With over 2,000 round bales to make each year for his horse livery business and his own beef cattle, Rob John is striving for the best grass harvesting operation that he can achieve.
He’s making haylage and some hay for his equestrian customers, and silage for around 180 cattle, with quality in all forage being of paramount importance.
In 2020, he invested in a Kuhn FBP baler-wrapper combination, replacing his round baler and removing his reliance on a contractor for wrapping. It’s a move that has brought new levels of efficiency and introduced an all-important element of control to a job where timing is so often critical.
Farming around 440 acres at Lower Stockland Farm, St Fagans, near Cardiff, Rob combines DIY livery for 80-100 horses with a beef suckler enterprise. Limousin-cross and Hereford-cross cows are bred to the farm’s own pedigree Hereford bull to produce calves that are sold either as stores or fattened.
“We have about 200 acres of grass that we cut for forage, taking two cuts in the season,” says Rob. “We have a front and rear mounted mower conditioner combination and have our own tedder and twin rotor rake, so it was really only the wrapping where we needed outside help.
“Now, with the FBP baler-wrapper combination, we have full control of the process and can work quickly and efficiently to ensure we maximise the quality of the forage, whether that’s haylage for the horses or silage for the cattle.
“We’ve even wrapped some hay this year, just to remove any chance of it spoiling, and it’s coming out really well.”
Rob opted for the Kuhn FBP combination first and foremost because of its reliable baling capability. With its heavy duty bale chamber with 18 integral steel rollers, it has produced 2,150 bales of all types made in its first season at Lower Stockland – all very solid and well formed – so Rob has been very pleased with that aspect. He has the FBP 3135 Opticut model, with 14-knife cutting rotor. By using seven knives at a time, he’s able to produce a chopped forage that is suitable for all his needs.
He’s also been impressed with the wrapping, with the FBP’s 3D functionality allowing optimum bale coverage and no areas of weakness that can lead to problems with air ingress.
The real game-changer, however, is Kuhn’s film binding system, an optional feature on the FBP that removes the need for net binding and increases the overall sealing of the bale significantly.
“The film binding system is a revelation,” says Rob, “and I cannot see us ever using net again. Net is a nightmare to deal with, so bales that are both bound and wrapped with the same material just makes everything so much easier.
“The forage quality is also very good. We see very little spoilage, and with the grass being chopped before its baled, the material is easier to handle. This is particularly important with the haylage that is often used in hay nets. We’re seeing a lot less waste generally as a result.”
Rob runs the FBP combination on a 185 horsepower tractor and, although the machine is ISOBUS compatible, has opted to have the Kuhn CCI control box fitted. This allows full control of baling and wrapping from the tractor cab.
“We have the display all wired in so it’s just a case of plugging in and away we go,” adds Rob. “It’s a relatively simple machine to use and, when conditions are right, we can bale and wrap as many as 50 bales an hour.
“We’re able to use the same pre-stretched film rolls for bale binding and wrapping, which is another area of time saving and efficiency. Also, having just one material to take for recycling is an advantage; it helps us to meet the requirements for farm assurance and must be better for the environment.”
Working through his first season with a new machine, Rob did encounter one or two teething issues, such as bales falling off the wrapper when operating on banks and a build-up of material hampering door closure. Hence, good dealer back-up to sort any issues is important.
Overall, the investment in an FBP baler-wrapper combination has for Rob John resulted in improved forage quality, more control over grass harvesting, and the removal of any reliance on a busy contractor. It’s a step forward in efficiency in one of the farm’s most critical operations.