Benefits of mini balers on farm

By: Vivienne Haldane, Photography by: Vivienne Haldane and supplied


It’s not often you find farmers looking to do things on a smaller scale, but for this Hawke’s Bay farmer, downsizing proved a sound business move

Ten years ago, in the middle of one of Hawke’s Bay’s biting droughts, Steve Treseder pondered the idea of having smaller bales that were easier to handle on steeper country, rather than trying to heave portions of large bales onto the back of his farm bike trailer.

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The 38hp Case IH 35B tractor and Star mini baler enables a speedy operation in the paddock

He typed ‘small bales’ in to his computer and it came up with mini bales. "I’d never heard of them before, but that enquiry put me in touch with Chris Blair, who, at the time was importing Star mini baling gear," he says.

"From there, I contacted Agpac who handle the wrapping gear and asked if there was anyone in Hawke’s Bay doing this. There wasn’t. So I did my due diligence, went ahead and ordered the gear and started Mini Bales Hawke’s Bay."

Since then, Steve’s business has proven to be a steady sideline, bringing in clients from all over Hawke’s Bay.

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All wrapped and ready to go

As well as running his mini bale business, for the past 30 years, Steve has managed a 247-hectare sheep and beef farm at Oueroa.

He and his wife Julieann, who is a police officer, also own a 125-hectare property nearby. This March, Steve was a finalist in the Ballance Farm Environment Awards and won the WaterForce Integrated Management Award for the 247-hectare farm he manages for Nisbett Taumata Estate Ltd.

What’s in the shed?

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The tractor and baler are compact and efficient units

As you’d imagine, the mini bale gear is compact, so Steve is able to transport it on
a truck, trailer, and two utes.

The baler and new Case IH 35B tractor go on the Daihatsu Delta with a 30hp Kioti LK30 tractor and mower on the tandem axle trailer. The Ford Courier ute takes the rake and tows another ute carrying wrappers and the rest of the gear.

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Ready access to moveable parts makes for easy maintenance

"It’s a bit of a travelling road train but it’s all very transportable," he says. Steve’s original tractor was a small orchard tractor, a 50hp Shibaura that, unlike his new one, didn’t have hydrostatic transmission (no clutch). Given the many stops and starts required when working in a paddock, having a smooth operation is useful and Steve says the 38hp Case IH helps the operation. 

"It’s like driving an automatic car and lots easier to use because you can keep your revs going," he says.

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The baler has a density adjuster for different pasture types  

When Steve began doing mini bales, he used just one tractor but soon found he needed two: one for the baler and the other with a Star twin drum mower and rake attachments.

The baler is a Star MFG imported from Japan and sold in New Zealand by Josef of Southland Baleage in Invercargill. It can handle different crops but works best on "mid-shin to no more than knee-high length pasture that’s not too stalky or dry." The density of a bale can be easily adjusted depending on the crop.

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 The Star rake

Pastures vary. "Often, it’s lucerne, or clover and rye," Steve says. "Like anything, the product is only as good as what you start with. High-quality pasture with a good fertiliser history reaps the best results."

Who uses mini bales?

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Another load to be wrapped, near Craggy Range in Hawke’s Bay

While mini bales appeal to a niche market such as lifestyle block owners, large-scale farmers use them as well. "People like the convenience of them. Horse owners, for example, can easily chuck a couple of them in their horse floats," he says.

"Besides this, small blocks don’t have the gear for big bales; they might open up a big bale and find it’s gone rotten because they are feeding out so little, so this mini bales work out to be more economical as there’s no wastage.

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Six layers of recyclable wrap are used for mini bales

"You don’t need a hay barn to store them; they can be stored outside. One place I know had seven-year-old bales, yet when we opened them up, they were still as good as new."
Steve’s business does between 5000 and 10,000 bales per year; last year it did more than 7000.

"It all depends on the season," he says. "If you get loads of growth, we do lots of bales. We can do up to 100 bales per hour when the going is good. Some years you go into a paddock and get 100 and sometimes in the same paddock in another year you’ll get 300."

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Bales are easy to lift at just 30kg each

From cutting to stacking, the cost is $13 plus GST per bale. "Once we get to 100 bales, we start crediting bales, so the more we do, the cheaper it becomes.

"A lot of the large contractors are too busy and their machinery is too big to get around the small blocks so that’s where we come in handy. We also take care of the jobs such as topping paddocks and doing some orchard mowing when required. No job is too big or too small," Steve says.

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Driver, James Tennent checks progress

The mini baling season runs from October often through until March. Steve employs a local man, John Giddens, as his second driver, plus a team of young lads to help pick up and wrap the bales.

Being a busy farmer, you’d wonder where Steve manages to fit this into his schedule, but he says he really enjoys it because it’s something different.

"It gets me off the farm and out meeting and talking to other people. I love that. It means you’re not looking at cattle and sheep all day."

Mini bales benefits

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Mini bales are highly nutritious for stock
  • Easy to handle. At around 30kg per bale, they are relatively light and easy to pick up.
  • Easy to store. Because they are wrapped (six layers of recyclable wrap), you don’t need a barn or shed for storage.
  • Long lasting. Steve recommends using bait stations to ward off rats and mice.
  • Clover pasture makes a dense bale and ryegrass makes a bigger, lighter bale.
  • Mini bales can be fed to horses, goats, deer, sheep, cows and cattle.
  • The bales have won awards at agricultural shows for their quality.
  • Light machinery equals less impact on the ground.
  • Sil-All® Inoculant by Nutritech is spayed on to the windrow before it goes into the baler. This is a natural biological silage inoculant, formulated with beneficial bacteria and sugar releasing enzymes to preserve forage. 

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