9 March 2001

BALE-&-WRAP COMBOS HOT…

Balers and wrappers linked together for a one-pass

operation are forecast to be the next big machinery sales

opportunity as more of the big name manufacturers pile

into the new market. Mike Williams reports

FOR this years UK silage season at least four manufacturers will have bale-and-wrap combinations either on the market or in the final stages of evaluation.

They include Claas, the newest arrival with the Uniwrap 250 based on a Rollant 250 fixed chamber baler plus their own bale wrapper developed specifically for the Uniwrap project.

Competition for the new Uniwrap will come from New Holland and Vicon, which both announced machines last year for the 2001 season. Krone, the company which introduced the first new generation baler/wrapper in the UK two years ago, is already stepping-up its sales effort this year with the original fixed chamber Combi-Pack 1250 MC.

Krones new arrival is the Combi-Pack 1500 VP, based on a variable chamber round baler to avoid the limitations of a fixed chamber design. Fixed balers are popular for silage making, but contractors and farmers investing £35,000 or more on a combined bale-and-wrap unit will want to spread the cost over as many acres as possible, and in most cases that means baling straw and possibly hay as well as silage, says Kevin Ridley, general manager of Krones UK operations.

"We are picking up a lot of interest in the Combi-Pack this year. And it is the variable chamber model that is attracting most of the inquiries. Contractors can make the smaller bales most farmers prefer for silage, and later in the year they can make big straw bales. It offers a lot more flexibility, which is an obvious advantage.

"The fixed chamber model will continue to sell in areas with plenty of grass and not much straw, but elsewhere a variable chamber is a big advantage, and the VP model is the one most of the contractors are asking about," says Mr Ridley.

Krone prices start at £35,000 for the standard MC model with a pre-chopping unit and a fixed 1.20 x 1.20m chamber, and the variable chamber VC version has a £37,000 price tag.

The official launch of the new Claas Rollant 250 Uniwrap is scheduled for later this year, but four of the five machines available in the UK market are already sold to contractors and the fifth will be retained for demonstrations.

Jeremy Wiggins, forage equipment product manager for Claas UK, says sales of the new machines had already started last year in some European countries. They had performed well, he says, but more experience of baling and wrapping on steep land was needed before releasing them for general sale in the UK. This is why the four sold this year are going to selected contractors in hilly areas such as Cumbria, Cornwall and north Wales.

Fixed chamber

The baler section of the Claas machine is a Rollant 250 with a 1.25 x 1.20m fixed chamber. It is equipped with a 2.10m pick-up, a Rotocut chopping rotor and a net wrap mechanism, and twine wrapping is an option. The wrapping unit has a 52% overlap and 60% stretch, and it can be removed from the baler by releasing four hydraulic couplings and four bolts.

Using a one-pass baler/wrapper instead of baling and wrapping separately can allow substantial cost benefits, effectively saving a tractor and an operator, says Mr Wiggins, but this depends on fast transfer and wrapping speeds to make sure the wrapper does not slow down the baling operation.

The Uniwrap is claimed to be faster then its rivals, taking 14 seconds for the transfer from baler to wrapping table plus 25 seconds to wrap four layers. Performance figures produced by Claas suggest 5 hours to make 200 silage bales plus a further 5 hours to wrap them using two separate machines, but the Uniwrap does both jobs in 5.5 hours.

It has carrying capacity for 12 rolls of wrapping film and, unlike its competitors, it is mounted on a single-axle chassis. Using only one axle instead of two reduces the risk of smearing the ground surface during sharp angle turns, but compaction risks are reduced on the Uniwrap by fitting bigger tyres, says Claas. The price is £35,000.

Fast working speeds are also claimed for the bale transfer and wrapping sequence for Vicons RF130 BalePack. It was released last year and is available for this years silage season. The BalePack takes just four seconds longer than the standard RF130 fixed chamber baler to eject the bale and resume baling, the company claims.

Removing the wrapping unit from the BalePack is "a five-minute job" it is claimed, and attaching it again takes 10 minutes. The electronic control system automatically recognises if the baler is operating on its own or combined in a bale-and-wrap unit. Some BalePacks have already been sold in the UK after last years launch and Eric Richards, Vicon sales director, expects further orders for this years silage season.

"There is a lot of interest in the BalePack because it offers the opportunity to make significant savings in operating costs," he says. "I think the cost savings will attract some of the bigger farms, but at this stage all the interest is from contractors. Being able to combine baling and wrapping in a single operation is obviously attractive for contractors, although they may need to persuade their customers to use a different method of handling the bales.

"If bales are wrapped in the yard you can get away with a spike to handle them, but wrapping in the field with the BalePack means there is a lot more handling after they have been wrapped, and it is important to use a gripper attachment which will not damage the wrapping film."

There are two versions of New Hollands Tawi series bale-and-wrap machine, given its first UK demonstration last year. The Tawi 500 is based on NH 544 or 548 balers with a 125cm fixed chamber, and the 600 version uses the 648 baler with a 1.50m maximum bale diameter. Both were developed by the New Holland Swiss distributor, Grunderco SA, and were used in a UK demonstration and evaluation programme last year.

Faster work-rates

Principal benefits of linking the baling and wrapping operations in one machine instead of using a baler with a separate in-line wrapper include faster work-rates and improved manoeuvrability, according to New Holland, and the two-in-one unit is more suitable for working on slopes, and can be used on a gradient of up to 15%. There is also less risk of contamination as freshly made round bales do not contact the ground before they are wrapped.

Both NH Tawi machines are available in the UK this year. The standard specification includes a crop chopping unit, and the hydraulically driven wrapping satellite is fitted with twin 750mm pre-stretchers. The pre-stretch percentage is normally 70%, but this can be adjusted by plus or minus 15%. Prices are £36,624 for the 500 model and £39,125 for the Tawi 600.

While the new generation baler-wrappers are beginning to attract serious interest in the UK, some companies are already developing what could be the next generation machines. These are heavily modified round balers with the wrapping mechanism actually built into the baler. Although they are still at the development stage, some of them could be in dealers showrooms within the next two years to provide another silage harvesting option. &#42

Removing the wrapping unit from Vicons RF130 Balepack is said to be a five-minute job. Fast working speeds are also claimed for the machine.

Contractors operating in hilly areas will be the first to try out the Claas Rollant 250 Uniwrap.

The Krone Combi-Pack was the first combination bale-and-wrap machine in the UK.