By Margy Eckelkamp
Director of Content Development, Machinery Pete
Article previously has appeared on Drovers Online 9/15/2017
The prototype ZR5 self-propelled baler introduced by Vermeer is being touted as the world’s first self-propelled round baler.
And the company’s legacy extends to 1971, when its founder, Gary Vermeer, introduced the first commercially available round baler.
Now, the company has introduced a self-propelled platform, which it says will target to owners of multiple balers—those putting up at least 5,000 bales a year.
“This machine provides a lot of advantages, and it’s an easier way to bale hay,” says Josh Vrieze, Vermeer product manager. “It’s a product of our Forage Innovations Group, which is a separate R&D group focused to work on things that don’t exist today. This group has three concepts, and this is the first we’ve shared publicly.”
The prototype ZR5 balers have been in testing for two years, mostly around the company’s headquarters in Pella, Iowa and last summer in Nebraska as well.
“Vermeer has quite a bit of experience with hydrostatic equipment in other divisions,” Vrieze says. “For this machine, being able to control the power unit makes the baler much more efficient. When a bale is ready to be tied, all the operator really has to do is push a green button, and the machine finishes the bale, ejects it, closes the tailgate and continues on.”
Integrated quarter-turn technology is part of the ZR5 baling automation process. During the tie-cycle, the machine can automatically rotate to the left or right, positioning the bale parallel to the windrow upon ejection. When placing bales parallel to the windrow, the picking up process can be completed up to 35% faster.
The prototype is powered by a 173 hp Cummins engine and features a cab from Claas.
“Our patent-pending suspension technology allows operators to better handle the bumps and jostling that naturally comes with baling hay,” Vrieze says. “If you think about all those bumps over the course of the day or multiple days, ride quality can really impact the operator. In the ZR5, operators experience a smoother, more comfortable ride with the cab uniquely positioned over the suspension.”
Inspired by the lawn care industry, the machine is built with a zero-radius turning to the steering system. The zero-turn system eliminates the need to swing out wide skipping one windrow to line up with the next. In transport from field to field, the zero-turn steering can be disengaged.
The ZR5 balers are outfitted with round balers forming 6’ tall x 5’ wide bales. Vrieze notes that the bale chamber can be removed for maintenance in minutes—or even for replacement.