Self-propelled baler is an independent spirit

Large producers and custom operators are likely buyers of Vermeer’s new 
round baler, which needs no tractor to power or pull it


LANGHM, Sask. — Vermeer is making the rounds through farm shows and farmers’ fields in Western Canada this summer with its ZR5 self-propelled baler. 

J.B. Atkins of Vermeer said producers most likely to be giving this unit a serious tire kick are large producers and custom operators, especially where two baling units can be replaced with one.

“The real secret to success on this is efficiency,” Atkins said at the Vermeer booth at the Ag In Motion farm show near Langham, Sask.

“Our ground speed is very good at 13 or 14 miles per hour for baling, but what allows us to do that is we have a unique flotation system for our front tires. This gives us a smooth ride, which allows us to excel in rough conditions.” 

He said the ZR5 travels up to twice as fast as a standard tractor and baler combination while baling. 

“Last week we were having a bale every 47 seconds,” Atkins said.

“Our goal is to shoot for a bale a minute and I think we can do that fairly easily with this unit.”

The ability to move quickly over rough ground comes from the front A-frame suspension with a hydraulic flotation that can be adjusted from within the cab.

“A tractor cab can have a suspended cab or hydraulic type flotation, but you’re still sitting on top of the axle, and when that axle bounces, you’re going to bounce with it. With the A-frame set up, your cab is in between so it can absorb some of that bounce,” Atkins said.

In field mode the front wheels move side to side freely and are not connected to the steering controls. Instead, all steering is done by the rear drive wheels similarly to zero-turn mowers. 

“The zero-turn lawn mowing market has really changed lawn mowing, and we thought if we could bring that technology to the bale industry, it would be something unique and a little bit different from the self-propelled balers that have been attempted in the past,” Atkins said.

In transport mode, the front wheels are reconnected to the steering system and turn the unit similar to a car’s steering,  enabling the baler to travel more than 30 m.p.h.

Because the ZR5 is completely hydraulically driven, it finds further efficiencies with a fully automated baling process that tells operators how many seconds per bale conditions will allow. 

“We can automate the entire process of the baler, which means it will start and stop all on its own. We can  select quarter turn to the left or to the right (bale eject), or leave it straight behind,” Atkins said.

“We speed up the tying process approximately 40 percent by pushing all the hydraulic oil to the belts. We’re able to speed up the bale chamber during the tie mode. So, if a normal baler would tie and dump in approximately 30 seconds, we do it in 20 seconds or less.” 

The ZR5 is powered by 200 horsepower Cummins Stage V 4.5L tier-5 compliant engine and comes with an auto greasing system, net wrap, a trainer seat, LED work lights, 26.4 centimetre touch screen display, pick-up and tailgate cameras, and a tilt and telescope steering wheel. 

The bale chamber has a 72 inch diameter and a width of 61 inches and produces approximately 2,400 pound bales.

For maintenance, the bale chamber can be quickly removed and reinstalled.  

He said the chamber on the ZR5 will likely wear out before the drive platform does, so the company made the bale chamber interchangeable.

The bale chamber will need to be changed out, “in the 15,000 to 20,000 bale range, could be more, dependent on the crop,” Atkins said.

“At this time, we haven’t obviously sold any bale chambers, so I don’t know what our price is going to be.”

He said the price of the ZR5  will be comparable to a new tractor and baler combination, and salespeople in the Vermeer booth at Ag In Motion were quoting farmers approximately $320,000 for a fully loaded ZR5 with a two-year warranty.

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