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How Current Square Balers Compare

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#1 acarpenter


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Posted 10 January 2010 - 09:05 PM

The topics below have gotten me started looking at new (or at least newer) small square balers. I guess I was looking at JD, NH, & Hesston (MF) models. Since I put a little money in it last year & the knotters are now solid, I will probably try to limp through another year using the old NH 273. This is mostly just seeing what everyone's thoughts are...

IIRC, my 273 runs at around 75 strokes per minute. The base model for JD 328 & NH 565 (whatever the current # is) both run at 80 SPM. This probabably would not be a very large step up in capacity would it? However, the 1835 for MF runs at a 92 SPM, but it only has a 21 inch stroke vs. 30 in for the other two makes. If you multiplied the SPM x stroke length, the traditional balers run at 2400 in/min vs. 2000 in/min for the inline. I hope that math makes since. I guess the best question is to ask if anyone has run the entry level balers for each make and if they have any thoughts to share regarding their capacity?

This is not even addressing the improvement in pickup, which I know would help save hay. I don't even have a super-sweep pickup on the old baler.

Whenever I get ready to get something, we may try to look at some of the higher capacity balers, but my current plan doesn't have an expansion to more than 60 - 65 acres of square hay. I guess I thought I would try to keep this comparison as close to "apples vs. apples" as possible.


#2 hayray


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Posted 11 January 2010 - 08:04 AM

I am not sure about stroke length used as a calculator. I believe there are also differences in square inches of chamber opening, so I would think square inches of feet per minute?

#3 Hedge tree

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Posted 11 January 2010 - 10:34 AM

To give my answer to your title question..."small square balers, 14"x18" 2 string/wire, in the same class for strokes/min are all good balers". I simply don't think you can buy a new baler from any of the 3 manufacturers...and get a poor performing machine. Of course, there are differences (color is one) and different folks will be adament about how BrandX is better than BrandY...and have stories to back it up. Ditto for pickup trucks, combines, tractors and 4 wheelers. Small square balers have not advanced as much as other farm equipment/production machinery. There have been refinements of course, but the basic operation of a new JD 348 is not that much different from an early JD 346. Pickup width, strokes/min, twine bale capacity, a belt instead of a chain, etc. are the types of 'improvements' made. I bring this up as your NH 273, with knotter rebuilds, is a fine machine and should bale your 65 acres without a problem...maybe a bit slower than a higher capacity machine...but with only 65 acres, it is my opinion you wouldn't need much more capacity. If you make a solid bale the weight you like, you may be well ahead of a newby with a new machine and does not understand how to adjust it for the best possible bale conformation.

Essentially, all these machines work about the same once the hay or forage has been placed into the bale chamber. Knotters tend to be very similar as they all link back to binder knotters many years ago. Ease of greasing, adjustments, and the like make minor differences only. Movement of the hay into the chamber DOES vary. Much discussion is usually made about the auger used in the JD machines....over-riding dry grass hay, knocking leaves off dry legume hay, etc. The prongs used in NH balers (now changed to rotaries) to pull hay to the chamber worked well...but when that big chain or spring loaded devices in that mechanism broke...it was not fun...and in there were wood block bearings until a few years ago! That discussion and debate continues currently. The in-line baler (Hesston) allows for a shorter travel time for hay to get into the chamber, and makes a nice bale with a full width 'cut edge'. I have NOT owned an inline so cannot discuss the issues with more knives, plugging, etc. I HAVE operated one and in our country most small square balers are operated with an accumulator behind. The common ones here are Hoelscher (made near by), Farmhand, and Steffen. These require bales coming off the baler to be delivered to one side of the accumlator...thus....the trailing accumulator is offset to the baler's side making road travel a bit more difficult. I think that is the main reason they are not used here. That, and dealer support. Center loading accumulators (Kuhn, Accumul8, etc.) would circumvent that downside.

Hay delivery mechanisms to the baler's chamber really aren't that problematic if the hay is baled at the proper moisture content, the windrow is of appropriate size for good baler functioning, and the OPERATOR not DRIVER understands how the machine works and what forward speed, PTO speed, etc. provide a uniform bale for that particular machine. In my opinion, high capacity balers and ground speed are more important to those wanting to get the job done or doing custom work. For the smaller producer, a well functioning machine of about any vintage, operated with skill and forethought...will produce excellent bales of good quality to match any new machine....maybe just a little slower.

Horsepower: The JD balers have a gear reduction fly wheel, side winder. I do not know the exact ratio, but figuring how to convert a new NH baler's flywheel speed to the same pump driven from the flywheel of my JD 348, I discoverd several things. The JD flywheel is larger in diameter. It takes about 1.5 revolutions of the PTO shaft from the tractor to result in 1 revolution of the flywheel....thus....less horsepower is needed to power a JD 348 baler than a similar NH baler (35-40 PTO HP vs. 70 PTO HP minimum....manual specs). The NH and Hesston-built balers have a forward facing, direct drive flywheel. On the NH, 1 revolution of the pto shaft results in 1 revolution of the flywheel...so starting this heavier wheel without gear reduction takes more horsepower....and in heavy hay, you can see the need for more PTO power. However, if not run at capacity (few are), tractors with less than 70 pto hp do just fine.

