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Cover story: KUHN VB 7160 baler

Farm Trader takes an in-depth look at the KUHN VB 7160 baler, putting it to work in the Waikato

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The KUHN VB 7160 working in tandem with the KUHN RW 1810 wrapper for the complete baleage job

After what seems like 12 months of winter, it feels like we’ve finally hit spring. Days are getting longer, calves and lambs are running in the paddocks, and the grass is trying to grow. And like hibernating bears, contractors’ tractors, harvesters, and equipment are slowly emerging from their warm sheds, eager to get back into work making hay while the sun (hopefully) shines, which is where the new KUHN VB 7160 baler comes in.

Getting all the ducks in a row for early-season grass harvesting is tricky at the best of times. Trying to arrange the ideal conditions to see the new KUHN 7160 baler in action involved wrangling unpredictable weather challenges, having newly arrived machinery ready to perform and finding grass that hadn’t been flattened by squalling winds or pelting rain so we could film the new baler in action.

Fortunately, Deane Hughes from the new KUHN dealership in Hamilton managed to coordinate all the moving parts with military precision, and we managed to sneak a machinery test into one of the very few windows between badly behaved weather.

Being the first of the KUHN 7100 Series balers in the country and only recently assembled, initial calibration and set-up had to be carried out before we could get underway. With Ryan Burney, KUHN product specialist, and a couple of other guys from the Norwood team up from Palmerston North, the set-up was sorted and the VB 7160 was ready for her maiden outing.

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The KUHN VB 7160 baler produces high-density bales in all conditions

As you would expect, the VB 7160 fired up and worked like a dream, straight out of the box as such.  With a seven-hectare block to bale near Hamilton Airport to work in, this had the added benefit of being handy to the local KUHN dealership.

With the grass mowed and rowed up for us by the team at Bradfield Farms, all we had to do was get on and bale and wrap it before the next lot of rain swept in. The KUHN VB 7160 is the newest model to arrive in New Zealand, and for those who want to see it in action for themselves, two demo models will be running throughout spring and summer in both the North and South Islands. All going to plan, the Combi version should also have arrived before the end of the year.

KUHN balers have a great reputation for producing tin can bales, i.e. round on the ends with nice sharp corners, producing a high-quality, dense bale — some people would even call these the ‘perfect bale’ — which transports well. The new model balers like the VB 7160 are of higher performance again, presenting a heavy-duty machine capable of handling even challenging baling conditions.

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The KUHN VB 7160 requires just 88kW/120hp @ PTO

Designed to sit at the top of the range of the KUHN baler line-up for both capacity and features, KUHN’s testing has this baler capacity sitting at 30 tonnes per hour. Depending on grass baled, this could work out to be 60 bales @ 500kg (haylage) or 50 bales @ 600kg (baleage).

Coming from being used to operating a Combi, the first thing I noticed as an operator is how quickly the process takes place: door closed, open, bale ejected, and door closed again can be completed in a mere four seconds – that’s hardly the blink of an eye and is the fastest in the market. For our test day, the grass had been rowed up with a quad rotor rake. Although the rows were far from big or challenging for this mighty machine, with a 2.3-metre-wide pickup, the VB 7160 balers should handle up to two-metre rows with ease from quad or twin rotor rakes.

For bale uniformity, baling out of a twin rotor rake is always easier. With not a huge number of bales to get through, and pretty light, drier rows, we did get up to 16km/hour to see if we could put the baler under pressure (it performed beautifully and wasn’t under pressure at any stage). My gut feeling is that with a sharp set of knives operating at 12km/hour, you could probably get through most rows put in front of you with no drama.   

Pickup and rotor

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Fixed pickup guide wheel

The 2.3-metre pickup has five rows of pickup tines, spaced at 61mm. The pendulum design incorporated into the pickup design means there should be very little left behind after the baler has been through.

Pickup guide wheels are fixed as standard with holes for height adjustment and pivoting pickup wheels are an option.

A simple but effective design feature used by KUHN is the notched ‘V’ on the left-hand side of the baler. Turnbuckle adjustment of the drawbar allows adjustment of the baler to suit the towing height of the tractor, for optimal crop flow from the row through the pickup and rotor to the bale chamber.

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The five-tine bar offers a 2.3m wide pickup

KUHN makes a number of different rotors, with the Opticut 14 being the rotor best suited to New Zealand conditions. This has side augers feeding into the rotor with the option of 0/4/7/7/14 knives. With 14 knives in, you have a theoretical cut of 70mm. However, many farmers and contractors choose to operate half a bank of knives at a time, getting a morning’s work done, and then using the second bank of seven knives when the first start to dull and draw more horsepower.

More importantly, dropping the hydraulic floor down and opening the rear door presents the knives (which are individually spring-loaded for protection) for easy removal for sharpening at the end of the day, with no tools required for removal.

In terms of blockages, there should be no need to get off the tractor to manually clear any blockages. If you haven’t cleared it by removing the knives, you can disengage the rotor bind and eject your bale before continuing by lowering the hydraulic drop floor and saving time.      

