6 September 1996

Fixed chamber baler takes on

falling market

By Andrew Faulkner

UK round baler sales may be in decline, but there is no shortage of manufacturers keen to re-invest in the technology.

New Holland is the latest maker to announce new round baler hardware. The Italian-built 544 Roll-Bar, the firms first fixed-chamber machine, joins the 644 and 654 variable-chamber machines which were themselves updated last year.

But why push resources into a falling market? Sales have dropped from 2500+ units to about 1700 in the past 10 years. New Holland has its reasons, as the firms Derek Gardner explains: "With the total round baler sector in decline, we wanted to consolidate our position as market leaders.

"Up until now, weve managed to achieve that leading share with just the two variable chamber machines, the 644 and 654. But with the UK market split 50:50 between variable and fixed, weve been missing out on a huge chunk of sales. And thats why weve been pushing for our own fixed chamber model.

"Historically, its the smaller farms that prefer these machines because theyre cheaper, easier to operate and generally less complicated. And, with a chopping mechanism fitted, bale quality and density are now approaching those of a variable chamber baler."

Perhaps surprisingly, the 544 fixed and the US-built variable chamber models share little in common – just the in-cab Bale Command Plus control box and "duck bill" twine/wrap feed system.

Working aft from its adjustable drawbar, the 544 takes in material over a shearbolt-protected 2m (6ft 7in) wide pick-up. From there, the crop is gathered by two centring augers and passed through either a rotary feeder (Standard model) or retractable chopping unit (Crop Cutter model) – the two specs on offer.

The Crop Cutter chopper comprises a selection bar which, when rotated using a dedicated spanner, sets knife number and hence material chop length (see box). Knives can also be completely withdrawn at a pre-set interval before tying/wrapping to leave a neat, unchopped layer around the outside of the bale.

From the crop intake area, rollers and bars then combine to form the 1.2m wide x 1.2m high (3ft 11in x 3ft 11in) bale shape. A floor roller supports the weight of the bale – 120-200kg in straw, 300-800kg in grass – and helps rotation, whereas main bale formation is carried out by 33 bars attached to a continuous chain.

Sensors monitor shape

In work, tailgate pressure sensors monitor side-to-side bale shape as diameter increases, sending signals to the in-cab Bale Command box, and also alert the driver when the pre-set final density is reached.

Other Bale Command functions include control of crop cutter and twine/wrap cycle; both twine box and self-tensioning net wrap dispenser come as standard equipment, and Bale Command enables quick switching between the two systems.

Turning to baler driveline protection, the 544 uses a cam-type clutch rather than shearbolts. To clear a small blockage, the driver stops, slows engine revs and allows the overload clutch to re-engage before moving on; no need to leave the cab.

So there it is – or rather, there it will be. Although the 544 goes on out-of-season sale this autumn, the balers will not be available until spring 97, and then only in limited numbers.n


Crop Cutter Settings

Number Theoretical chop

of kniveslength (mm)

0-

3350

7175

1587.5

The New Holland 544 fixed chamber round baler is available with Crop Cutter (£21,860) or standard rotary feeder (£19,780); chopping is said to boost bale density by up to 20%. Baler power requirement is 50-65hp.

No extra tools needed to replace chopper knives or alter knife number in the Crop Cutter unit. A dedicated spanner (see pic) rotates a selector bar to give either 0, 3, 7 or 15 knives.