Vermeer makes a leap of faith into self propelled bale technology

Integrated quarter-turn technology is part of the ZR5 baling automation process. During the tie-cycle, the machine can automatically rotate to the left or right, positioning the bale parallel to the windrow upon ejection. When placing bales parallel to the windrow, the pick-up process can be completed up to 35 per cent faster

It’s the first-ever self-propelled round hay baler from Vermeer and the expectations are that it will turn everything you know about baling on its head.

This is the evolution that hay-baling operations will have to adopt to stay in the game. This prototype model has been armed with enough efficiency refinements that it can vastly increase productivity and the quality of the final product.

Vermeer’s self-propelled ZR5 prototype baler goes beyond merely having its own power plant it also provides a clear vision of the gains big baling operations can achieve.

The suspension technology on the ZR5 is one of its outstanding design features as it can handle all the bumps and jostling that comes its way. This is partly due to the out-front cab being uniquely positioned over the suspension

The prototype ZR5 has already been in testing for two years is powered by a 127kW (173hp) Cummins engine and is fitted with a cab from Claas. Top speed is 50kph.

This overall efficiency and productivity improvement is possible because it has eliminated many of the time consuming steps typically required by an operator driving a tractor and pulling a baler.

This self-propelled approach also results in greatly diminishing operator fatigue, allowing some incredible production gains.

The ZR5 has zero-radius turning in its steering system for better operating efficiency than can be gleaned from a conventional tractor-baler combination. Hydraulic drive on the baler, as well as the rear wheels, also provides the ability to automatically make real-time adjustments based on the crop condition.

The ZR5 eliminates powering the baler through a gearbox with the added restriction of everything turning in the same correlation to each other, based on the PTO rpm. Combines dropped this sequence many years ago, and other harvesting equipment isn’t hamstrung this way either. But balers still operate in this less productive way.

The ZR5 is expected to be refined with the ability to adjust the baler to match different crops and different conditions. In the meantime, the ZR5 promises to increase productivity through a new suspension technology that handles all the bumps and jostling that comes its way. This is partly due to the cab being uniquely positioned over the suspension.

Operators will spend less time turning in the paddock and more time baling. The zero-radius turning will eliminate skipping a windrow to make the turn or swinging out wide to get into the next windrow. When it’s time to head to the next paddock, zero-radius turning can be disengaged. If you’ve operated other self-propelled machines, you will appreciate the dual steering functionality. With the zero-turn disengaged, you steer the ZR5 using the front wheels for a smooth, confident ride.

Automating the baling process was another goal for the ZR5. Integrated quarter-turn technology is part of the ZR5 baling automation process. During the tie cycle, the machine can automatically rotate to the left or right, positioning the bale parallel to the windrow upon ejection. When placing bales parallel to the windrow, the picking up process can be completed up to 35 per cent quicker.

With current tractor/baler combination, you have to go through up to nine steps to stop the tractor, wrap and dump the bale, and start again. With the ZR5, you only have to push one button. The baler does everything automatically. It works in much the same way as the headland management systems found on current tractors.

The current ZR5 prototype forms a bale 152cm wide by 182cm in diameter (5x6ft), with other sizes available in the future, especially 120 by 182cm (4×6ft) bales that are popular for tarnsporting two wide on a semi for shipping.

The ZR5 will at first appeal to large producers and custom operators who will be able to replace multiple machines. The reason to design the ZR5 has been based around labour shortages and this continuing trend is seeing the rise of self-propelled farm machines in all aspects of farming.

For forming bales the ZR5 will pave the way for more efficiency, and eventual reduce the energy needed to produce the same amount of feed.

Vermeer plans to have the self-propelled ZR5 in the hands of hay producers for testing right through to 2018. It will be available for purchase in 2019.

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