Over Thirty Years of Experience and Proven Dependability
In the early ’70s, the arrival of big round bales brought very welcome labor savings to our northeast Kansas family cattle operation. Those same bales also brought some major challenges regarding efficient transport and feeding. When compared to feeding small squares out of a pick-up one flake at a time, mud, manure and hay waste with big bale feeders was a major new problem. Still, we didn’t want to forfeit the tremendous labor savings of round bales. It remained clear that a pickup truck was a much faster, safer and more comfortable way to get to distant pastures than a tractor.
In early 1979, I researched the available bolt-in pickup bale handlers but quickly discovered that they all rendered the pickup useless for gooseneck towing and general hauling. This was an unacceptable and unaffordable sacrifice on our 1-truck operation. Frustration with those limitations combined with the ongoing daily challenges of feeding scattered groups of commercial and purebred cows led me to the idea of a truck flatbed and bale handler merged into one unit. To work for my situation, this bale handler would need to be fast, powerful and bullet-proof. The flatbed portion would need to be equipped for all trailer towing and general ranch hauling jobs while also housing the bale handler in a completely flush and flat manner. When I could “steal” a few hours from cows and feedlot chores, I started putting the idea together from scrap and surplus steel in an old corn crib driveway with a homemade portable welder. I was desperate to get this truck bed project working while also weaning calves, filling silo and completing our fall grain harvest. Needless to say, my wife, Linda, and our new baby daughter, Shawn, didn’t see much of me that fall of 1979.
By Christmas, though, I was finally ready to try the rig out on some of our Vermeer 706C bales. I wasn’t satisfied with the initial results due to “under-engineering” the rear cross tube. After some redesign work, this flatbed/bale handler was soon making life easier and equipping me to take better care of cattle in less time and at less expense. Within those first few weeks, that bed had become an essential part of our operation. I soon discovered that not only did it make bale handling a breeze, it was also incredibly useful for lifting and loading of tractor duals, drums of oil, logs and a many other heavy and awkward items. Over the next couple of years, friends, family and neighbors saw the bed in action and some suggested we should make it available to other cattle operators. We had no idea what that process might entail. However, as our 1983 spring calving season was winding down, we took a quick day trip to cautiously approach three ag equipment manufacturers about the possibility of manufacturing and marketing our bed. They all turned us down. The response was always, ‘Great idea, but we’re in the midst of the Farm Crisis and can’t add ANY new products. In fact, we can’t sell the products we already make!’ On our journey back to the farm, very discouraged, I said to Linda, ‘Well, I guess we’ll just keep using it ourselves,’ to which my sweet but determined wife replied, ‘No, we’ll DO it ourselves!’ Now seriously, who am I to argue with that?!
“We strive to conduct our business with the same guiding principles of our company’s founder, Galen Ackerman…that our products exceed expectations and our people treat others the way they’d want to be treated.”
Jay Russell | General Manager
The Hydrabed Story
We’re proud of our unique legacy and have asked our founder, Galen Ackerman, to share the full story of Hydra Bed. While growing their commercial operation and Cottonwood Cattle Company (their purebred herd), the Ackermans also started their small manufacturing company to produce the balebed that had revolutionized their operation. As they continued to build these enterprises for the next two decades, they took great satisfaction in seeing the impact Hydra Bed had on the operations of their family and friends in the cattle business.
Today, Hydra Bed remains true to our heritage and the cattleman-to-cattleman values that our company was founded upon. Here’s a glimpse at the Hydra Bed legacy…