Bale chamber

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The variable chamber can produce bales from 0.8 to 1.6m

In KUHN’s world, VB model balers are variable belt models. The VB 7160 has a 120cm wide chamber, which can produce bales from 80 to 160cm in diameter, using an endless four-belt system. A twin-tension arm system is used to ensure perfect tension. The front arm creates the optimal starting chamber to form the bale, while the rear tension arm ensures high belt tension to produce a nice tight bale.

A feature of the KUHN VB 7160 is its dual moisture sensors within the bale chamber. Working together with the I-DENSE system, baling pressure is automatically adjusted to suit different crops and conditions. This is just one example of the successful partnership between technology and innovation.

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A sensor on the bale kicker lets you know the bale is clear to shut the door

Clear visual arrows on the monitor give an easy indication of which side of the bale needs filling to help produce near-perfect bales every time. Like most balers, visibility of the bale when being released from the bale chamber is not great, but cleverly, KUHN has added a sensor to the bale kicker to let the operator know that the bale is out and clear of the door before shutting and carrying on with the next bale. Camera options are also available either with its own screen or a split screen on the baler monitor. 

Monitor

The latest model KUHN balers are ISOBUS compatible, so you can run directly through your tractor display screen if that’s the way you prefer to set things up. If you like implements to have their own monitors, KUHN has two options for the VB 7160: the CCI 800 (8-inch) and the CCI 1200 (12.1-inch), which is what we had on the test/demo baler. Both monitors are colour, touchscreen, and easy to use and navigate around. Both can also run as split screens to allow the use of cameras (for example, without going out of the baler operating screen).

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Group selection knife options

Within the monitor, you can choose from suggested bale pressures for common bales: silage, hay, straw. From there, you can tweak bale pressure to suit — some farmers still prefer the softer core of a fixed chamber baler for being easier to feed out. You can set the baler to produce a bale like this with the bale pressure sensors for core and finished bale.

As mentioned earlier, the monitor also gives directions via arrows as to how the bale is being filled, and if you need to fill one side a bit or a lot more. A bar graph shows bale progress with a beep at about 90% and another at full. The easiest option is to set it to auto-binding, saving another job for the operator.

Operation/maintenance

Pretty straightforward with the initial setup out of the way, PTO operation is 540, with the main baler functions to operate being the pickup and the door.

Knife selection is done on the left-hand side of the baler. Otherwise, baler adjustment in terms of knives, dropfloor and rotor disengagement are all hydraulic and controlled through the touchscreen monitor.

At this point, the KUHN VB 7160 is available as net binding (with the option of twine binding). With one roll of net on the baler, there’s storage for another roll on each side. I’m pretty sure that should get you through most days’ work.

Another handy feature KUHN has come up with is that the rolls can be pivoted around from storage straight onto the machine for use, without blowing an O-ring and lifting them up by yourself; the health and safety officer will be pleased to see this.

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Storage for a spare roll of net on either side

With quite a few moving parts, KUHN uses large 50mm bearings on its main drives and Hardox steel in the rotor for strength and longevity. Chains are oiled with BEKA-MAX continuous chain oiling system, with easy adjustment flow rate to ensure each chain gets the right amount. You can optionally spec with an automatic greasing system to further make life easier. Tyre sizes range from 500/45-22.5 standard to 600/50R 22.5 if you know you will be operating on softer ground.

Summary

I know particularly in the Waikato (and many other areas), Combi balers have been the machine of choice for silage and hay contractors. However, for straight hay/straw bales, the KUHN VB 7160 is the ideal addition to any fleet, enabling you to get heavier bales out of drier material (which, in turn, helps reduce trucking costs).

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Compact and manoeuvrable; great for smaller jobs

As a silage machine, it offers the ability to still make high-density bales or softer centre bales if that’s what’s required. Offering constant high performance, the KUHN VB 7160 is designed for maximum efficiency, crucial in today’s agricultural operations. With the fastest tailgate operation on the market, coupled with the extreme durability of every aspect of
its design, it certainly stacks up when it comes to investing in a high-performing long-lasting machine.

Top features

  • KUHN patented I-DENSE automatic bale pressure/moisture sensor system
  • High density + heavy-duty
  • Auto chain oiling/easy knife sharpening
  • Easy-to-load net roll system
  • (2x roll storage)
  • Integral auger on feed rotor
  • Choice of 8- or 12.1-inch easy-to-use touchscreen monitors 

KUHN VB 7160 Baler Specifications 

 Bale dimensions  0.80-1.60m
Width 1.20m 
Pickup width  2.30m
Number of tine rows 5
Tine spacing 61mm
Crop roller
with wind guard
Heavy 21.7mm
Rotor Opti-cut 14
Knife options 0, 4, 7, 7, 14
Theoretical
cut length 

>70mm

Knife protection

Individually
spring-protected

Drop floor Standard
Bale chamber 4 belts/3 rollers
Belts

Heavy-duty endless belts and 2nd drive roller

Chain oiling

Automatic/adjustable system

Binding Net binding, optional net/twine binding 
Operation ISOBUS (CCI800/CCI1200) 
Bale pressure setting

Automatic (I-DENSE)

Tyres 500/45-22.5 (Standard)
Dimensions
(L x W x H)

5.5m x 2.68m x 2.90–3.20m

 Power requirements

88Kw/120hp @ PTO

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Photography: Lily Cawood

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