Test: Kuhn VBP 2160 BalePack
There’s a lot to be said for the satisfaction that comes from creating the perfect bale. Although it’s getting easier as technology improves, the thrill is still the same. This month Jaiden tests the Kuhn 2160 BalePack, which gives a whole new bale-making experience.
I was testing a Kuhn 2160 BalePack run by Clive Pritchard and his team at Pritchard Contracting, based at Wairakei, near Taupo. Pritchard Contracting actually runs two of these machines, taking care of the silage side of the business with cultivation and drilling filling the books during the spring and autumn months.
Pritchard bought out an existing contractor eight years ago and since then the business has gone from strength to strength. The pride the company takes in its work, and the way the gear is presented and maintained is a true credit to the team.
Pritchard first started out using fixed chamber 135 Vicon BalePacks and he has followed the brand through until 2008, when Kuhn bought the baler division of Kverneland Group Company, seeing the machines change colours and naturally evolve from there. Much has changed, including the switch from fixed to variable chamber, but one thing that has stayed constant is the sales support from Ben Peters and the team at Giltrap Agrizone.
Kuhn offers two variable-chamber round baler/wrappers, with the only difference being the maximum bale diameter they can produce. The VBP 2160 tested is the smaller of the pair, with 1.2m wide and 1m-1.6m bales, while the 2190 will produce up to 1.85m. For safety on the hills, the machines come tandem axle with twin-axle braking and 500/45-22.5 tyres are standard.
The feed augers and the rotor are all one section, meaning you don't get lumps from the pickup augers twisting the crop into knots before they go into the rotor and subsequently trip the slip clutch. Kuhn has just introduced the 'pendulum' system to the 2.3m pickup, where one side is fixed and the other has a slot mounting — so on hillsides the entire pickup stays parallel with the ground, creating constant crop pickup, even in challenging conditions. If you do get a block, the hydraulic drop floor is controlled from inside the cab. Plus, another great feature is the dog clutch on the left-hand side of the machine, allowing the operator to isolate the pickup and allows the belts to continue with the net and wrapping process, so the block can be easily removed with an empty chamber.
The test VBP 2160's both had the 14-knife Opticut system, where each blade is spring-loaded against any damage and provides a chopping length of 75mm. This is all controlled from inside the cab and like most knives, will need to be freed with a hammer if left un-used for too long.
Once the crop enters the chamber, three rollers and five endless belts take over without any problems of bale formation or belts twisting, even in wet sloppy conditions. Core diameter and a soft-core option are both set from the cab, as are bale diameter and density. Scrapers clean both the belts and rollers and very seldom need cleaning by hand.
All around the property were bales made by these balers from early spring silage, where the grass is naturally shorter and wetter, up until the day I tested it, and there is very little difference — all were firm, well-shaped bales and the operator only needs to ollow the on-screen indicators. The door is held shut by mechanical locks (although a hydraulic option is available) and even with the long stalky grass on the day, crop build up on the chassis was minimal.
The baler takes net rolls up to 36cm in diameter and two spare rolls can be carried on the machine. The new roll slides in from the right-hand side of the baler. This is easier than lifting one on the front above your head, but is still high enough given the weight in the rolls. The net is fed from the front via a duck bill system and both the roll and its feed into the chamber can be seen from the cab. Both balers had a considerable amount of net wrapped around the rotor, although I'm told this was pilot error, but given the process is automated, it's hard to see how this would happen.
A nifty little Kuhn feature allows constant tension to be applied to the net during the wrapping of the bale. The net wrap system runs at 90% of the bale's rotational speed, to be able to stretch the net instead of braking. This allows constant pressure on the net, while the guillotine provides an even cut and net presentation was tidy with the shoulders well covered.
The number of wraps is entered on the screen and maintained automatically across different bale sizes. You can also opt to delay net feed until crop flow has stopped, which ensures there are no lumpy looking bales.
Often the bale transfer is where things can go wrong on a combi. Sensors are relied upon to tell the baler to release the bale, transfer it onto the table, shut the door, and start wrapping — a multitude of problems can arise here, particularly on hills. But the Pritchard boys swear that wherever they can take the baler, the transfer is successful. To do this, the Kuhn relies upon two transfer arms before it gets to the wrapping table, and happens as follows:
- The first loading fork under the door collects the bale as it leaves the chamber.
