For one Derbyshire farmer who has already marketed a product to simplify the logistics of making round bale silage, improving the wrapping process has become the next operation to be targeted. Alex Heath finds out more.
Necessity is often the mother of invention, a statement that is particularly true for serial inventor Geoff Eyre. From his base in the Peak District, Mr Eyre has created several innovative machines over the decades, one of the most famous being his Traileyre self-loading bale trailer.
Since its inception the trailer has gone on to sell hundreds of units, latterly painted in Ritchie colours after a licensing agreement was established between Mr Eyre and the manufacturer. The need for such a trailer, which can trace its roots back to 1983, was speeding up the bale moving operation after Mr Eyre bought the second 1.2m (four foot) round baler to enter the UK, four years earlier.
Mr Eyre says; “The round baler revolutionised the way silage was made and, to start with, bales would be placed in bags to ensile them. After designing and building the Traileyre, carting the bales back to the yard became a one-man job, taking away the need for a tractor and trailer and a loader at both ends. It has sped the job up to such an extent that now the baler and wrapper become weak links in the chain.”
To this end, Mr Eyre has designed a wrapping system to work in tandem with his Traileyres, as well as conventional carting systems, using the same principles the trailers were built on, namely speed of operation and reducing labour.
Because the trailers spike each bale, they must be wrapped in the yard, which brings additional benefits as well as challenges, according to Mr Eyre.
“Handling bales wrapped in the field is a nuisance,” he says. “Firstly, you have to be very careful not to damage them with a grab or when on the road, passing hedges for example. Secondly, the more times you pick them up, the weaker the seal between the layers becomes, requiring more wrap to be used.
“However, logistics in the yard with static wrappers then become an issue, as they cannot keep up with the speed bales are coming in, especially if the haul with the Traileyre is less than a mile. In addition, they then must be loaded and removed from the loader. If you not careful the yard becomes full of unwrapped bales quickly.”
Called the Wrapeyre, the wrapper has been in development for the past five years, with local agricultural engineer Neil Deakin helping with the design and fabrication. The first version was fashioned to be used exclusively with Mr Eyre’s trailers, enabling them to pickup and move the whole wrapping system. However, Mr Eyre has also made a trailed version that can be setup in two minutes.
Key to the system is the use of conveyors which feed the wrapping tables. Although larger Traileyres have been built, Mr Eyre says the six-bale model is by far the most popular, with the system built to accommodate these. Although, extending the conveyors to accommodate larger trailers is feasible.
The Wrapeyre system comprises two identical units spaced four metres apart, made up of a conveyor and wrapper between which the trailer drives, depositing three bales on each of the chain and slat conveyors.
These feed an arm which lifts the bales onto the wrapping tables. Mr Eyre has chosen to use second-hand McHale wrappers to apply the plastic film, as they have a robust build and are easily sourced.
However, he has added several extras to make the job quicker and easier. The first modification was to add a knife to hold and cut the plastic, reducing tails and making them easier to remove from the wrapper. The second was adding a second film dispenser, effectively doubling output. Film dispensers are held in position with a hydraulic ram, which when retracted, pulls the dispenser through 90 degrees allowing film rolls to be replenished a few centimetres from the ground.
Mr Eyre was keen to make the system as gentle as possible on wrapped bales, so decided not to tip them off the wrapping tables. Instead, a loader removes them and places them directly on the stack. They can be removed from nearly any direction.
Because of the limited and gentle handling, Mr Eyre says four layers of wrap is sufficient to seal the bales. “Four layers provides enough protection against air entering the bales. We have had no spoilage in our silage and a local haylage producer who has used the system has also reported very good results with no mould present. The trick is not dropping the bales from the wrapping table, which instantly blows the seal, or allowing the bales to roll, increasing the risk of pin holes.”
Powering the unit is a 25hp Lombardini diesel engine coupled to a 40 litre/minute hydraulic pump, providing sufficient oil flow to power both wrappers and the conveyors.
After designing the first trailer-carried system, Mr Eyre has now modified the system so it is a standalone trailed unit. This means the engine, conveyor and wrapper are all built onto a chassis, in contrast to the original design where all three components were separate. Getting the geometry of the wrapping tables’ folding mechanism was the biggest challenge, says Mr Eyre. “Now, work and transport positions are switched between with the pull of a hydraulic lever.”
He adds the new system is more user friendly and easier to setup, as well as offering more clearance between the conveyor and table. This latest version also features the double dispensers.
However, when on a job with the trailed unit, which can only accommodate half a trailer load, bales from the other side of the trailer that are not already on the conveyor must be lifted on with the loader.
In terms of output, Mr Eyre says on the first system the wrappers would keep up with the incoming flow of bales, about 70 per hour depending on the distance carted. However, with the double dispensing system, outputs of 180 bales per hour are possible, he says. To do this, at least two Traileyres would be needed and then pressure would be put on the baler to keep the operation running.
As of yet the system is not automatic, although he is looking into ways the system can be automated, with proximity sensors and potentiometers already in place. He is also looking into creating larger rolls of plastic, potentially up to 600mm in diameter, reducing the amount of time wrap has to be replaced. “Because the wrapper is not bouncing up and down fields all day, we can get away with a larger roll of plastic, which will again increase the efficiency we can wrap.”
In contrast to a combi-baler and conventional carting, aside from the increase in bale quality, Mr Eyre reckons a contractor could reduce the operation cost by £1 per bale, through an increase in speed and reduced wrap.
He says; “I have always looked at ways the baling process can be sped up, be made more efficient and ultimately save money by increasing the quality of fodder and reducing labour and the size of machinery needed. In our area, wet weather is a given so having tractors and machinery that tread lightly on the field is a must. The Traileyre can easily be used with an 80 to 100hp tractor. In addition, you can then use a lighter baler and tractor and keep loaders out of the field, reducing compaction. In the yard the operation becomes more streamlined with the Wrapeyre and the space needed to run the system is reduced as bales are placed directly on the conveyors.”
Mr Eyre hopes the system will be adopted by a manufacturer to bring it to the masses. “A lot of head scratching has got it to this point,” he says. “It is imperative to get bales wrapped as soon as possible after baling to maintain quality and start the fermentation process. This system is really the next step in speeding up the process and will benefit farmers and contractors who are increasingly stretched for time with decreasing amounts of labour.”