Having rolled grass into a neat round bale of hay or silage, it makes sense to dispense it neatly too. Peter Hill looks at equipment that can do just that.
For many farmers, a cutter that simply slices the bale in half and leaves the contents in a heap on the floor is just fine. But for a more controlled approach to dispensing fodder from round bales along a barrier or out in the field, an unroller will save having to fork the material into place.
So what's out there?
The Daisy D Bale Unwinder is about the simplest on the market. It comprises a frame carried on a tractor's three-point linkage or front-end loader with bales held by either one or two sets of twin spikes that rotate via hydraulic drive from a self-lubricating motor. To feed-out unchopped hay, silage or straw, you simply spike the bale, remove the plastic wrap and netting and drive along with the spikes turning - job done. Unrolling speed can be adjusted from 1-50rpm which, together with the travel speed of the tractor, determines the size of the resulting "swath" of preserved fodder.
All other implements performing this task cradle the bale and use some form of conveyor or teasing rotor mechanism to rotate it so that material is dispensed more actively.
The Combi-Feeder from Rekord is designed for more than round bales. Its chain and slat conveyor, which can be set at three different angles by tilting the entire machine, can dispense straw, meal, some roots and silage cut in a block as well as heavy chopped silage bales.
With a discharge height of up to 1.7m, it can dispense these feeds into a trough or over a rail, as well as along a barrier, plus the implement has adjustable offset for reach. In addition, the three-point linkage headstock can be attached so that the machine dispenses to the left, right or in-line behind the tractor.
Operators can do the same with turntable versions of the Altec Axial bale unroller from Broadwater Machinery simply by rotating the machine on a spindle. There is a basic fixed version, too, and hydraulic loading arm and offset delivery models to suit different situations, as well as versions to work on the back of a tractor or the boom of a telescopic handler.
Add the optional pair of horizontal spinner discs to the rear of the machine and the Axial can also dispense bedding straw.
The Göweil RBA round bale unroller from Lely can also have straw spreading tines added and can dispense in one of three directions - but in this case by slotting the separate pallet fork carriage mounted on the tractor's three-point linkage into different slot positions.
Although the high-sided RBA can be loaded from above using a bale grab, the optional self-loading telescopic arm is a better bet. It also makes it easy to remove plastic and net since the bale is inverted by the loading process. Plastic wrap and netting can be cut away from the upper half of the bale first, then from the lower half once it has been placed on the flat platform. A plain chain and slat conveyor pushes and rotates the bale against a set of flexible tines projecting from a curved housing similar to a baler pick-up.
The tractor-mounted Duncan Eco Feeder imported by Dales Agri Sales is another self-loading machine, only this design has a fixed loading arm. It is lowered to pick up a bale by tilting the entire machine by hydraulic cylinder. Apart from minimising hydraulic requirements, this approach also means the spiked chain and slat conveyor can be set at different angles to influence its aggressiveness as it rotate and teases material from the bale.
A three-stage loading process is used with another four bale unrollers - the Rekord Sidewinder; the Hustler SL-350 and Chainless 2000, both imported by Broadwood International, and the Forager X10 from Quad-X.
In each case, the implement is carried on a twin-spike frame attached to the tractor's three-point linkage. The spikes are disengaged from the machine to put a bale on board the low-sided platform, and then slotted in again to take it to the feeding location.
Where an automatic hydraulic-drive coupling is fitted, the operator only needs to hop off the tractor seat to cut away any plastic wrap and/or netting during the loading process.
The Hustler SL-700 and Chainless 4000 also self-load but using a pair of spikes on a linkage mechanism at the back of the machine. The spikes can also be used to carry a second bale to the feeding location.
A fodder cutting mechanism is built into the Tonutti Wolagri Bale Shredder from Rekord.
It comprises a single oscillating knife that cuts the forage into neat wads as it comes off the bale, which is rotated by a set of indexing tines in the base of the machine. The size of wads produced is adjustable and a belt conveyor can be added to deliver the material further away from the side of the machine. The tractor-mounted machine - which comes in two models to accommodate different bale sizes - is supported on a set of four castor wheels. A hydraulically-manipulated arm gets each bale on board.
See all these and more at the Dairy Event and Livestock Show, which takes place at the NEC in Birmingham on 5-6 September.