Big bales or little pellets, farmers can soon choose

HANNOVER, Germany — In modern times, forage has moved from field to feedyard in one of two ways — wet or dry, silage or bales — but another concept was introduced in Germany last week: pellets.

There is a lot of competition at Agritechnica, the world’s largest farm show, to capture the imaginations of producers and industry.

Machinery maker Krone of Germany managed to grab the crown this year by winning gold for its mobile pelleting machine.

Sixteen millimetre pellets are produced on the go at a rate of five tonnes per hour.

The machine is the size of a large round baler with a poly-wrapper, but nothing bigger around than a man’s finger leaves the unit.

Forage pellets are typically reserved for exported dehydrated hay products or a biofuel energy plant rather than domestic cattle and hogs.

However, Krone feels it has a solution that will offer dairy, beef and hog producers an easy-to-store-and-feed alternative to hay bales and silage. The product can also be used for animal bedding, the company said.

Niklas Beindorf of Krone said the machine was developed by members of the team that created the company’s multiple packaged big square bales that contain several smaller, individually tied bales.

The Premos grabs hay or straw swaths with its 7 ½ foot wide pickup. A set of long, curved tines help draw in the crop, which passes between slats that orient it parallel to the feed’s flow.

A set of large knives provides minor chopping and further evens out the flow before a conveyer carries the crop to a set of paired, 32 inch diameter rollers that are also 32 inches wide. These crush the crop into a uniform mat and extrude the pellets.

The alternating gear-like teeth provide only a single exit route for the crop, a 16 mm hole that ends in the middle of the two drums.

A central auger moves the pellets to an elevator, which dumps them into a scalper. Depending on how clean the scalper is set, the auger will return fines or chaff to the milling rollers or load it along with the pellets. Unloads are completed with a further conveyor about once per hour.

The Premos is a slow moving machine in the field, requiring 350 to 500 horsepower to crush out the uniform pellets at 29,000 pounds per sq. inch.

As a result, the fresh pellets come out of the drums at 80 C, which, in some cases, are cooled by water spray nozzles. The nozzles can also adjust the moisture of the forage to the ideal 13 to 16 percent.

A molasses tank and nozzle are built into the system if the product is especially dry or additional feed value or palatability are required.

As well, an oil sprayer applies oil to the extruder drums to ensure everything remains slick and ready to run.

Beindorf said the machine can produce pellets that are dense or soft, depending on how the machine is set and the type and moisture of crop being processed. The pellets are typically 3.5 times the density of straw bales and take up less space.

He said the mobile pelletizer produces double what most stationary units can do, and an optional bale shedder converts the machine to a stationary unit for out of season processing.

The company has found that the drums will need service and sharpening at 4,000 tonnes or 800 hours.

Beindorf said the company will continue testing next year and enter the pellets into feeding trials to compare feed value to other forages.

“We know that 250 grams of straw pellets (absorb) about one litre of water. This means that manure volumes can be reduced by about 40 percent,” said Beindorf.

“They are easier to feed with no further processing. They can be kept in (bins) and because they are put up so hot (80 C), they are without (bacteria and fungi) in them. Very stable and dry.… There are savings in hay storage, handling and reduced losses. We think this is a concept that larger farmers will appreciate, and there should be a market with (custom) feed contractors and mills.”

The company hopes to release it to the market in 2017, provided testing works out well next year.

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