Test: McHale Fusion 3 Vario
This month Jaiden was presented with a unique opportunity to test a machine that he's told is more prevalent in God's Own than any other country in the world. During our test, the Irish-made McHale Fusion 3 Vario proved why it's so popular among Kiwi farmers and contractors.
The owner of the McHale Fusion 3 Vario combination baler/wrapper I tested was local Taranaki contractor Jason Holdem, who runs a medium-sized contracting operation just north of Hawera with three full-time staff which (including a couple of ring-ins) swells to 10 during the peak months. With eight tractors, Holdem's main activities revolve around hay and silage, making along with direct drilling, primarily with a large cross slot drill and a small portion of cultivation. Originally his parents ran a small contracting business which is where Holdem got a taste for machinery and since taking over the business in 2002, he has built it up to where it is today, with a strong and loyal client base within a 25km radius of the depot. Holdem recently purchased the Fusion 3 Vario from Power Farming in Hawera, where it replaced a standard belt baler and individual wrapper.
The main issue with combies is the bale transfer setup between the baler and wrapper, which works great on flat land but can all go horribly wrong when the baler is on the hills. On the McHale there are a number of smart features, from the pickup right through to the bale tipper that makes for a trouble-free process, saving you time, labour and money. What the Vario comby has is two separate components built separately that come together. The chassis and wrapping ring are exactly the same as the fixed chamber Fusion 3. They have developed a new bale transfer system that works like a cradle and then they slot in a V660 baler in the front of the machine and tilt it forward slightly so the bale door goes up and down more so than swinging back and up, which simply reduces the length and weight of the machine.
The Fusion 3 has been built with tubular chassis steel, which considerably reduces crop build up as it has no flat edge to sit on while still retaining the overall strength of the machine.
As more farmers are using balage as a pasture quality tool, often the baler/wrappers are subjected to the short green grass that is either very wet and green to bale, or very fluffy and hard to pick up. This presents fewer issues for the fixed chamber McHale than the Vario, but any belt baler will be given a hard time in these conditions. To handle these crops McHale has stuck with the a two-metre, five-tine bar, galvanised high intake pickup with a large feed roller on the front, which eliminates the grass being blown from the pickup, but in these light crops the grass does tend to build up in the gap between the pickup tines and the rotor. In large heavy rows the lateral feed augers on either side of the pickup guide the crop into the rotor, which spreads the crop across the width of the chamber to produce nice square bales with hard edges. The double fingers on the rotor teeth allow the knives to be slotted inbetween, allowing for the balers high output to be unaffected while offering chopped bales. The chopper unit is all controlled from the cab and can be spec'd with either 15 or 23 knives which have hydraulic protection — if a foreign object hits the knives they drop out of the way and then automatically reset.
McHale has stuck with its tried and tested drop floor unblocking system, which again is all controlled from in the cab. The floor and the knives move out together so the block can be successfully pushed through. Although the drop floor system works well, I personally prefer the rotor reversing option. This is purely for the fact you have to physically get out and clear the pickup of the block, which also means you check to make sure wood, metal or stones are not jammed in the rotor, particularly on belt balers as sharp objects and rubber belts don't usually go well together.
The V660 baler coupled with the well-proven wrapping ring makes this an extremely efficient machine with a ferocious appetite for grass.
The V660 baler can make a bale from 0.7m to just shy of 1.7m and is equipped with three heavy-duty endless belts ,which are extremely hard-wearing and are reinforced with synthetic material. The lower number but large wide belts mean it is much harder to flip them over in challenging conditions and they have much higher strength characteristics which allows them to apply high pressure in the bale chamber. To help achieve high pressure rates, the tailgate has mechanical locks rather than relying on hydraulic pressure which keeps the bale chamber securely closed at all times.
The bale chamber is equipped with a double drive system, which in more difficult conditions, such as wet heavy grass, if the primary drive slips slightly, the secondary drive will engage to avoid belt damage and keep the bale spinning.
