For most of farming’s history, ensiling was a fancy word for preparing and storing a crop in a silo, converting it into silage. In this area, that usually consisted of green corn being chopped and blown into a silo where a controlled form of fermentation took place preserving the nutrients of the corn stalk in a state that was neither green nor dried. Today, silos are becoming rarer with each passing year, but silage has not.
Many farmers in the cattle industry have simply turned to silage bales versus corn silage—ensiling grasses and hays in plastic wrapped bales. Part of the downside to this trend has been the fact that the farmer needed to purchase another piece of equipment, a silage bale wrapper, to house, along with adding another step to baling that required either more man power or a loss of nutrients depending on how long it took to get the round bales transported to the wrapping machine and wrapped.
AGCO looks to redefine this process with the release of their new Massey Ferguson RB 4160P Protec Baler. This new combination machine brings together the company’s RB silage baler with an integrated bale-wrapping unit, allowing a farmer to bale, wrap and ensile high-moisture forages all from the seat of their tractor all in a single process.
“In climates with high humidity and lots of rain, putting up hay traditionally can be a challenge, so many forage growers are turning to baled silage,” says Dane Mosel, marketing product specialist for hay and forage at AGCO. “Not only do they avoid the dry down issues, but they can harvest their forage at the ideal growth stage for maximum nutritional value.”
The baler can handle anything the grower wishes to bale according to AGCO. In addition to plastic wrapping, the machine can also mesh wrap and bale dry hay, straw and even corn stover.
From the time the crop enters the pickup until it is completely wrapped, less than a minute has passed, meaning that the crop is ensiled at peak condition.
A 2020 field trial conducted by AGCO hay and forage specialists Jessica Williamson found that delaying the wrapping process by just 24 hours led to a 4 percent drop in the availability of digestible proteins. It also caused a reduction in total digestible nutrients and lower volatile fatty acid scores which is an indicator of the success of the ensiling process.
Mosel also found that inline tube wrapping also delays the ensiling process as bales have to be moved to a central location where air trapped between the bales reduces effective fermentation.
“Once that seal is broken, the forage inside is susceptible to spoilage, especially when the weather gets warm,” Mosel added. “That’s not a concern when bales are wrapped individually. They also can be transported, stored or sold with relative ease.”
According to AGCO, the baler has a 73 inch tine to tine width with a cam-less pickup that ensures heavy, wet forages feed smoothly into the bale chamber. The no cam track has fewer moving parts, making the baler quieter and more reliable with less maintenance and fewer adjustments. The two banks of Xtracut knives allow for the selection of zero, eight, nine or 17 knives allowing forages to be cut as small as 2.65 inches in length, improving forage digestibility. Bales are four feet wide and can be adjusted from 35.5 to 63 inches in diameter.
The machine can handle wrapping bales up to 3,000 pounds in weight and has a capacity of storing two rolls of net wrap and up to 14 rolls of 750mm or 500mm film on board.
“With that amount of mesh and film, the unit can wrap 224 bales in eight layers of plastic or up to 280 bales in six layers, so the Protec can run all day,” says Mosel, adding that the Easy Load System makes mesh roll replacement a cinch. “Sensors automatically detect if film breaks or if a roll runs out, and the baler compensates to ensure that bales are always completely wrapped.”
The operator can track bale formation, control cutter engagement and select knife banks all from the intuitive E-link Pro touch-screen monitor inside the cab. Even a plugged pickup can be remedied from the comforts of the tractor cab.
“Should the baler get plugged, the operator can disengage the knives and lower the rear of the feed table floor from the in-cab monitor, allowing the crop to enter the bale chamber,” Mosel explained. “Then, the machine can be re-engaged and baling can continue. There’s no jumping out of the cab. No need to get hot, sweaty and dirty crawling under the baler.”
For a farmer looking for an all-in-one solution to meet their foraging needs, the new Massey Ferguson RB 4160P Protec combo baler may just be just what they and their livestock are looking for.