3) I added pvc pipe pieces between some of the flakes to get more even steaming.
4) DO NOT reach in and grab the hay immediately after steaming with your bare hands – it is HOT!
5) I have been taking the steamed flakes and transporting them to my wheelbarrow. As I do this, I flip the flake so the more moist side is now UP. This dries them out quickly.
6) I have been doing ‘power steaming’ blocks of time – steaming a few bales in one sitting so that I have some ready when I need it.
7) If I was purchasing the tub, I would have gotten a bigger one that could take an entire bale and steamed them vertically instead of horizontally. I think that is the mistake we made here. You want a tub that is big enough to steam your flakes horizontally, if possible.
8) The top of the tub will get HOT while steaming so don’t lay anything on top of it.
HAVE FUN AND ASK ANY QUESTIONS!!!!
HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth… if you like this, please pass it around!
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.