Raising Hay At Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site

Kurt Repanshek's picture

Some might find it hard to believe, but the National Park Service actually runs its own cattle operation. Up in Montana on the Grant-Kohrs National Historic Site the agency preserves a slice of the 19th Century cattle industry.

Once the headquarters of a 10 million-acre cattle empire, the national historic site is a working cattle ranch that preserves the symbols of the working cowboy, his steady horse, and herds of cattle that numbered in the thousands.

This 10-minute video provides a glimpse of the historic site and a lesson in how they "put up" hay using the traditional beaverslide stacker.

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.

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Lyndon B Johnson National Historical Park also has a cattle operation as part of their historic preservation.

18 NPS units report having Bos taurus present in park.