We often get alot of questions about how the bales are packaged like they are. The machine that does this is called a Bale Baron. We are one of the first in the area to start using this machine, and probably put more bales through one than any other farm. With our experience, we also get alot of people who ask us about it, whether we think it's worth it, so here it is, and Marcrest Manufacturing isn't giving us any compensation for writing this, it's just our thoughts and experiences to help people wondering about it.
The initial cost of the Bale Baron is definitely high, but could the results be worth it? After several months of contemplating, number crunching, and worrying, we decided to dive in head first and ordered a Bale Baron. There are now 3 models of the Bale Baron, one that hooks onto the back of the balers, one that is pulled behind a separate tractor much like a bale wagon, and the third is the self propelled that I will talk about later. The benefit of the trail behind is you don’t need a separate driver or tractor to specifically pull the Baron, but if you have multiple balers you have to buy multiple barons and if the baron goes down, the baler has to stop as well. The pull behind takes a separate driver and tractor, but for us it kept up with 2 balers quite effectively, so we decided to buy the pull behind model and buy another tractor to pull it with. With this set up on optimal days we could bale and put up over 6000 bales in a day. But the retrieval from the field to the barn is not the only super amazing part, the best part is how easy it is to move it out of the barn to wherever it was going afterwards. Now 1 person can load a 53 ft semi-trailer with 693 bale (there are ways to get more but this is our set up and our way of doing it) in 30 minutes, so where it used to take 3 man hours to load 650, it now only takes half a man hour to load more. The bundles also hold together a lot better and allow for easy tie downs on gooseneck trailers and flatbed semi-trailers.
After over 300,000 bales put on the Bale Baron the first year we were quite happy with it, so happy we decided to sell it and buy another one. While the Baron didn’t work all year without it’s mess-ups, Marcrest Manufacturing had excellent customer service in trying to get us back up and running as soon as possible. Most down times were just hydraulic hoses and other minor problems that were from wear and we were usually up and running the next day. After our 2nd year we traded that baron in for a new one. Our 3rd pull behind model we have had for 3 years now and it's still going strong.
The self propelled Bale Baron is the newest style. The first commercial release was in 2015. The benefits of it over the pull behind model are quite substancial. It uses a hydrostat drive system, so to speed up or slow down all you have to do is move the joystick. Work mode goes up to around 12 mph, while road gear goes near 30 mph. This makes speeding up on the ends much easier since you don't have to shift to go faster and allows for pretty quick field changes with the high road speed. It also comes with 2 monitors now. One has 3 cameras set up in very useful spots while the other has your bale count, normal dash stuff, and more advanced controls/settings. The cameras are really nice, especially the rear view camera which goes full screen automatically when you back up. The control monitor can still use some improvements but it's still much better than not having anything with the pull types. One of the best benefits over the pull type has to be the easy turning and going around the ends and you can just change windrows when you need to with ease. With all these benefits the self propelled can package around 1000 bales per hour
Of course everything has their setbacks. First of all, price, the self propelled is expensive. It is also much harder to work on. With the engine and cab being packed on the machine, things are alot harder to get to when you need to replace something, and often just when you need to tighten something up. The internal computer system is also different and harder to control when working on things, this doesn't affect normal use, but it sure does make things harder to repair when something goes wrong. I am sure this will be fixed soon, but currently the manual is pretty non user friendly as well. Many of the things that should be simple pictures, are advanced wiring diagrams and hydraulic diagrams that normal people like us won't understand.