After taking the time and trouble to seal baled silage in
plastic wrap, it must surely make sense to handle them
in a way that does not puncture or damage the film.
Mervyn Bailey reviews implements that aim to do just that
WRAPPED bales need to be handled delicately if the benefits achieved by enclosing them with plastic stretch film are not to be destroyed. Modern film wrap is both strong and flexible but still vulnerable to being punctured and torn through careless handling or poorly designed handling equipment.
Spikes are out. A stick-on patch is no match for several layers of sticky stretch film and the whole idea of wrapping is to isolate the baled forage from oxygen and moisture that will cause it to deteriorate in storage.
Instead it is better to use one of the myriad of lifting, loading and transporting devices produced by specialist implement manufacturers and tractor loader makers alike. And with loader attachment prices starting at around £700, there should be something to suit all budgets as well as handling preferences, for both round and square silage bales.
Loader mounted attachments
A simple hydraulic pincher that uses tubular rolling tines to cradle a round bale is the most common type of loader attachment. Pushed apart by a hydraulic cylinder, the tines will fit snugly beneath the bale and can be brought together to cradle and lift it from the ground.
Produced by a number of manufacturers, there are dedicated wrapped bale handlers and ones with removable sleeves fitted over conventional spikes that can be used to handle unwrapped straw bales. Where the tines move far apart, two bales can be lifting at once to speed up handling operations.
Otherwise, differences amount to different ways of preventing the plastic from being snagged on the attachments back frame. Some fit protective disc guards or rails, while Browns and Grays fit a bumper plate to keep the plastic away from moving parts.
Cashels Engineering fits duck foot paddles instead of tines or tubes, made of tubular section steel formed around a central bar. The paddles can rotate and Cashel argues that the larger surface area of these structures supports the bale more effectively with less risk of film damage.
A similar design is used for the Mailleux Manubal 140 attachment for square bales from Chillton Agricultural. Using the same side pinching action as the common round bale handler, the large surface area of the paddles grips the bale by its sides.
There are other similar versions from Browns and Trima, with one fixed arm and one moved in and out hydraulically. The Trima Quadrogrip can also be used for round bales.
Another design of side squeezing grab, this time for round bales only, features large curved clamps to grip the bale around its circumference. Browns, Chillton, Grays, Ritchie Equipment, Tanco and Trima are among manufacturers producing such devices, which can be used to up-end the bale and stack it on the flat end.
This is a better method of stacking, believe many, given that this is where most layers of stretch plastic exist and so the risk of punctures is least. Trials at the Institute of Grassland & Environment Research (IGER) also support this method of stacking, because of improved stack stability, and a reduced likelihood of stretch plastic coming loose because of bale slump.
Universal handlers, capable of lifting both round and square bales across their width or end-to-end, have a hydraulically operated clamp to grip the bale. Browns, Ritchie, Tanco and Twose produce this type of attachment with an adjustable clamping bar that can be set according to the width of bale.
McHale takes a different approach for its two-bale 601BH square bale handler in that the adjustable clamping bar is otherwise fixed and it is the back plate that moves to grip the bale. This has the advantage, says McHale, that it is easier to withdraw the handler once a bale has been put in place without disturbing the bales already there.
Malone Engineering produces a self-loading trailer for transporting wrapped (or unwrapped) bales, the idea being that, with this device, a separate loading tractor is not required.
It comprises an open frame formed into an incomplete tube, which is offset from the tractor for loading so that it can be manoeuvred over each bale in turn. When the tube is hydraulically raised from the ground, the bale goes with it. The next bale is then approached and the loading sequence repeated until the full four-bale load is complete.
Hydraulic requirement is two double acting spools – one for raising the body and the other for offsetting the drawbar. A swivel headstock is used rather than a conventional drawbar to allow tight turns without catching the tractor tyres.
Linkage mounted transporters
Fit bale carriers front and rear, and a tractor can collect and carry up to half a dozen bales to the storage area.
Fleming produces a two-bale rear mounted buckrake-like device. Called the Double Bale Tipper, it has four fixed tubular tines, two for each bale in an arrangement similar to a front-end loader attachment. To unload, the carrier tilts hydraulically through 90í to place the bales on end.
The single bale carrier from Cashels Engineering achieves the same result but has a simple mechanical trip mechanism to release the grippers.
The Square Bale Stacker from Fleming squeezes the bale hydraulically and lifts it from the ground using the tractors three-point linkage. Extendable pivot points enable it to be also used for round bales.
For more lift height, consider the Cashels Tractor Elevator that can stack bales three high. This can be fitted with a number of different wrapped bale handling attachments, as well as other implements. Control is either via the tractors spool valves or an optional electro-hydraulic joystick.
The companys Telescopic Bale Stacker goes to even greater heights as it works a bit like a tractor-mounted forklift, complete with vertical mast. The three-point linkage and a hydraulic ram regulate lift height.
Once its job is completed, the device can be lifted clear to allow the tractor to tow its load to storage. *
Above: Ritchie bale inverter uses a hydraulic clamp to
grip the bale and can lift them width-wise or end-to-end.
Both round and big square bales can be handled.
Above right: The Malone Engineering trailed bale transporter is self-loading and will haul four bales at a time. A larger model is planned.
The Tractor Elevator from Cashels Engineering gives extra lift height for loading for loading trailers.
Left: Chillton Mailleux Manubal uses
a large paddle
to grip the
• ABT Products, 01989-563656.
• Alo UK, 01562-66233.
• Astwell Augers, 01832-735300.
• Browns, 01525-375157.
• Cashels, 00 353 907-30517.
• Chillton, 01543-462787.
• COP Engineering, 01283-585240.
• Daisy D, 01764-682202.
• Envoy Design, 01562-824921.
• Fleming, 02871-342637.
• Grays, 01771-623601.
• Lynx, 01327-843215.
• Malone, 00 353 946-0500.
• McHale, 00 353 922-0300.
• Parmiter, 01747-870821.
• Ritchie, 01307-462271.
• Rustons, 01480-455151.
• SGM Engineering, 01748-812006.
• Strimech, 01922-649700.
• Thistlethwaite, 01969-622455.
• Trima-Tanco, 01925-253691.
• Twose of Tiverton, 01884-253691.