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Combine Baler Turns Straw, Chaff Into Money
Alberta livestock producers faced a severe feed shortage last year due to drought. Charles Hepfner of Morinville turned the problem into an opportunity by putting together a "combine baler" which he used to make small square bales of dry field peas, barley, and wheat as he harvested the crops.
  He removed the pickup from a Deere 327 small square baler and modified it so he could pull it behind his Deere 7700 combine. The combine's chopper drive powers a canvas conveyor that delivers straw and chaff from the sieves directly to the baler throat. No part of the crop ever touches the ground. The chopper drive also pto-drives the baler via a gearbox.
  The baler is supported by a pair of large caster wheels off an old Prasco air seeder. The caster wheels keep the baler following in a fixed position directly behind the combine, even on turns.
  "It worked better than I expected. I sold the bales for feed, and the extra income really helped out," says Hepfner, who used the combine-baler for the first time last August. "Our peas were only about 1 ft. tall and the crop was light, so when I used it for the first time and looked back I could hardly believe how many bales it was leaving in the field. It looked like someone had shipped them there and dropped them off in rows. Many of the people driving on a nearby highway stopped to watch as I worked. Some of them asked me if they could purchase the bales right away before I was even done combining. I ended up getting 25 to 30 bales per acre at $3 a bale, and the customers picked them up.
  "I came up with the idea because our crop was so short and light that it would have been impossible for a baler to pick it up out of a windrow. The straw would have just rolled in front of the pickup. By delivering material directly from the combine sieves I'm able to save all the crop, including the chaff.
  "I got the baler from a neighbor who wasn't using it any more. My total cost to retrofit it was less than $2,000."
  Hepfner removed the baler's original tongue and used 3-in. sq. tubing to make a shorter one. The tongue hooks up to a clevis and pin that's welded to the back of the combine. "The clevis allows the baler to flex up and down when going over ditches and gulleys," says Hepfner. A tie rod from a big truck is anchored to the center part of the tubing and extends back under the baler, causing the baler to be fixed in a triangle so that it can't change its left or right position relative to the combine. "The length of the tie rod can be adjusted to change its length and move the baler left or right as necessary," says Hepfner.
  Hepfner removed the combine chopper and ran a shaft from the conveyor to the chopper drive pulley. The shaft drives a right angle gearbox that mounts on a pedestal. Another shaft goes straight back to the baler.
  Hepfner set up a couple of mirrors on the side of the combine so he can watch the baler operate as he drives the combine. He also installed a straw walker alarm off an IH combine so he'll know if the baler ever stops working and straw starts backing up into the combine.
  "This idea works perfect in a drought when the crop is short and you want to save all the straw for feed. I don't think it would pay as well in a normal year when there's less demand for feed. However, cattle producers and farmers with small to mid-size combines who want to get the highest possible feed value out of their crops and aren't too concerned about harvest speed might want to try it. Small square bales aren't widely used any more, but in a dry year when people are desperate for anything, they're not as picky about what kind of bales they buy.
  "I plan to use my combine-baler on peas even in good year, because peas are high in protein and make really good feed that's easy to sell."
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Charles Hepfner, 9501 103 St., Morinville, Alberta, Canada T8R 1G1 (ph 780 939-6196).

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2003 - Volume #27, Issue #1