Bale silage is catching on all over the U.S. and Europe. But making it takes two machines - two tractors and two operators.

Until now, that is.

The Conleys, at Pleasanton, KS, found a way to hold down the labor and equipment requirements of bale silage production. They're using one of the first production models of the Vermeer Ensiler, a baler and wrapper in one machine.

The Ensiler, which will be introduced to the company's dealers in September, combines Vermeer's 504 L-Series baler with a built-in automatic wrapping system. It will be readily available from the company's dealers in plenty of time for the 1999 hay harvest.

"We make the bale, wrap it with untreated sisal twine and then, when it's ejected from the bale chamber, the wrapper takes over and covers it with plastic," says Linda Conley.

"It really simplifies baled silage," she reports. "We can end the day with more bales wrapped, using just one tractor and operator."

"Hay producers can bale longer, starting out the day in wet hay for ensiling," says Bill Hood, a Vermeer engineer. "As the hay dries, they can shut off the automatic wrapper and bale dry hay."

He points out, though, that whether hay is baled wet for ensiling or dry, it must have the right moisture content."There is a gap between the ideal moist ure content for baled silage and the content at which hay can be stored dry," he says. "On a good drying day, that may be a short time, but hay producers need to be aware of this."

Hood points out that, while the baler can turn out 5'-high by 4'-wide bales of dry hay, the wrapper is designed for bales up to only 4' high.

The Conleys point out that the Ensiler costs about the same as buying a baler and wrapper as two separate machines. But it saves time and labor and frees up a tractor.

They run from 200 to 250 cow-calf pairs every year. Their hay ground includes 45 acres of alfalfa that's cut three or four times, plus 23 acres of sudangrass, cut two or three times. They also put up 200 acres of fescue and prairie hay.

Last year, the Conleys wrapped about 1,000 silage bales. This year, they wrapped well over half of their forage production. They figure having more bale silage will help hold down feed costs.

"Cattle winter better on silage bales and with less supplemental grain and protein," Linda maintains.

Linda and her son Charles Jr. are the principal baler operators, although her husband Charles and second son Brandon also take their turns.

"We started wrapping high-moisture hay to make baled silage four years ago, and we've increased the number of bales we ensile every year since then," says Linda.