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Why the large round bale? A little hay history.

It all started in 1892 when Hugh Luebbens and sons fabricated a stationary baler that wrapped hay into small round bales. They began manufacturing it in Beatrice, Neb., in 1909. Emmo assembled a pick-up attachment on the baler in 1935 and licensed Allis Chalmers (A-C) in 1937. After WW II, A-C began full production and quit in 1961. To their delight, many farmers learned that round bales shed rain like thatched roofs.

In answer to the question, "Why ...?"

The short response to the query is that "slinging" small, dusty "people bales" over head when loading a wagon--or stacking bales in poorly ventilated barn lofts or on moving wagons pulled behind pick-up balers--is hot, hard work. They are all "man killers."

Hence, in the fall of 1965, when graduate student Virgil Haverdink requested that I suggest a research project for his master's thesis, I replied, "Let's build a large, round baler!" This would be, I thought to myself, my chance to help farmers.

He asked, "Why do we need a large round bale?"

In answer to Haverdink's question

"The percentage of hay lost to weathering decreases as the diameter increases, and we can move and feed the bales with tractors." There you have it. When I was in high school, I custom-baled with a four-man crew. If we worked hard and were "kept in hay," we could bale 15 tons per day.

Haverdink and I sketched several large round balers. He wanted his large round baler to bale hay, unload the bale, reload the bale, and feed the bale to livestock. We dreamed of saving all the leaves by baling alfalfa at 27 percent moisture content (MC) and letting the hay dry in the bale.

After the hay bales dried, we planned to compress them to one third of their original length for storage and transporting. We believed that bales with saved leaves would bring a premium price, and that the yield of the land would be increased by about 25 percent.

Haverdink fabricated the large round baler during the winter of 1965-66 and baled hay the following summer. He made round bales about 5 ft in diameter, 7 ft long, and they weighed about 600 lb after they dried--about 5 lb/[ft.sup.3].

We compared the large round bales of hay with small square bales, each baled at 27 percent MC. The large round bales cured into bright hay with attached leaves, while the small square bales molded.

In answer to questions from the press

Iowa State University Extension Service sent Blue Information sheets to farm presses all over the world. They told about the "Whale of a Bale" and offered photos.

And in answer to farmers' interest

In late summer of 1969, I learned about the Australian Econ Fodder Roller baler that made a 300-lb ground-rolled bale. It was patented by P. J. Avery in 1983. John Bliss, chief engineer of Hawkbilt Company of Vinton, Iowa, informed me in Sept. 1969 that his company wanted to manufacture large round balers. I gave him all the information I had on round balers. Hawkbilt fabricated a large ground-rolling round baler and baled hay that had been laid out in a windrow on the snow that fall. Hawkbilt began manufacturing them in 1970.

A genius, Gary Vermeer of Pella, Iowa, designed and fabricated a round baler after the design of the A-C Roto-Baler in 1971 and sold balers in 1972. By 1975, fifteen American and Canadian companies were manufacturing large round balers. In the meantime, large square bales appeared on the market. They are trucked and fed in distant markets. Large round bales are locally fed.

Southern Iowa and northern Missouri farmers repair their ancient Roto-Balers. They bale and eject the small round bales on the ground where they remain until consumed by livestock when snow covers the dry grass.

Rapid adoption of large round bales--within three years--was made possible because farm tractors were already equipped with cabs. Three-point hitches and front-end loaders equipped with grapple forks were available for handling and feeding large bales.

Large bales are untouched by human hands. Your 16-year-old daughter could bale 115 tons of large round bales each day and never break a sweat! There you have it!

Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the official position of ASAE.

ASAE fellow Wesley F. Buchele, P.E., is professor emeritus of Iowa State University and continues to enjoy anything round at 239 Parkridge Circle, Ames, Iowa USA 50014-3645; phone and fax 515-292-2933,
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Title Annotation:Last Word
Author:Buchele, Wesley F.
Publication:Resource: Engineering & Technology for a Sustainable World
Date:Jan 1, 2005
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