Hay & silage: Budissa Bagger RT 8000
This month Jaiden brings you a slightly different machine with nifty features that’ll appeal mostly to farmers. But if you are a contractor who happens to own one, think of this as free advertising. You’re welcome.
So why would you bag silage? Well, this can be for a few reasons. Either you've run out of silage pits, you don't have one that will fit all of the silage in, or you have made bunns in the past, have suffered considerable wastage and are searching for an alternative.
There are two great features of the bagger concept. The first, which will appeal to everybody, is the fact you no longer need to throw tyres on the pit, which often happens in the rain or at night (although you can still get a couple of mates to help put a tyre each on the end of the bag and reward yourselves with a beer for your fine work). The second handy feature is its ability to be placed anywhere on the farm or grazing block/run off etc. as long as it is relatively flat. If you have a good metal area or, even better, a concrete area, then loading out the bag will work a treat.
It was during the maize harvest when I caught up with the team at Campbell Contracting. They were doing two bags side-by-side to see how quickly, and with relatively little fuss, a large amount of silage can be taken care of.
Their particular machine is the Budissa Bagger RT 8000 and is Campbell Contracting's second bagger. The main reason for the upgrade is the added feature of the internal anchor and a crane for lifting the large heavy bags. Both these features have significantly reduced set-up time, so for jobs like the one we were carrying out during our test, where more than one bag is required, it's just a matter of cutting the bag, chucking a couple of tyres on, backing up and starting the next one (it is slightly more complicated than that but essentially that's what happens). This new machine can bag 50-70t of grass per hour or 75-125t of whole crop or maize silage through a 3m x 75m bag. This equates to around 300 wet tonnes of feed or approximately four tonnes per metre.
What are the main advantages?
When harvesting, the machine is packing your silage crop and covering it at the same time.
The machine compacts the silage consistently and you are not relying on the competency of the stack operator. For crops such as high DM maize or whole crop cereal, if it's too dry it can be like a big sponge to try and compact with a pit tractor, but with the bagger's constant rotor pressure, this guarantees a higher quality and more consistent product with less air.
Higher silage quality due to a combination of a small stack surface area, higher levels of compaction and the reduced risk of contamination, such as metal, stones etc. during loading out, will result in more consistent and higher quality feed.
Leach-free due to a fully-sealed bag — this can be placed next to a water way with confidence that no high potency seepage can make its way into the stream.
How does it work?
The harvest operates in exactly the same way as it normally does, so if your contractor uses a chopper or loader wagons, both the bin trailers or trucks and the wagons simply back into the loading conveyer rather than dumping into the stack. This does take a little longer to unload, as you cannot just simply tip the load and leave — there's a little more science around it if you don't want the bag to resemble the back of a crocodile. Loader or forage wagons are the best for feeding the bagger as you can vary the floor speed and dribble it in relatively consistently. Bin trailers or trucks can drop large lumps at a time which can both stall the drive tractor. To stop this, the brake must be released slightly and the machine moves forward creating the bag's lumpy appearance. Once the material is on the conveyer it shifts the load through a set of teething beaters that spread the crop out evenly into a consistent layer. The feed then falls down into the rotor and is forced into the bag by large pressing fingers, similar to the rotor on a baler. The pressing rotor keeps filling the bag until the bag has reached the desired compaction (compaction markings or stretch indicators are on the bag). As the bag reaches capacity, the pressure pushes the bagger and tractor along, hopefully leaving a smooth consistent bag behind. Like most machines, you can't put just anyone on it and expect a good result, and although I can assure you it is not the most riveting machine to work, it will keep you busy and a good-looking bag will be the reward at the end of the day. To finish off a bag, any remaining silage in the bagger tunnel is hydraulically pushed into the bag and the bag is sealed off by placing tyres on the end. A small slit is made near the end to let any remaining gas escape, so it doesn't blow up like a balloon, and then it is simply taped over after a couple of days.
Is it more expensive?
The short answer is yes, the initial bill will be higher than if you use a stack tractor and a standard 15m x 30m cover. Think of it like buying a more expensive tractor to get greater fuel economy in the long run, and like most other things in farming, at times you have to spend money to make money.
After feeding out 100t/DM of maize silage out of one of these bags, I was sold on the concept. Not only are there no tyres to take off and stack, but there's no rolling back a massive cover which is sometimes full of water, grass and mud because you are too lazy to throw all the tyres on and end up doing it with the silage grab. With this system however, you have a much smaller stack face, meaning you need to cut the cover nearly every day, but the reduced spoilage due to considerably less heat getting into the face more than makes up for this. I also found (this may be a generalisation) but there was no rodent spoilage of the bag at all compared to having the maize in a bunn, which has to be put down to the compaction levels in the bag. Better compaction means there's no air and no air means sugars in the silage don't heat up and produce an aroma which attracts rats and other rodents, which can cause major problems. I also found that even if you didn't feed from the bag every day, due to different grazing patterns or small surplus etc., there still wasn't an issue of heating in the face and you were back into it with the same quality as when you left it. Another benefit of the bag, unlike the floor on your pit, is the elimination of metal or stones getting in the wagon (subsequently ending up in the feed bins or the paddock). There are some other 'non-silage' benefits to consider, like markings on the bag for feed calculations, and you can park the wagon right next to where you load all the way along the slug. There are a couple of small issues when feeding out, particularly if the slug is on sloping ground as you can catch the bucket on the bottom of the bag, causing a rip which will result in additional shovel work. I found if just one person loads the silage at all times, it worked well, as it takes a little while to get the hang of how to cut the bag in the most efficient manner (which is across the top in a semi-circle shape). You then need to leave enough of a tail on the bottom and ensure the front wheels slip a little to keep the bottom tight. This helps stop the bucket catching the plastic but, like I say, they're not massive issues, it just takes a couple of days to adjust.
As they say, there's no such thing as a free lunch and there's always an initial increase in cost to get the additional benefits of bagged silage. However, once you take into account reduced wastage, reduced face heating, zero contamination of the silage resulting in increased feed efficiency, in turn you should see an increase on the treasured white docket in the chiller box every morning. Higher costs at the time of harvest, but reduced wastage and higher quality feed equal more milk. You do the math and you may be pleasantly surprised.
Webbline Agriculture Ltd is the distributing agent for Budissa Baggers.
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