9 March 2001


Silage may be all the rage but there is still a need for a few

bales of hay to feed youngstock. Peter Hill provides a run-

down on conventional balers – bought new and second-hand

ONCE, the conventional baler was all there was.

Thousands of these offset pick-up machines scoured the hay fields to gather grass for stock and package it into tight rectangular blocks.

Having been largely superseded by silage balers and forage harvesting teams, the role of these machines now is to produce handy packages of hay for feeding young cattle (and horses), as well as making straw bales for situations in which their bigger counterparts are too cumbersome and unwieldy.

Although manufacturers acknowledge that sales are modest, buyers wanting a new, conventional baler still have a remarkably good choice. Claas has reduced its UK offering to just the Markant 65 this year but Gallignani, John Deere and New Holland still supply two models apiece, while Lely maintains a four-model Welger range.

All but Welger standardise on a 36cm x 46cm (14in x 18in) cross section bale chamber; the German manufacturers machines produce a slightly wider bale – 48cm (183/4in) on the AP530, 49cm (191/4in) which also means heavier bales at typical densities are produced.

Welgers two biggest balers – the AP730 and AP830 – are patently aimed at contractors; both weigh over 2t when all others in the field, including the AP630 and AP530, which are of a more typical farmer specification, are well under that.

Lightest is the Gallignani 3690S which, along with its 5690S Gold big brother, is sold here by Reco. Next on the scales comes John Deeres 359, with its 459 stablemate, the Claas Markant 65, and New Holland 570 and 575 spanning the gap to the Welger heavyweights.

Standard equipment

Most of these machines have a good complement of standard equipment, including pick-up reel support wheel, hydraulic pick-up lift and hydraulic drawbar positioning. These are optional items on the Gallignani 3690S and Welger AP530.

Another welcome addition on hard-worked machines is auto lubrication, which is standard on the New Holland 575 and a £199 option on the two Gallignani balers from Italy.

AGCOs Massey Ferguson MF139 baler breaks the mould in terms of design thanks to an in-line layout similar to that of a big square baler. Instead of shuffling material sideways from the pick-up area into the bale chamber, hay goes straight into a pre-forming area from where packing tines lift it into the chamber proper.

Short ram strokes apart, one of the practical advantages is a narrow overall width – which could make all the difference when it comes to travelling down narrow lanes – and the ease of driving by simply straddling the swath.

Disadvantages? The pick-up hitch gathering hay from a generously proportioned swath and, for the driver, having to twist round further to keep an eye on the flow of material onto the pick-up reel.

The MF machine uses two side augers to bring material to the centre where forks do the rest. John Deere balers are the only other machines to use an auger feed system rather than forks to deliver material into the chamber.

This keeps the mechanicals a little simpler and provides a continuous flow. Fork-feed systems on these balers are equally well proven, however, and provide a greater degree of damage limitation should the pick-up collect some hard object.

Gallignanis 5690S runs with the fastest ram speed at 104 strokes per minute, pipping the 100 strokes rate operated by its stablemate – the bigger of the two Deere balers – the MF139 and the smallest Welger.

Generous flares help endow the New Holland 575, Welger AP830, MF139 and Deere 459 with the broadest pick-up reels – just the job for gathering wide swaths from a well set-up grass rake.

The largest three Welger balers have the most generous twine- carrying capacity, saving operators the job of ferrying back to the corner of the field to replenish stocks. Two carry 14 balls and the AP830 carries 18, although no more than eight balls are connected at any one time.

John Deere 359 and 459 use a cross auger in the feed area.

Welger AP630 produces a slightly wider bale than most and carries 14 balls of twine. The 630 is one of four Welger models available from Lely.

Heading for baler table

Make & model Bale size Pick-up width Chamber Twine Ram strokes Baler List price

(cm) (including flare) feed balls per minute weight (kg) (ex-VAT)

Claas Markant 65 36 x 46 1.8m Forks 8 93 1,500 £10,350

Gallignani 3690S 36 x 46 1.7m Forks 5 100 1,280 **£7,295

Gallignani 5690S Gold 36 x 46 1.8m Forks 5 104 1,620 £9,895

John Deere 359 36 x 46 1.75m Auger + forks 6 92 1,425 £7,914

John Deere 459 36 x 46 2.0m Auger + forks 6 100 1,505 £9,630

Massey Ferguson MF139 36 x 46 2.0m Augers + forks 6 100 1,497 £13,940

New Holland 570 36 x 46 1.79m Forks 6 93 1,600 £9,622

New Holland 575 36 x 46 2.04m Forks 6 93 1,740 £11,979

Welger AP530 36 x 48 1.73m Forks 8 100 1,700 **£10,190

Welger AP630 36 x 49 1.8m Forks *14 90 1,870 £11,675

Welger AP730 36 x 49 1.8m Forks *14 90 2,110 £14,575

Welger AP830 36 x 49 2.05m Forks *18 90 2,210 £16,960

*Eight balls connected plus space for spares; **with optional pick-up wheel, hydraulic pick-up lift and hydraulic drawbar.

Options Gallignani 3690S is £7,917; Welger AP530 £10,985.

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