The Vermeer ZR5-1200 self-propelled baler is available at a limited number of dealerships.

PELLA, Iowa – Five new Vermeer ZR5-1200 self-propelled balers will be available at a limited number of dealerships – just in time for cornstalk baling season.

These Iowa and Nebraska dealerships are in key cornstalk baling areas, where after corn harvest, the leftover stalks, leaves, husks and cobs can be baled together and used as roughage for cattle.

“The first production units were coming out in the fall, so in order to maximize users we brought them to cornstalk country,” said Product Manager Josh Vrieze, who is overseeing the product launch with specially-trained staff in participating dealerships.

The ZR5 is the first of its kind self-propelled, zero-turn baler. It works quickly and offers a high level of operator comfort and maneuverability, said Vrieze.

“When we would go out to talk to folks about what they wanted to see and wanted changed in their balers and we would ask, ‘How fast do you bale?’ They would say, ‘As fast as I can go and stay in the seat,’ he said. “We learned that capacity is not limited by the baler, it’s limited by how comfortable I am in my tractor. That seems to have been the limiting factor with traditional tractor-baler combinations.”

A patent-pending independent suspension system within the ZR5 self-propelled baler allows operators to better handle the uneven ground conditions that naturally come with baling. Tractors are designed with the cab sitting above a solid axle, which means “bouncing around in your tractor” over uneven fall ground, Vrieze said. The ZR5’s cab is positioned over the top of the suspension, absorbing the bumps and allowing for a longer, more productive workday.

It also has zero-turn capability – think new generation lawn mower vs. an old school garden tractor-style lawn mower – to increase efficiency when turning on the end row and allow the ZR5 to “quarter turn” when ready to eject a bale, he said.

“A tractor baler combo takes nine steps to eject a bale: you hit the clutch, take it out of gear, open the tailgate, close the tailgate and so forth,” Vrieze said. “Because this is all integrated, it’s down to one step: you just have to hit the go button.”

The quarter-turn capability is part of an automated process. The ZR5 baler stops automatically when the bale hits full size. It then applies net and rotates the machine a quarter turn before ejecting the bale automatically. Positioning bales in a straight row can save time when it comes to picking up and loading bales.

All this automation means less fatigue.

“When you’re doing several hundred bales in a day, at the end of the day your body’s getting tired,” Vrieze said. “By doing that you can extend your day or feel better rested at the end of the day. Now baling becomes something you might look forward to, rather than something you don’t.”

The ZR5 is hydraulically driven to help make real-time adjustments based on field and crop conditions. The automation of the ZR5 baler also helps create more consistent bale sizes.

The ZR5 features a hydrostatic ground drive and a hydraulic baler drive. A 200 hp (143 kW) Cummins diesel engine powers the ZR5 down the road at 30+ mph (48.3+ kph).

The bale chamber can be removed for maintenance in a matter of minutes.

“With most people that’s one of the big questions they had about a fully-enclosed tractor-baler combo,” Vrieze said. “The bale chamber does come out for maintenance and also if it does wear out, the power unit can accept a new bale chamber.”