Baler adjustment gets more fines
When Ted Lacey took note of the unusual deep-green trail his John Deere 535 baler left across alfalfa fields, the Trent, S.D., farmer became concerned.
After examining the trail’s contents and exploring his baler’s pickup mechanism, he realized he was leaving lots of alfalfa fines on the field each time he baled. His investigation revealed a 2.5-inch gap running the width of his baler pickup. The gap left ample room for fine alfalfa leaves to fall to the ground rather than moving into the baling chamber.
“It seemed it would be easy to modify that pickup area so a much higher percentage of those fines would end up in the bale,” Lacey says. Lacey’s solution was to install two 6-by-32-inch metal plates hinged on the balers’ rear axle, so they lie across the gap. He still loses some fines, but much less than before.
• Trent, S.D., farmer modifies older baler to capture more fines.
• Simple change adds 200 to 400 pounds to each bale.
• Forage test shows improvement in crude protein and feed value.
To determine if enough fines were saved to improve hay quality, Lacey submitted “gap open” and “gap closed” samples to the South Dakota State University’s Analytical Services Laboratory.
The sample taken while the gap was open tested 23.6% crude protein, 179 for Relative Feed Value and 191 for Relative Feed Quality. The sample taken with the gap closed tested 25.3% crude protein, 214 for Relative Feed Value and 221 for Relative Feed Quality.
“Anything improving retention of fines has both a yield and quality benefit,” says Bruce E. Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist. “Visually, nearly all the ‘dust’ around an operating baler is actually fines floating away,” he says. “Dust or leaves remaining on the ground where the windrow originally laid also indicates loss of fines. Fines typically contain over 25% protein, above 70% TDN and less than 25% NDF.”
It’s typical to lose 3% to 10% of fines during baling, he says. Round balers, with constant rubbing and agitation, create more fines than square balers.
Gains of 200 to 400 pounds
Lacey estimates he gained between 200 and 400 pounds per bale with his modification. In 100 bales, he’s realizing a minimum of 20,000 extra pounds of forage.
“If you consider the value of the added, you’re probably adding at least $10 to the value of each bale, too,” Lacey says. “Over one summer, that adds up to $9,000. The cost of the modification is so minimal it’s a win-win solution no matter how you look at it.”
This article published in the June, 2010 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.