Bottom line: your NH 273 was...and is...a pretty good machine. Small square balers tend to rust out, or wear the chamber bottom and pickup pan out....they rarely wear out other places that cannot be re-built. New balers are designed primarily for faster operating speeds and higher production per hour. This is achieved by wider pickups, more strokes per min, and improved chamber feeding mechanisms (packer forks, rotary fingers, and/or small augers). The knotters remain pretty much the same. Familiarity with a baler type is a huge advantage when it comes to adjustments and repairs...and there are always both of those in the baling world. I have owned a number of JD balers and NH balers...currently a new model New Holland. My latest upgrade to a baler make I haven't used for 10 years was based on the dealer...that is a big factor. Parts seem easier to get and are available more uniformly for JD balers (in this area), however, the nearest dealership has lost its small square baler repairman to retirement....and none of the young folks have taken up that slack as this machine is not widely used any more...round balers are the thing. The NN dealership near me still has a crackerjack baler guy...and when he set my baler up...I baled >6,000 bales without a malfunction. This is not always true when a dealership does not have a qualified and experienced baler guy. Good reason for the color you buy I think.

Sticking my neck out: I would rate, from my operating experience only, the new models of the highest capacity square balers from the big 3, in the 14"x18" size with twine tie....as to bale production...like this: New Holland >>Hesston, et al. >> John Deere. They all can make a fine bale....but with this system, operator skill, experience and knowlege is the real bottom line for hay production and quality.

#4 acarpenter


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Posted 12 January 2010 - 11:38 PM

Thanks for the comments, guys. I guess that mostly answers my question as to if the newer, lower capacity balers are really that much faster than what I have now. It doesn't seem like much, but increasing from 75 - 80 spm, is over 1/3 a bale a minute. I shoot for 13 strokes per bale (what I try to run for a 34"-38" bale), which is close to an additional 20 bales an hour, or 80 bales in typical 4 hr window here, assuming no down / inefficient time.

The biggest thing I would like to get is an improved pickup. I actually bought a junk NH 268 last year (it more than paid for itself, just on knotter parts). This baler has a supersweep pickup & I have been throwing around the idea to see if this pickup would fit on the 273. Parts diagrams for the machines are a little different, but I think it might work... Just a matter of getting time to tear into it, I guess.

I know I have put more money into the 273 than it is worth, but I have no plans to get rid of it. Even if I do get a newer baler, I would like to keep it as a backup anyway. Years ago, NH would have been the only option, but we lost our NH dealer two miles from the farm about five years ago. Closest now are JD & MF (<30 min) vs. NH (> 60 min).

#5 Mike120


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Posted 13 January 2010 - 12:27 PM

Parts seem easier to get and are available more uniformly for JD balers (in this area), however, the nearest dealership has lost its small square baler repairman to retirement....and none of the young folks have taken up that slack as this machine is not widely used any more...round balers are the thing. The NN dealership near me still has a crackerjack baler guy...and when he set my baler up...I baled >6,000 bales without a malfunction. This is not always true when a dealership does not have a qualified and experienced baler guy. Good reason for the color you buy I think.

I couldn't agree more with all that Hedge Tree says.....Especially about the dealers. Last year I got rid of my old IH-37 baler and got a JD. I've got a JD dealer about 2 miles away, but he doesn't really do balers, other than that he's great to work with. I've got a NH dealer about 5 miles away and for the life of me I cannot figure out how he stays in business. I ended up going about 40 miles away to a JD dealer for the baler. He's got great people who came out, set up and checked everything when I first baled with it and it's been running with out a hickup ever since. The NH dealer about 45 miles away has some good people but they don't like to travel down to my area. MF dealer is a little closer I've never seen any square balers in his place....He does a lot of Vermeer balers though.

#6 kfarm_EC_IL


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Posted 13 January 2010 - 01:09 PM

My plan has been to use an old worn out baler, upgrade to a little better less used model and finally a new baler. Here is why: I started with a 276NH baler that had already baled a million bales. And I screwed up about every system on it. Fixed and screwed it up some more. ( I began from scratch no baling experience at all) I then and have traded to a Gehl/ MF a good balernot very old and I'm the 2nd owner. I haven't torn up as much and now working consistancy of our bales. Once I have mastered the baling and the business has grown I will be able to buy a new baler. For me that will be an inline. I have used one before when I first started and for my operation it will work great.

Everybody is different and I could also see buy new to start with then just reading and studing the manual. Be careful and causious. Also depends on your current level of knowledge you may have been baling for years in which case what I have suggested doesn't apply.

For anyone else who is starting I would say that just because a person has driven a tractor and some implement doesn't mean the are a baler operator, or combine driver etc. I say that from lessons learned call it what you want.

good luck
Mark k

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