IF you want to know how a machine really performs, ask a contractor.
They're the ones that generally go for reliability more than price, because reliability has got to be the middle name of a contractor.
New Norcia farmer and hay contractor Gavin Halligan fits that mould.
Last year he bought a new Krone V1800 Fortima round baler from Boekeman Machinery, Northam, to replace a similar model that had served him well for four years.
And having done a "lazy" 8000 bales last hay season, it's not hard to list a number of positives about the baler's performance.
Gavin, who contract a large area of the Central Midlands, says the main plus, is of course productivity.
"This baler handles the drier conditions really well," he said.
"On the days when you get those hot easterly winds, you can get balers chaffing up, but this one doesn't so I can get maximum baling done and some times I've done 72 hours straight in a shift without any problems to the bales.
"In the hot conditions, the hay expands and chaffs but with the Krone it has got variable pressure to keep the bale tightly compressed at all times, which means you can change the size of the bale on-the-go to customer requirements."
Generally the Fortima V1800 will produce 90cm x 180cm (3 x 6ft) but Gavin bales smaller for clients wanting to transport bales on cattle trucks, generally back-loading from a selling centre.
"At the moment the big market is for five foot (150cm) bales," Gavin said.
One of the Fortima's features that is pleasing for Gavin is that there are no belts, which is in line with his philosophy of keeping it simple.
"It's one of the main reasons why we bought a Krone along with the fact that we knew we could easily get parts from Boekeman Machinery as well as service back-up," he said.
"But so far hardly anything has gone wrong, just a broken shear bolt."
Gavin said the new V1800 had improved the drive cam and the main chain that forms the bale, meaning a more consistent bale.
The cam-less pick-up is a big improvement and according to Krone provides a number of obvious advantages.
It results in a more clear-cut design with less moving parts that would be subject to wear and tear.
Krone also says further costs are saved on reduced service and maintenance.
In addition, the cam-less EasyFlow pick-up operates at a 30 per cent higher speed than a standard pick-up with cam and offers noticeably quieter running.
The MultiCut rotor cutter gives accurate cuts and offers convenient knife change and locking.
Feeding the crops in a continuous flow through the knives, MultiCut produces cutting lengths as short as 60mm (2.5in) when using all 17 knives.
The models without the cutting system have a 40cm (16in) diameter feed rotor that is arranged between the pick-up and the baling chamber to improve the flow of crop into the machine and boost the overall output.
Its tines are attached in a V arrangement and it is this design that accounts for firm edges when baling from thin and narrow windrows.
Krone also claims the chain elevator technology reduces tractor power input to an absolute minimum.
The highlight of the baling chamber is the new and larger pulleys, which are more durable, harder wearing, give quieter running and provide for higher densities.
Narrowly spaced slats reduce friction and power loss in order to provide superior bale feed and baling performance.
As the slats mesh with the material, they give the elevator a better grip for a more positive rotation of the bale - a big benefit in very dry or very wet crops.
The new twine box is sealed against water and rain and stores up to 11 balls of twine. The new twine tying system uses four threads to wrap the bales tightly and cut down on the tying cycle.
Baler operation is new too.
The new Comfort operating unit brings ISOBUS compatibility so that the operator can operate Fortima from the Beta terminal of the CCI-ISOBUS terminal.
All operations are carried out from the cab, including function testing and setting the number of wraps. In addition, the operator can program a wide range of features.
This year, Gavin is expecting another busy hay season with another program that will produce 8000 round bales.
And with his new baler, it will undoubtedly be a kinder, gentler season, as he enjoys the new technology "tweaks" to improve the baler's efficiency.