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Correct round bale core and shell density

Curt Hoffman for Progressive Forage Grower Published on 01 March 2016
Bale density is the function of four things

From the moment you start baling to the moment the last bale is unloaded at your storage location, there are numerous benefits to making dense bales.

Making denser bales in the field reduces compaction and plant damage, which promotes faster regrowth and higher tonnages for the next cutting. Making more compact bales not only reduces your baling time but handling, wrapping and transportation costs too.

Lastly, dense bales weather better with less loss because of their ability to shed precipitation and resist absorbing moisture from the ground. Density always matters.

How to select and then achieve the right round bale density at the core, as well as at the shell, is a topic that is undoubtedly on the minds of some readers. The first step is to consult the manufacturer’s operator’s manual and follow the set-up information for the baler functionality to achieve the desired bale density.

Soft-core bales are easier to handle because the spear goes in easily and the bale comes off the spear easily. The big plus for being able to soften up the core, however, is to be able to spread the material back out again in the pen when manually unrolling the bale for bedding.

For instance, today’s balers can make the cores so tight in corn fodder that the resulting bales cannot be easily spread out. This is a problem in hay as well, which gets even worse as the moisture content of the hay or corn fodder increases.

If the bales are to be stored in a building, then the operator can reduce the hydraulic pressure on the outer shell to reduce net wrap or twine wrap due to less crop memory. However, if bales are being stored outside, their outer shell should be made as dense as possible at all times.

As the outer density pressure is increased, operators end up increasing the core pressure by default. This is where variable core density comes in: You can keep the outer shell dense, yet soften the core.

The density of the bale will also have an impact on the final bale weight. In order to target a specific bale weight, you could run a lower core density and then have a higher outer density to make sure it is tight for storage.

Producers should always run at the highest density possible for the crop and conditions as this will give the best bale shape (stop the squat), reduce the number of bales to be handled and provide the best package for long-term storage. Variable core density gives another level of flexibility to adjust to changing crops and conditions.

Another benefit mentioned by some producers is the ability for the bale to “breathe” better. This is based purely on the perception from producers who say they will back off the core density in dry crops if the moisture is a bit higher than desired in order to let the bale dissipate some of its excess moisture.

It has never been tested or proven that this has any impact and there are many who believe that once you bale the crop, there isn’t any chance of the moisture inside dropping; once it is packed tightly it can’t be changed.

In-cab round baler controls make long hours in the field easier

Exceptional visibility, performance and comfort are welcome features of today’s premium tractor cabs. Many tractors are designed to make operation easier and more convenient with ergonomic control placement and monitors that help to reduce fatigue and increase operating comfort.

It stands to reason that bringing implement controls inside the tractor cab is important, especially to round baler operators.

Modern, premium round baler control monitors already give the operator in-cab control or display bale size, bale shape, net or twine wrap, number of wraps, wrap pattern, slicing knives and crop cutter knives.

Monitor display windows provide the operator with indicators for modes of operation and system status or position. Add density control and variable core adjustments to this list of in-cab monitor items, and those long hours of baling in the hot field have just become easier.

Bale density controlled from the cab

In-cab density control and variable core adjustment technology allow operators to change the density pressure setting using the monitor within the comfort of their tractor cab for easier operator interface and convenience.

Here’s how bale density is formed: Bale density is a function of four things – crop preparation, windrow conditions, baling technique and baler adjustment. The more time the crop spends in the baler, the greater the bale density.

Movement across the rollers as the bale rotates presses more air from the crop mat, and allows the crop to “settle” together, resulting in a tighter bale. Fast feed rates and short cycle times, a common occurrence with large windrows, will result in lower bale density.

With in-cab density control, as the bale grows and the chamber begins to expand the hydraulic density control system supplements spring tension and controls belt tension and bale density. The operator controls density from the monitor inside the cab.

Core density adjustment for bale core and outer bale

Additionally, with this new technology, bales can be produced with different density values in the bale core and outer bale. For example, if you want a lower density core for easy feeding and movement, you can form the bale with a low-density core.

If you plan to store that same bale outside longer than normal due to plentiful supply, you can choose a higher outer bale density to increase its ability to shed water. The operator can also determine the size of the core for additional customization.  FG

PHOTO: Bale density is a function of four things – crop preparation, windrow conditions, baling technique and baler adjustment. The more time the crop spends in the baler, the greater the bale density. Photo provided by Curt Hoffman.

Curt Hoffman is a crop packaging marketing manager with New Holland Agriculture. Email Curt Hoffman.