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First five self-propelled balers hit the market

By Staff | Oct 8, 2018

THE NEW ZR5-1200 self-propelled baler removes the tractor from the baling process.



EMMETSBURG – Vermeer, in limited availability for this year’s corn stalk baling season, has made available a limited number of its new ZR5-1200 self-propelled balers.

Emmetsburg, an area where baling corn stalks is a common practice due to the cellulosic ethanol plant located east of town, was an area chosen to release one of the new machines.

Eric Woodford, owner of Woodford Equipment in Emmetsburg, hosted local producers to his dealership last week to showcase the new self-propelled baler, which has already been sold.

“It is a big honor to sell the first one in Iowa,” he said.

The ZR5-1200 self-propelled baler was unveiled at Husker Harvest Days last year and officially launched at the Farm Progress Show in August.

“We have been building on the excitement,” said Bart Elder, territory manager with Vermeer. “And the excitement has been really high since we unveiled it.”

According to Vermeer, the ZR5-1200 is the first of its kind – a self-propelled, zero-turn baler.

“It’s virtually the first automated self-propelled round baler that has ever been produced,” said Elder.

He added that labor is getting to be an issue “and it doesn’t take an experienced operator to run this machine.”

Elder explained when you are in the baling mode and if you’re in the automated function, the machine will stop itself, go into the tie cycle and it will quarter turn in either direction that you want it to, eject the bale and turn you back in front of the windrow ready to bale again.

“All you do is push one button. The ‘go’ button and you are going,” he said. “If you can steer it, you can bale with it.”

Being the new ZR5-1200 is a self-propelled unit, producers can completely take the tractor out of the equation.

“A tractor is meant to run multiple implements,” said Elder. “This power unit is designed to run the baler, so we are making the baler much more efficient by being able to control the speed of the pickup separately and match that to crop conditions or different times throughout the baling process. If we want to increase the speed or decrease that speed, that should add longevity to the baler versus a conventional baler for one thing.”

“It weighs significantly less than a tractor-baler combination, so there is less compaction for sure,” said Woodford.

According to Vermeer, a patent-pending independent suspension system within the ZR5 self-propelled baler allows operators to better handle the uneven ground conditions that naturally come with baling.

“It’s really designed for comfort as well, so if you think about a long day baling in tractor, the design of the machine is where the cab is placed more forward in the total implement,” said Elder. “If you think about a tractor, when you’re riding you’re sitting in the middle of rear wheels, so you are taking all of the load. And with the design of the suspension it is much more comfortable. Operator fatigue at the end of the day should be a lot less.”

Information provided by Vermeer said perhaps the most notable feature of the ZR5, aside from being self-propelled, is its zero-turn capability.

“We have put a baler on, for a lack of a better term, a zero-turn lawnmower,” said Elder. “If anyone has ever mowed with a conventional lawnmower, or zero turn, you quickly realize how much more efficient it is, how much easier it is. That’s really where the thought came in, so we can turn on a dime. You’re not doing any damage to drive lines. We eliminate those types of parts of that machine by making it fully hydraulic and hydrostatic.”

“There’s field efficiency with the zero turnability,” added Woodford. “Some farmers spend 20 percent of their time on the end rows turning around. We are spending zero.”

Other features include up to 30 miles per hour road speed and the baler on the ZR5-1200 is a corn-stalk baler.

“I think it’s a real milestone,” said Woodford. “When you look back at the first self-propelled combine, you would never go back to a pull-type combine.”

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