Safety and efficiency are the benefits touted most by two farmers with top inventions at last month's Mid-America Alfalfa Expo in Hastings, NE.

One top draw is a mechanism, dubbed the Inforcer, that quickly and safely unplugs a round bale from the tractor seat. The other is an attachment that essentially turns a front-end loader into a forklift. Both inventions are newly patented.

Keith Mason wanted to move more big bales in less time on his 800-acre alfalfa operation near Litchfield, NE.

“I had problems with front-end loaders — they put too much weight on the front of our tractors,” says Mason. “And regular forklifts ride too rough.”

Unhappy with the options he had for moving 4 × 4 × 8' bales from the field to his hay yards and then onto semitrailers, he designed and built an attachment for his tractor-mounted loader.

The heavy-duty unit attaches to the front end of the tractor and extends beneath it to the drawbar. Mason says the attachment has assist or caster wheels that carry the load, transferring part of the weight to the frame beneath the tractor. Powered by tractor hydraulics, the unit can be adjusted to carry more or less weight.

“Using a 105-hp tractor, I can carry up to 4,000 lbs at a time with my front-end loader,” he says. “It's much faster. I can load a semi with 24 tons of hay in 10-15 minutes. It functions as a built-in shock absorber, too. I can go faster over rough terrain.”

At press time, Mason had just reached a licensing agreement with Besler Industries, Cambridge, NE, to manufacture and sell the attachment. The retail price hasn't been announced.

For more info, contact Besler Industries, P.O. Box B, Cambridge, NE 69022. Phone: 308-697-4866.

Jerry Schmitcke of Menoken, ND, was tired of getting off his tractor to unplug his baler. “I was having the same problem a lot of other hay growers experience when they're putting up hay that's very dry,” points out Schmitcke. “The baler would become choked with hay as it accumulated in the pickup area. Consequently, I was underneath my baler quite often and thought, ‘One of these days I'm going to get hurt’.”

That safety concern inspired him to design and build the Inforcer. Here's how it works: A pivoting 2½"-diameter double-strength steel pipe is mounted between the baler frame-rails at the end of the pickup area. The pipe is fitted with a plate that extends all the way across the pickup head. The plate has four 4" steel hooks underneath to help push the hay through the pickup.

Operated by tractor hydraulics, it has a 2 × 10" hydraulic cylinder and valve. To unplug the baler, the operator simply opens the valve to rotate the pipe and push the plate and hooks back toward the baling chamber.

“You only operate the Inforcer when you need it,” Schmitcke says. “If you're looking back, you can tell immediately if your bale's not starting because the hay builds up in the pickup. Unless you've really got the baler plugged up, one or two movements will get the hay moving.

“When you spend more time baling and less time unplugging the baler, you can get your hay put up when its moisture content and condition are at their peak.”

Schmitcke recently teamed up with Sund Mfg., Newburg, ND, which will make and market the invention. It can be bolted on most round balers. For a limited time, it's available for $800. This summer, Schmitcke will field-test a unit for Hesston 3 × 3 × 8' rectangular balers.

For more information, contact Jerry Schmitcke, 2801 171st Street SE, Menoken, ND 58558. Phone: 701-673-3375. Or, visit on the Internet.