Scannell tube wrapper

Baled silage is widely regarded as the highest quality form of feed. Many people often balk at the initial cost per bale, however this month Jaiden Drought went to Canterbury to investigate what he considers the ‘middle ground’.

For many farmers in the South Island where support blocks are often the norm, to get silage on to the milking platform they have two options: either fine chop and truck to a pit on the farm or bale (usually in big squares) cart to the farm and wrap on site.

For this test, I’m having a look at a tube wrapper from Scannell, this produces bales of the same quality as individually wrapped ones, if they are sealed correctly. The Scannell tube wrapper also requires significantly less wrap, reducing the cost per bale.

After recently testing both the universal feeder and the five-bale feeder Scannell offers, it was time to see its tube wrapper in action. The machine is held in high regard by the company, and judging by the number of contractors in Canterbury alone who are using them, it is easy to see why.

The test machine was recently purchased by Jackson and Holmes Ltd, which runs a total of four wrapping crews throughout the mid-Canterbury region. Buzz, the operator on the loader, has been with the company for four seasons. When he’s not on the slopes of Mt Hutt enjoying the winter sports, he’s hitting the slopes of the farm, getting the loader off the B-train and, to throw in some boarding lingo for good measure, they are pretty ‘gnarly’ slopes! Personally, it would have taken more than a bit of Dutch courage to get that loader off there.

For those unfamiliar with how a tube wrapper works, I’ll go through the sequence from loading to the tube coming off the back, and explain the unique features of the Scannell.

Getting started

The first point to note, and a key feature of this machine, is it’s a one-man operation. Even getting the machine set up is not a big task and can be done in less than 10 minutes.

Firstly, set the brake pressure — usually 400psi but lower on gravel areas to reduce scuffing. This ensures the bales are packed tight, in turn reducing the air in the tube and also the amount of wrap used.

Secondly, fold down the back ramp — the back transfer rollers fold down in conjunction with the transport wheels folding up, providing a slope on the machine allowing for both a low loading height and a smooth transition to ground for wrapped bales.

Thirdly, remove the pin from the drawbar and place the pin in the steering ram. This allows the machine to be hydraulically steered from the remote when in operation.

Loading the wrap

Before you can wrap any bales the end must be wrapped by hand, which is a fine art in itself! Once the end third of the bale has been wrapped this is loaded onto the table and followed by two more bales, so you can get it started sufficiently to then allow auto wrapping. The wrap is safest when loaded from the right-hand side of the machine where a large lift up door allows access to the rolls. As the wrapper applicators run clockwise, you are able to hold the end of the wrap and manually operate the wrapping ring. You do this for the first two or three bales you have loaded onto the table, then flick the machine on auto and away you go.

Before the auto wrapping remote control will work, both of the right and left-hand door guard sensor lights, the big green auto cycle ready light, and the remote switch on the machine panel need to all be on — once they are, you’re ready to go.

Dealing with different bale types and sizes

Because each baler makes a slightly different bale, to ensure a quality wrapping job the Scannell needs to accommodate this and it does so in a couple of ways. Firstly the adjustable side guide rails give the loader operator an area where the bale needs to sit on the deck to ensure the best wrapping results. The second way to accommodate for large rounds and squares is the floor prongs, which bridge the gap between the loading deck, the wrapping circle, and the rear rollers (these outside prongs are removed for round bales). During the test the bales were quite short, meaning these prongs were probably set a little wide and, as a result, the outside prong was ripping the bottom corner of the wrap. This was a simple fix by moving the prongs in but it is a very hard task to re-wrap a tube of bales.

Bale loading/bale pusher

Once the bale is loaded onto the front of the machine, the automatic floor switch activates the pusher. When the machine is set on auto, the four applicators will start wrapping once the ram pressure reaches around 450psi (you can vary this). This means any gap between the bales has been pushed in and there will be no air to result in wasted wrap and poorly sealed bales. The pusher runs in nylon buses to extend working life, and is controlled with two double-acting rams which apply compaction force to the bale pusher and combine for high-speed return (as two smaller rams are faster than one big one). Two medium-sized square bales can be loaded at a time if you and the machine have a fast enough shuttle response. You can drop two on, back up, take the top one off and then place it down. If it’s too far out of reach due to you being too slow, then the emergency stop button is usually your first port of call (unless you have a telehandler). Using this technique and assuming the bales are all stacked in a row beside the wrapping location, 180 bales an hour would easily be achievable with this machine.

To read the rest of this article, pick up a copy of the March issue of Farm Trader, on sale now!

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Photography: Jaiden Drought

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