23 August 1996

Swinger takes bale stacking in its stride

By Andy Collings

THERE are jugglers, tippers and bale sledges. And now there is the big square bale Swing Stacker.

Finding an effective way of accumulating bales as they leave the chamber has challenged the inventive mind of more than one farmer over the years. Several designs have made their way to commercial production.

One of the more innovative designs now comes from the workshops of P&A Services. Based at Bourne, Lincs, the 1740ha (4300-acre) farming company has built a machine which can leave stacks of two or three large square bales. It is an arrangement claimed to cut field clearing time by up to 60%.

Swing Stacker is the brainchild of workshop manager Keith Ward who developed the accumulator following a long spell of stacking individual bales into threes last year.

"It was so time consuming," he says. "And after all that work, they still had to be loaded onto lorries."

Built as a prototype towards the end of last years harvest the accumulator, which is operated behind the farms Quadrant 1200 baler, uses a series of sequenced hydraulic functions to produce the bale stack.

First bale to leave the chamber is conveyed to the rear of the machine where it is tilted on to its edge on the left of the platform. A second bale arrives and is tilted to the right. Quite straightforward so far but it is when the third bale arrives things start to happen.

The bale on the left is shunted sidewards and outwards to allow room for the third bale to be tilted onto its edge. Once achieved all three are pushed over to the right ready for the dismount sequence.

All three bales, safely secured on a cradle, are then tilted over the right edge of the platform and deposited on the ground. Contact with the ground ensures the bales are pulled clear as the baler moves forwards.

All of which sounds pretty complicated but, in practice, the accumulators actions are relatively simple and certainly no more complicated than many other designs.

"We can programme the unit to drop bales in threes or twos or even alternate threes and twos," explains Mr Ward. "This latter arrangement enables lorries which generally stack five-high to be loaded easily."

To date, the Swing Stacker has been used with about 2000 bales from a total of about 13,000 bales due to be made this year.

"If there is a demand for the accumulator, which we expect to market for between £15,000-£20,000, production models will have fully enclosed electronics and valve actuation gear. The cab-mounted manual over-ride control could also become a remote system with no linking wires," he says.

Plans are to produce three versions. One will cope with 80cm (31in) square cross-section bales, another with the more oblong Quadrant 1200 type bales and one for the larger Hesston bales. The latter would only be able to be stacked in twos.

Those who would baulk at the price of the machine may be interested in some costings Mr Ward has made using an example of a farm making 12,000 bales a year. He assumes an average of seven bales/acre which equates to some 1714 acres.

The time taken to clear this area when bales are dropped in the field as singles he says, is 236.4 hours working at a rate of 7.25 acres/hour. This compares to a time of 90.9 hours to clear the same area of 3-bale stacks – a work rate of 18.85 acres/hour.

Assuming a loader/labour operating cost of £44.36/hour single bales cost a total of £10,486 and 3-bale stacks, £4032 – a saving of £6454 on the clearance of 12,000 bales.

Home-built alternative

Not to be outdone on the home-built accumulator stakes is straw dealer David Grant of DI Grant Strawmec. Based near Market Rasen, Lincs, Mr Grant uses a Hesston 4900 to make about 10,000 straw bales/year.

This years latest aid is an automatic three-bale accumulator which deposits them side by side on the ground. A manual over-ride system allows the baler operator to ensure bales are dropped on the headlands or, in large fields, in rows across the field.

Not dissimilar to other designs on the market, the Grant system uses a flat platform, rigidly attached to the baler, onto which bales are formed in threes. The first bale is pushed over to the left, the second to the right and the third goes down the middle.

Once the three bales are on board, the whole table tips rearwards to place the bales on the ground.n

David Grants baling outfit. His home-built three bale accumulator is in transport mode with its sides folded up. In the field the platform is wide enough to support three Hesston 4900 bales before tipping them rearwards on to the ground. The accumulator has twin sets of castor wheels.

Third bale gets the tilt treatment. Note how the bale to its right has been moved outwards to allow room for it to be tilted on its edge.