Have you ever wished that you could use your compact tractor to bale hay?
Well guess what? Now, with balers fitted to fit smaller equipment, you can. A compact tractor paired with the perfect hay baler can improve a small farm’s productivity and sustainability. We sat down with Jeff Howard, founder and owner of Siromer Tractors–a company built around value for money compact tractors and machinery to learn more.
Jeff spent several years searching for the best equipment for his own small farm. He’s always preferred compact tractors for their improved manoeuvrability, fuel sipping characteristics, and of course, lower cost. Unfortunately, he had a lot of trouble finding good equipment for making hay with his small tractors. It seemed like most manufacturers and equipment dealers focused on big farm tractors and the equipment that fits them.
Then one day while researching, he found out about compact hay balers. In Italy, farms are smaller and hillier and require the use of smaller equipment. These “mini balers” could be operated with tractors as small as 20 horsepower and were exceptionally well engineered and built. He liked them so much, he didn’t just buy one, he decided to start manufacturing and selling them to others.
“When it comes to choosing a hay making package, there are a multitude of choices. Baling with a compact tractor used to be considered impossible, but things have changed. There are some great options available now that will help you get high quality hay into your barn, without having to rely on others or purchase a gas-guzzling monster of a tractor,” Jeff said.
Mini round balers
The word is spreading about mini round balers. Many small farmers are finding that they are the best choice for getting their hay in the barn. The mini round baler works on the same principle as its bigger cousin, rolling the hay inside a chamber until it reaches a certain size, and then wrapping the bale with twine and ejecting it out the rear of the machine.
These balers can be run with ease in tight and even oddly-shaped areas like fenced-in pastures and around buildings and ponds. They are especially handy for baling in small temporarily fenced paddocks used for rotational grazing. Since they are so light weight, they can also be pulled safely on hillsides and slopes. This makes these balers a perfect choice for many small farms. You can potentially add acreage for hay into your farm management plan that big equipment can’t reach – increasing production and decreasing mowing.
The size of a mini round bale is roughly the same as the small square bales most people are used to seeing, they generally weigh 15-25 kilos. Bales of this size are perfect for feeding smaller livestock like goats and sheep. Even though they are round, the bales are easy to stack, and the spaces left between allow for ventilation between bales once in the barn. The Siromer ‘mini-baler’ has three density settings allowing the user to manage what weight of bale is preferred.
The mini round baler is connected to the tractor by the 3-point linkage. The baler has a standard category I three-point linkage which is the most common linkage on compact tractors.
The Siromer mini round balers use twine wrap. The main advantage of twine wrap is economy. These balers use standard twine which is readily available at most country stores and is fairly inexpensive. One other advantage of twine wrap is for the farmer who wants to leave the bales in the field for grazing animals to eat through the winter. This used to be a common practice for farmers who baled with the Allis-Chalmers Roto-Baler. The bales from the last baling of the season would be left spread across the field. Animals grazing in the field could nudge the bales to roll them over, exposing fresh hay. Natural twine was used which rotted off the bale over time, allowing the grazing animals to get to the interior of the bale.
Advantages of the mini round baler are:
Very low horsepower requirement - A mini round baler needs only around 20 horsepower to operate.
Lighter weight - Round balers weigh much less than square balers. This means they are safer to operate on hills, and tractors of any size can easily pull them.
Simpler design - Round balers are simpler machines than square balers, with fewer adjustments required and fewer parts to break.
Smoother operation - Square balers “kick” up to 90 times per minute. On a small tractor this constant jerking motion can be somewhat fatiguing.
Small size - In storage it will take up about a quarter as much space as a square baler.
Better weather resistance - If there is any chance the bales may stay in the field for any extended period of time, mini round bales will hold up much better to rain and dew.
Equipment to match your baler
Before you can bale your hay you will need to cut your grass, turn it and row it up.
To make hay the grass is ideally cut with a drum mower. The standard drum mower has two counter-rotating drums that are powered from a gearbox above. Each drum is essentially a cylinder with a large disc attached to the bottom. Depending on the model, either 3 or 4 free-swinging blades are attached to each of these discs. When in operation, the entire drum/disc/blade assembly rotates. This heavy rotating mass creates a great deal of momentum, which helps to power the mower through thick spots in the field.
The horse power and chassis size of your tractor will dictate which size drum mower is required, for low horse power (20-35hp) and small size a 1.35m with a short chassis is required, this keeps the mower closer to the tractor and will reduce the risk of the tractor becoming unbalanced. For mid-range compacts with 20-35hp a long chassis drum mower is suitable. For tractors with 35 -75hp a 1.65m drum mower can be used which will make a quicker job of cutting the grass.
Drum mower advantages are:
No hydraulic requirement - You do not have to have hydraulics on your tractor. For transport, the drums swing to the rear of the tractor manually.
Durability. Drum mowers are easily the most rugged of the hay mower types. They rarely sustain damage even from striking an immovable object. This makes them a great choice for contract cutting in unfamiliar fields or for mowing unruly pastures.
High ground speeds. A drum mower can be run at even higher speeds than a disc mower, and double the speed of a sickle bar.
Low power consumption. This feature is important particularly with older utility tractors of modest horsepower.
As a drum mower moves through the field, the drums are rotating toward each other, which causes the cut crop to pass between the drums and be dropped in a windrow behind the mower. This windrowing effect eventually must be spread back out with a tedder or rake in order for the hay to dry properly.
Ideally buying a rake which can turn the grass and row it up will save money over buying two machines. Once the grass has dried sufficiently you will need to row it up so that the baler can pick the grass up. It is important that the rows are not too wide or too high for the baler. Too wide and the baler will miss collecting some of the grass, too high and the baler will keep clogging up. The rake you buy will need to match the baler. Siromer supply a single rota rake which can turn your grass and rake it into rows to match the mini-balers requirements.