17 May 2002

BALEDSILAGE THUMBS-UP…

Investing in a combination bale-and-wrap machine has

enabled Ron Lampshire to solve a silage season manpower

problem on his Sussex farm. Mike Williams reports

RON Lampshires silage making is unusual because he stopped using a clamp five years ago and switched the whole of the crop into round bales. At that time his old clamp needed rebuilding, including substantial costs for a new system to control the effluent.

Putting all the silage into bales avoided the clamp problem, and it also allowed the flexibility to make small amounts of silage without reopening the clamp.

Baling worked well, and Mr Lampshire remains enthusiastic about the quality of baled silage. The disadvantage was the time needed for baling, wrapping, transporting and stacking all the silage for the 120-cow dairy herd plus the young stock and a bull beef enterprise on the 80ha (200 acre) North Down Farm at Patching, near Littlehampton.

The farm is all grass, apart from 20ha (50 acres) of maize, and the silage crop is a key factor in the success of the farm.

Mr Lampshire runs the farm with his son, Jonathon, and they found their baled silage system worked well with a two-man team, but it was not so successful while one of them was doing the milking.

"It took two of us to do the job properly, and it was the milking that was always the problem," explains Mr Lampshire. "It meant one of us would have to work really late in the evening to catch up with the bale wrapping or to cut some more grass for the following day, and it made life very difficult."

The work load problem was solved last year when Mr Lampshires round baler was due to be changed. The replacement he chose was a Vicon RF130 Balepack, combining a round baler and a bale wrapper on a tandem axle chassis. It dealt with the whole of Mr Lampshires silage harvest last year, it baled the straw bought in the swath from a neighbouring farm, and it also did all the baling for another neighbour.

Mr Lampshire decided to buy the bale-and-wrap machine after a Balepack demonstration on his farm. He was impressed by the work rate and by the wrapping performance, and it was obvious that the combi approach could ease the silage making workload.

His main concern, as probably the first Balepack customer in the county, was the technical back up he could expect if there were problems.

Excellent support

"We did have some problems, but the support from Vicon was excellent and, overall, the company looked after us well," he says. "A lot of the problems were down to the fact that we were just not familiar with the machine. There is also a diagnostic system on the Balepack that shows up a code if something is wrong, which is very helpful once you get used to it."

Sensors for the electronic systems caused some problems. One of them needed adjustment, and a sensor controlling the lift arm that transfers the bales to the wrapping table was loose and had to be tightened. There was also another sensor that stopped working because it was affected by debris while baling straw, but cleaning the dust off each day kept it working efficiently, and the problem did not arise in silage.

The biggest problem was removing the wrapping unit when working in straw. It is not normally necessary to take it off, but Mr Lampshire decided to do so in case it was damaged when the Balepack was working across the tramlines.

"The tramlines were deeper than usual last year because of the wet spring, and they were really shaking everything up," he says. "You are supposed to have a set of four steel wheels to put under the wrapper to make it easy to move, but Vicon did not have any wheels and we had to manage without them. It was difficult, and it took three of us more than two hours to take off the wrapper, but now we have the wheels the same job takes about 10 minutes for two people."

During its first year at North Down Farm the Balepack made about 2500 silage bales and 4000 of straw, and Mr Lampshire was delighted by its performance. It would easily make and wrap 40 bales/hour in silage, he says, although his work rate was slower.

"Silage making is an important job, and I like to take my time over it, and I also add extra wrapping film on the silage bales to reduce the risk of damage. I am sure it pays, because we only wasted one silage bale this winter."

Although the land at North Down Farm is mainly level, the Balepack had to cope with steep fields while working on the neighbours farm. The gradients caused no problems, but the ability to retain a bale on the wrapper for release later made it easier to avoid dropping bales where there was a risk of rolling down a slope.

Easier season

The Balepack made last years silage season much easier than previous years when the baling and wrapping were separate operations, and with the teething problems sorted out and a years experience of using the Balepack under his belt, Mr Lampshire is looking forward to this years baling.

Although he is well aware that the £30,000 plus he paid for the combi machine is a big investment for the number of bales he makes, he thinks it was money well spent.

"We have a contractor to do our maize harvesting," says Mr Lampshire. "And the cost of the Balepack would probably pay for a contractor to do our baling. But I prefer to be in control of silage making, and I think its important to be able to decide when we cut the grass and when we bale it. Silage quality is very important, and using the Balepack means we maintain that control." &#42

Above: Ron Lampshire prepares his Balepack for the silage crop. Main pic: The Balepack at North Down Farm is used for silage and straw baling.