Big bale accumulator saves transport time

It’s quicker to transport three bales in one go than to make separate trips with individual bales, so a big bale accumulator should make good sense. Andy Collings spoke to a contractor who uses two of them

With more than 60,000 big square bales to handle each year, anything that speeds up or makes the task of handling and transporting them easier is welcome, reasons Martin Bodman.

A visit to a grassland demonstration three years ago brought him in front of the Canadian-built PhiBer bale accumulator, which puts three bales side by side before ejecting them on to the ground.

“I knew it was the machine for me,” he says. “The only trouble was that with so few of them available in the UK at the time, I had to wait another year before I could get one.”

Based at Urchfont, Devizes, Wiltshire, Mr Bodman specialises in baling hay and straw, which he then sells to livestock farmers in the West Country.

“I run a fleet of three New Holland BB940 balers, two of which have PhiBer accumulators,” he says. “Of the 60,000 bales we make each year about a fifth are hay and the rest are straw.”

Standing grass is bought to make the hay and local cereal farmers provide the straw.

“The accumulators really have made a difference to the job in terms of reducing the time its takes to clear a field,” he says. “Which, with growers always anxious to get their next crop in, is now more important than ever if we are to be offered the straw next year.”

To cater for different bale widths PhiBer produces two models – one which handles 80cm wide bales and another for 1.22m wide bales. The New Holland BB940 balers produce 80cm wide bales.

The accumulator bolts on to the back of the baler to create a 2.8m rigid extension of the baler, which is supported on caster wheels. This extra length means care has to be taken when making sharp turns if the accumulator is not to swing out into the path of an oncoming car.

Once set up, operation is entirely automatic. The first bale delivered from the chamber is shunted to the right, the second to the left and the third down the middle before all three are ejected on to the ground.

“There is a control panel in the cab which keeps you informed of bale movement and, to help keep an eye on the action, a camera monitors proceedings and displays them on a monitor in the cab,” says Mr Bodman. “The control system can also be programmed to eject bales when there is just a pair on board or to allow single bales to pass through.”

He makes the point that if the worst should happen and the accumulator fails to work, it is still possible to keep on baling.

Bale placement is activated by a pressure switch on the platform, which then sequences hydraulic rams to push bales in the required direction. For power, the tractor needs to be able to supply between 34 and 45 litres/minute of hydraulic oil to the unit.

“When we first had the accumulators we operated the balers with MF 6485 tractors, but it was quite noticeable that the demand on the hydraulic system was taking its toll on the available power,” he says.

“We now use the higher-powered New Holland T7030 and T7050 tractors, which manage things a lot better, particularly when we are baling up some of the steep hills in this part of the world.”

With the bales now in groups of three, Mr Bodman moves in with the three-bale grab attached to his Manitou telescopic handlers.

“I’m working on developing a six-bale grab for this season, which should speed up operations even more,” he says. “At the moment, though, one man on the loader can keep up with the output of two balers, which is something we could never achieve when we were just dropping bales out as singles.”

Bales are usually stacked straight on to trailers and taken home, but occasionally they will be stacked in the corner of a field.

“I much prefer to get the bales back home, but if for some reason we can’t load them straight away we will get them off the field come what may,” he says. “The priority is always to clear the field so the grower is not hindered in his cultivations.”

Mr Bodman reports that, apart from a few teething problems, his accumulators have worked well for the past two seasons and have made a big contribution to the successful running of his business.

“I feel sure that if we were still dropping single bales out all over the place we would have fallen out of favour with those who provide us with straw to bale, particularly in a difficult time like last year,” he says. “The extra wear on the loader having to run all over the field would probably have meant a new loader – and never mind the extra fuel it would have used.”

PhiBer bale accumulator

  • Bale capacity: Three
  • Bale size: 80cm wide and up to 2.7m long
  • Hydraulic oil flow: 34-45 litres/minute with free-flow return
  • Number of rams: Three
  • Wheels: Two sets of double castor wheels (9.5 x 15)
  • Sold through: Big Ernest Doe Big Baler Centre