- The wrapping table is tilted forward, meaning the bale can't scoot straight out the back on steep slopes.
- The second loading fork transfers the bale from the first cradle onto the wrapping table.
- The tailgate shuts automatically, with the second loading fork still in raised position to stop any chance of the bale rolling into the door.
- The wrapping table tilts back flat in the wrapping position and the second loading fork is lowered.
- The bale sits low on the table, supported by four wide belts, which allows the machine to wrap anything from .8m – 1.6m and the operator knows the bale will turn reliably
There really is something quite unique about these balers in the wrapping department, and although not a new development, the 3D wrapping has constantly been improved. It may take a little longer to wrap, but iby looking at these bales, it sure helps appearance.
- The arms start by making three-quarters of a turn.
- Next the heads move from the vertical to horizontal, the bale turns, and film is applied to both edges of the bales and around the belly.
- Three layers of plastic go on to the edges before one layer is placed over the middle. The heads then swing back to the vertical and wrapping proceeds conventionally.
This clever feature evenly distributes the plastic over the entire bale. The wrapping action expels more air than traditional wrap and gives the bales strong corners for better handling and tidier edges.
There is room for ten 750mm rolls on the side of the machine, plus two on the heads, which will allow for a big day baling. The only downside is they are outside in the elements, which can cause some headaches with the heat in summer and hot tar during road transport, but keeping them in the boxes will help combat this. The best feature for me was a slot by the film applicators to place the new wrap end in. This means you don't have to tie it to anything, leaving a big clump of untidy wrap at the end of the day.
The low-mounted table allows the wrapped bale to be gently discharged while driving, either automatically or manually from the monitor, and both machines came with an end tip kit. But due to the multi-bale stacking machine, it was more convenient to have them on their rounds.
The test VBP 2160 is ISOBUS-compatible and comes compelte with a VT 50 14.5cm colour touchscreen monitor. The graphic shows the bale growing in real time, which is really impressive. As the bale grows an alert button sounds at 90% and then again when the desired bale size is reached. The cab display also shows if the finished bale is still on the table. On hills the bale stayed safely within the cradle, ready for unloading, and both machines were also equipped with a CCTV monitor on the rear. This means you can see the wrapping taking shape and also ensures the transfer and dumping of bales all happens as planned.
For wrapping, the layer number applied is shown in the cab, and you can watch an animation of the process on the monitor (or the camera). If the wrap breaks, an alarm sounds and you can then opt to continue wrapping from one dispenser or fix the problem.
Overall the monitor was one of the brightest and easiest to use of any baler I have tested, with clear readings and, in conjunction with the rear camera, this made operating a breeze.
You would think complicated machines have extensive maintenance programs. However, central greasing banks mean all grease nipples are easy to reach, with eight on one side and six on the other, for daily maintenance. Chain oiling is done from the four-litre reservoir on the left-hand side and all bar two on the machine are common sensors, which are simple and easy to replace in the paddock if need be.
Bale quality is the thing that stands out for me post-test, as well as just how easy and intuitive the monitor is, making the operation of this machine a breeze. The 3D wrapping is complicated to explain but watching it in action makes you realise how well the bale is wrapped, with the added benefit of a good-looking end result. It's also a very stable baler, even on hills, due to a low centre of gravity and the wide, low profile tyres allowing reliable bale transfer even on steep inclines. The pickup is built well and the rotor takes large uneven swaths in its stride. Variable chamber, nifty net wrap tensioner, reliable transfer, and clever wrapper that saves film all in one machine — I told you it was a great combination.
- Bright and clear monitor with reverse camera
- Simple baler with few moving chains and sprockets
- Large crop roller smoothes the row and makes baling in the wind a breeze (no pun intended)
- Central greasing bank and automatic chain oilers
- Net wrap tensioner keeps net tight on the bale, which helps hold the shape
- 3D wrapping system makes square tidy bales every time
- Pickup and auger design will make light work of uneven swathes
- Low profile tyres make the machine very stable
- Turnable pickup wheels and 'pendulum' concept take a lot of sideways strain out of the pickup
- Long and wide machine will make navigating tight spaces interesting
- Bale transfer uses two transfer arms whereas competitor machines use a single bale transfer cradle, reducing the risk of the bale becoming unstuck on the hills
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