Reviews

Kuhn SW 4004 bale wrapper

Mark Fouhy puts the Kuhn SW 4004 bale wrapper to the test on a farm in Otorohanga.

Earlier in the year, while working in the Otorohanga area, I caught up with some of the baleage crew from local agricultural contractor Bradfield Farms. They had the new Kuhn SW 4004 bale wrapper they had recently purchased to replace an older, less efficient machine they had been operating.

After 16,000-plus bales and just about to start into its third season, I gave Tommy Fare from Bradfields a ring, to see if the Kuhn was still performing as expected.

The test

Having not seen the SW 4004 Kuhn wrapper prior to the test, arriving to the paddock on the day to an already-configured machine at 4.02 metres wide, my initial thoughts were – knowing the farm we were testing on (12-foot gateways, narrow laneways), I wouldn’t like to be the operator navigating his way around this property.

This thought only lasted a moment, as on closer inspection I discovered one of the innovative features of the new Kuhn — the hydraulic sliding crossbar, which telescopes out from a narrow 2.55 metres in transport mode, meaning the tyre equipment on your tractor is going to be the limiting factor at gateways.

In the paddock, the push of a button is all that’s required to have you ready for wrapping. At just over four metres in work mode, you have a wide machine offering great stability.

The SW 4004 is available with a Kuhn controller terminal, for those operating with an older model tractor. Or it can talk directly to the ISOBUS control unit of the tractor, as it did for the test with the Case Puma 155. With the ISOBUS control unit you can alter numbers of wrap, alter bale size to be wrapped, and percentage stretch of the film you are applying, to meet manufacturer guidelines.

With the new Kuhn, Fare says they’re achieving much greater bale throughput, applying six layers versus the four layers of the old machine. I thought the two scissor-type wrap-cutters made a tidy job — no loose ends or pieces of rubbish being left behind to pick up later.

Kuhn _bale _wrapper _3

Refilling the wrap dispenser was a simple, straightforward, and fast process — basically the only job you need to get off the tractor for. The spare rolls of wrap are carried on the drawbar — the Bradfields guys leave them in the boxes to stop them getting covered in dust before they’re needed.

The property we were working is not a pristine flat hay block, hills and narrow tracks are common place. One area the SW4004 is not so good in is ground clearance for the rollers. Although it would add extra cost to the machine, a hydraulic raise option of the rear wheels would overcome this.

I also thought a thicker alloy tube for the wrap sensors would cope better with the rough life it will have. Otherwise, I would rate overall construction and build quality very highly.

Key features

The speed of the wrapper impressed me, along with the guys at Bradfields using it. The wrapper unit getting out of the gate at the same time as the baler tractor saves tractor and labour hours, keeping the cost of the job down.

Bradfields, when pushed, has had the Kuhn SW 4004 wrapping for both its square balers at the same time, and it’s kept up. Other efficiencies have come in the form of wrap-savings. With greater accuracy on the stretch, Bradfields has been able to wrap more bales per wrap without extra rotations. If one of the wraps runs out, you can continue at half speed with the other one and replace both at the same time.

Also, if both run out part of the way through a bale, say at the third layer of six, the machine remembers and will only apply the remaining three layers required to finish off the bale, saving wrap also.

Ease of operation

The IntelliWrap system is very clever and makes it easy for an operator to learn and still be very productive. Wade, the main man on the Kuhn for the first season, had some farming experience, and had done some fencing, but was new to contracting. He had the Kuhn performing as it should be very quickly, and generally only let the baler beat him out of the paddock by a few bales — not by three hours like the old machine.

The ease of use is important for a big contracting firm. Being able to put different staff on different machines, like the wrapper, provides flexibility if someone is away. Oil flow required is minimum 40 litres per minute, which doesn’t require a high horsepower tractor and can be got around with the optional PTO-driven oil pump to power the hydraulics of the wrapper.

The drive-right-through design is also a bonus when working on less-than-flat paddocks with the big square baler. Bales can be dropped in less-than-ideal spots and the Kuhn was very handy at getting the bales that had ended up a bit close to the fence — as long as they were sticking out a bit — saving time with the loader and grabs.

Servicing

Nothing major or difficult involved in this area — Fare thought half an hour would be ample to check over the SW 4004, allowing time to grease pivot points on the hydraulic drawbar and Cat II headstock for connection to the tractor.

The four double sets of rollers also have grease nipples requiring daily greasing. By this stage your tractor should be warmed up, with eight rolls of wrap loaded onto the drawbar carriers, along with the two on the wrapper arms.

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Bradfields has its own mechanics on staff, but allows operators to take responsibility for the machines they are operating on a daily basis. An annual service is completed by local Kuhn dealer and service agent Giltrap Agri Zone before the season gets underway.

Being a major international agricultural machinery manufacturer, Kuhn is always improving/refining machines to make them the best they can for the end user. To this extent, Bradfields has worked with design engineers with a pre-production/prototype of the SW 4004 before buying its machine. It has received software upgrades as and when they have become available.

One area of the machine Kuhn, and customers, has obviously not been 100-percent happy with is the drawbar, with the Bradfield machine having been modified/improved over the time it has been in operation, showing the commitment of Kuhn to its product and customers.

Bradfields operation

The Bradfield operation includes dairy farming, agricultural, and rural contracting, and purchase and sale of feed supplements. When I last asked, the fleet of tractors stood at 20, along with associated cultivation and forage equipment — nine trucks and three forage harvesters.

Bradfields runs a full-time staff of 22, including management, drivers, and office and administration roles. In the peak of the season, staff will get up to around 40. With the size of the business, Bradfields needs new staff each year to cover the busy period. Some come from overseas with skills, and others are local with the right attitude, sense of humour, and willingness to learn.

The verdict

If I were in the market for a new bale wrapper, I’d certainly look very closely at the Kuhn SW 4004 as an option.

My three key reasons to recommend it would be: speed and efficiency of wrapping; versatility, being able to switch between square and round at the push of a button and potentially saving the cost of purchasing another machine; and ease of operation, which allows you to just get on and get the job done without trouble.

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Photography: Mark Fouhy

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