SUCH was the season last year, that the average straw yield beat the grain yield for the first time at the SP Hay property near Brookton.
General manager Rob Pauley said 20,000 tonnes of straw was baled from the property from 14,000 hectares of oaten hay.
Despite the strong production, the hay and straw was stacked in a third of the usual time thanks to a switch from telehandlers to bale runners.
“We have been caught before with 3000 bales on the ground and getting 50-70 millimetres of rain in a storm, so it was a good move,’’ Mr Pauley said.
He manages a 5000ha cropping program at the Brookton property, growing barley and oats for grain, as well as the oaten hay.
A bale-direct system is used on their harvester with the cereals, while a Krone baler is used for baling the hay.
Previously, Manitou telehandlers were used at the Brookton property and the hay in paddocks was stacked into truckloads or back to a common stack.
“We have still got two telehandlers for stacking trucks, but they were pretty rough,” Mr Pauley said.
“You were OK in them for four to five hours, and then you couldn’t work.”
They invested in three ProAG 16k Plus Bale Runners, bought from Geoff Perkins Farm Machinery Centre, Narrogin – two for the Brookton property and one for the company’s South Australian operation.
The move replaced four telehandlers at Brookton.
SP Hay had previously bought nine telehandlers and was selling them after four to five years of work.
“With the bale runners, we averaged 80 bales an hour paddock stacked,” Mr Pauley said.
“But we did have a guy doing 120-130 bales an hour.
“We now do one stack a paddock, or bring four to five paddocks back into the one stack.
“The productivity gain is massive because telehandlers can’t stack what you can do with a stacker (bale runner).
“With everything a farm has in its shed, for $138,000 it’s a no brainer.’’
He said the bale runner drivers continued until baling was finished each day and every bale was stacked.
“With the ProAG machines, you can keep going because there is no fatigue,” he said.
“Everyone knows that with telehandlers you tire quickly.’’
Mr pauley said the bale runners were operator intense and it was the “Nintendo savvy’’ people who were good with them.
“These young guys really make them sing,’’ he said.
Engineered by Morris, the ProAG’s computer-controlled operation simplifies picking and makes stacking faster.
To pick up and load bales, operators just toggle a loader button and the computer determines the motion of the alignment arms, loader, grab hooks and power slide.
Its Auto Align feature allows bales to be turned sideways or fit between the arms.
The alignment arms centre the bale first and grab hooks lift and hold it in place in order to pick up a second bale.
A power slider pushes each bale row back automatically and a push-off feature helps move bales off the forks.
A hitch to steer the 16K Plus, while backing up to an existing stack, also helps to make straight stacks fast.
Heavy duty running gear is connected to the frame with leaf spring suspension and the Bale Runners come with standard high flotation tyres and tandem axles.
The dual axles can also be equipped with air brakes.
“They have got truck suspension under them and there are sensors to alert you to things and the hitch and push-off features are really good,’’ Mr Pauley said.
“Our downtime for maintenance with the machines is also minimal.’’
The SP Hay stacks comprise 42 bales along the face by six bales high and seven bales wide.
Straw ‘capper’ bales were previously used along the top of stacks in case of rain damage, but tarps are now being fitted.
According to Perkins Machinery Centre dealer principal Geoff Perkins, there was growing interest in large square balers and the ProAG 16k Plus Bale Runners in recent seasons, particularly for upgrading from telehandlers to gain the benefits of the bale runners.
“Bringing a lot of bales into one stack is a major benefit, helping to save on logistics,” he said.
More information: mcintoshdistribution.com.au