High-quality hay in small bales brings big bucks at the barn, but getting it to customers used to be a problem for Jim Toews.
“After it was in our shed, every small bale was handled three or four times before it got to the horse,” recalls Toews, a farm machinery dealer northeast of Edmonton, Alberta.
He cured those handling headaches by replacing the pickup mechanism on a Hesston 4755 big square baler with his own device that enables the machine to package 12 small square bales into a single big one.
“At the barn or hay shed, you just cut the four big twines on the big square bale and you've got 12 little bales again, ready to carry away,” he says.
Toews and his son, Warren, have used the rebaler for three seasons, baling about 800 acres each year. They operate three balers with a single tractor, using a mechanical drive to each baler (another Toews invention). Coming through later with the big baler, they pick up as many as 1,200 small bales/hour, producing 100 big squares.
It's faster than the baler's original capacity, says Toews.
“If you're doing loose hay, normally the plunger only moves the bale back about 6" each time. Ours is moving bales back 14" and two at a time. Our flake, if you want to call it that, is a 14" bale that's already compressed. The big baler doesn't have to work hard, and it doesn't load the tractor at all because you don't have to compress the product.”
Still, rebaling and moving the bales to storage doesn't save much time or money compared with other small-bale-handling methods, according to Toews.
“It's the subsequent handling that is by far more efficient,” he says.
Rebaled bales offer the same loading and hauling advantages as big square bales, he adds, and the hay is worth a lot more money.
“We have the efficiencies of a big bale, and we're selling small bales that are worth twice or three times as much per pound,” he says.
Toews adjusted the size of his small square bales so they would fit efficiently into the big baler's chamber, which is 32" wide and 34.5" high. Using Nylatron attached to ½" plywood, he shimmed down the small baler's 14 × 18" chamber to 14 × 17". The small bales are 32" long so that two, on edge, fill the larger chamber.
It would be possible to squeeze two 18" bales into the chamber, but that would lead to another problem. He uses vans for shipping, stacking the bale packages three wide and three high, then pushing them inside. It's a tight fit.
“When we load them, we've only got about 2" of room on top,” he says. “If the small bales were any bigger, we wouldn't be able to load the trailer full.”
Toews' pickup mechanism puts each small bale into the big baler on the 17" edge. The bales stop on a pivoting floor below the forming chamber. When two are inside, the floor pivots and stands the two upright, like a single 32 × 34" flake. The floor resets itself, getting ready for another pair, while his plunger pushes the first two to the back.
Six pairs fill the forming chamber, producing a big square bale that's 32 × 34 × 93" and ready to tie. The baler then ties the twine at right angles to the strings on the small bales.
The concept, he says, probably would work with other baler models. So far, he only has the one patented unit, but is looking for a manufacturer.
For more information, contact James Toews, P.O. Box 53, Waska-tenau, Alberta, Canada T0A 3P0. Phone: 780-358-2356 (house) or 780-358-2287 (office). Email:firstname.lastname@example.org.