Testimonials / News Stories > Bale stacker system saves labor

Bale Stacker system saves labor

Once upon a time a farmer could make a few phone calls to some high school-aged boys, and in short order have a full hay crew. For a variety of reasons, those days ended long ago across most of the Midwest.

Facing a labor shortage, many turned to big round bales. Others bought bale wagons. Kenneth Flock and his son, Mike, Ramsey, Ind., have found that a different system fits best for handling most of their hay. They purchased a hay accumulator and bale fork for grouping, loading, and unloading small, square bales.

Difficulty finding help was one of the key reasons that helped the Flock's decide to mechanize their hay handling system. The Flocks have a 50-cow dairy and also operate a fairly large crop operation.

"We wanted to stay with small, square bales on our better hay for several reasons," Mike recalls. "If we wanted to sell hay, we figured we could sell small square bales more easily.

"Plus, we believed we would have less loss in square bales (compared to big round bales). And it's easier to feed the dairy cows and know what they're getting if you're feeding small, square bales. If you put out a big round bale, you don't know how many pounds of hay they're getting per day."

Once they were sure they wanted to stay with small, square bales for their higher quality hay, the choice became which system to use. Cost was an important factor. To make the accumulator system work, they needed to purchase an accumulator that trails behind the hay baler and a bale fork that fits on the tractor loader. Purchaseing both items was still cheaper than buying a bale wagon, the Flock's note.

Cost wasn't the only consideration. "We feel this system is more felxible," Mike says, "If we can get into a barn with our tractor and loader, then we can get in with the bale fork to unload. A bale wagon tends to need higher clearance for unloading. With our bale fork, it's also easy to load trailers and do other tasks which would be harder with a bale wagon."

The heart of the system the Flocks use is the bale accumulator. Manufactured by Hoelscher, Inc., Bushton, Kan., their particular model of accumulator trails behind the baler and places 10 bales into a group before emptying the hay onto the ground. When the accumulator cart is full, it trips automatically, lifts and dumps the bales, and then resets.

Maintaining the same bale length is important when you're using an accumulator, Ken notes. If he moves into an area where the windrows are lighter, it's sometimes necessary to make adjustments to the size of the bale stays as constant as possible.

Using the bale fork mounted on the tractor loader, Mike can pick up the entire 10-bale group and load it on the wagon. On average, they stack wagons five- or six-layers high. Loading can be a one-man job, Mike notes. If a second man is available, he sometimes helps guide the driver and helps position bales.

"About the only secret you need to know is parking the wagon on a level spot before you begin to load it," Mike says. Usually, it's possible to retrieve and load 160 bales in about one-half hour.

Reprinted, with permission of Indiana Prairie Farmer, June 1994 / 11. Pictures provided by Hoelscher and are not in any way a part of the original article.

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