High-speed bale transfer
The baling process is fully automated, so once the bale has been sufficiently netted the door opens and drops the bale into the bale-hugging transfer cradle, making it extremely reliable on hills. The cradle then flips the bale towards the wrapping ring, the wrapping roller closest to the bale chamber slides down, which reduces the height the bale has to travel to get to the wrapper. This clever system saves time and if on steep inclines the rear roller also drops down slightly to the keep the centre of gravity as low as possible for wrapping. The transfer of the bale is designed to occur over the axle of the baler, reducing the stress on the tractor and the machine.
Once the bale is on the table the transfer table drops, the door closes and you can start baling while the wrapper automatically starts.
The vertical wrapping ring is fitted with two 750mm dispensers, which take approximately 30 seconds to apply six layers of film. On the last rotation of the wrapping cycle, the wrapper slows to allow the two cut and holds to extend out, grabs the film and retracts where it is held on each side of machine, ready for the next bale. This system works very well with fewissues and you can opt for higher 70% stretch gears in the film dispenser heads to make the wrap last a little longer. Part of the machine's high performance wrapping is put down to little disturbance from the weather, particularly in hot windy conditions as the machine side walls make for a nice sheltered wrapping environment.
There were two down sides to the wrapper on previous Fusions, the first was the fact the machine only had room for eight rolls of wrap (plus two on the heads) which on the Fusion 3 has been increased to 10 (plus two on the heads), which will go some way to ensuring you can keep up with the machines high output. The other issue is that loading the film dispenser is a little awkward compared to upright satellites and generally has 'finger jamming' written all over it. To be fair, it is made easier somewhat by a small green index button at the rear of the machine, which allows the ring to stop at the second film head automatically after the first wrap dispenser has been loaded.
The machine is fitted with two film break sensors that monitor the wrap tension as it goes onto the bale. If one of the rolls of film breaks or runs out, it alerts you with a buzzer on the monitor and the wrapper automatically switches to single dispenser mode.
In single dispenser mode the bale rotation is slowed and the ring does additional rotations to ensure that the bale is still wrapped, with the right number of layers with the remaining roll of film, which means you only have to get out once to load the two rolls, saving time.
When the machine tips the wrapped bale off, the outer wrapper roller moves down to ground level and ejects the bale. This eliminates problems associated with bales being tipped from a height and getting damaged as they roll away, (an end tipper can also be fitted).
The new iTouch in-cab controller is very light, easy to read and provides clear indicators of machine performance. The large screen has a mixture of touch and button operation, but by far the best feature is the built-in rear camera as standard. In automatic mode the camera image will appear at different predetermined times on the screen, such as when the bale is being transferred or being tipped to give you a snap shot of what is happening behind you. The monitor may change slightly on new machines with an updated picture of the baler to show the new panel design, and the camera may be on full time but in the background, to give you a continuous view of the machines progress.
The monitor alerts you on operational changes, such as a drop in knife pressure, knife position or plastic breakages. When the bale has been wrapped it will hold it and automatically tip it. When the next bale in the chamber is being netted or, if on hills, bales are best to be tipped manually from the monitor and if you have an end tipper fitted, they must be tipped manually to avoid damage.
There is no denying the Fusion is a great product. It has been since day one and has changed very little since, which shows the class of the machine. The Vario machine opens this baler/wrapper combo up to a much larger pool of buyers. Now smaller contractors can justify the initially higher outlay as they will have the ability to bale and wrap silage and bale hay all with the one machine. Previously the Fusion was only offered in the fixed chamber option, limiting its use. The new monitor makes the machine very straightforward to run and the fully-automated operation does the cycle in incredible time which makes for an enjoyable and more importantly profitable day baling, natural selection at its finest.
- Two-metre, five-tine bar pickup with crop roller and lateral augers
- 15 or 23 knife chopper system with heavy-duty rotor
- Drop-floor unblocking system
- Double drive variable bale chamber
- Three-belt bale chamber with endless belts
- Crop flow indicators
- High-speed bale transfer
- High-speed vertical wrapping ring
- Ability to carry 10 film rolls plus two on the heads
- iTouch control system
- In-built camera system
- Automatic oiling and central greasing points
- Loading film rolls is more awkward than upright satellite applicators
- Light fluffy crops tend to build up between the pick up tines and the rotor
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