A Somerset-based agricultural contractor says he is very pleased after swapping the fifth in a line of Welger round balers for the latest Massey Ferguson version last year.
Trading as Darren Hobbs Agricultural Contracting and based near Taunton, Darren Hobbs set up his contracting business in 2004. He specialises in lime and fertiliser application for farms within a 50-mile radius, and for the rest of the year he bales and wraps hay, silage and straw for farmers locally, and cuts hedges and verges
“Contract baling is a competitive market, so having a baler which can handle crops in the widest variety of weather conditions is essential,” he explained. “It has to be fast and reliable, and produce good bales of consistent size and density.”
Darren’s first round baler was a belt type variable chamber model, selected because his customers wanted different sized bales depending on the crop type. It proved unreliable and was quickly changed for a fixed chamber baler from a different manufacturer which was better, but it didn’t satisfy the bale size requirements of many of Darren’s customers.
In 2008, Darren bought his first Welger 435 from a local dealer. “After the problems with our first variable chamber baler I had promised myself I would never buy another with belts, but we knew the dealer as he supplied our tractors, and he convinced us to try the Welger when we looked at them on his stand at a show,” he explained. “We had a demonstration and were extremely impressed by the rate of work, the bale quality and the general design so we placed an order, then kept the baler for two years during which it reliably made up to 8,000 hay and silage bales annually, as well as 1,000 straw bales.”
The Welger baler was replaced by another of the same model, but with a 17-blade chopper rather than the previous 13-blade unit along with several other upgrades, and Darren continued updating his balers every two years, eventually replacing his 435 with a 445 model in 2017. “The only problems we have experienced have been minor, including a few bearing failures which are to be expected considering the wet conditions we work in from time to time,” he said. “We have always had balers with choppers although demand for chopped silage varies. A few years ago, everyone wanted grass chopped as it was baled, and now only a few customers request it. I continue to be impressed by the work rate, and although comments are made about new balers entering the market and their high operating speeds, I don’t think any really out-perform the Welger, especially in difficult conditions.”
Faith in brand
In spring last year, the Welger 445 was due for updating and, following AGCO’s acquisition of the Lely-Welger forage division, Darren had the choice of purchasing one of the remaining stock of Welger balers or the new Massey Ferguson version. “We run three Massey Ferguson tractors, all with loaders, and have a good relationship with Medland Sanders and Twose Ltd (MST), the local main dealer,” he explained. “I looked at the new Massey Ferguson balers and liked the design which obviously retains all the best points from the Welger models but includes practical improvements too. We chose a Massey Ferguson RB4160 V variable chamber model with an Xtracut 17-blade rotor and air brakes, which arrived in time for the 2019 silage season.”
Matt Curtis is the area sales representative for MST and looks after Darren’s account. “There are a lot of Welger balers in our trading area and it’s an excellent brand with a strong reputation,” he explained. “Having such a superb line-up of round balers to offer in the Massey Ferguson range is a huge benefit, and we have customers for both the fixed and variable chamber types.
“I know that after many years operating Welger balers, Darren is delighted with his Massey Ferguson and I believe that with AGCO’s ongoing investment in research and development, our grassland machinery range will continue to improve.”
Successful first season
During the 2019 season the RB 4160 V made approximately 8,000 bales. The variable chamber can be set to make bales from 0.7–1.6m diameter and Darren said that his customers usually specify bale sizes of 137cm for silage, 137–152cm for hay, and 160cm for straw. “Sharing the Welger design, it performs as well as expected in a wide range of operating conditions, the drop-floor is a big advantage, and bale formation is excellent, no matter how wet or dry the crop,” added Darren. “Bale size doesn’t vary once it is set, and the improved rear door latching system helps achieve consistent, dense bales even in dry straw.”
Net application is also described as excellent, and each time the bale size is altered the Welger-based Massey Ferguson baler adjusts the net feed automatically to suit. Darren said he usually sets it to apply 2.5 layers of net, and when coverage is checked it is always spot-on.
Improvements highlighted over the baler’s Welger predecessor include the control box which allows more adjustments to be carried out from the tractor cab. Darren said the pick-up is also improved and whereas the Welger’s tine bars moved after a period and required re-adjustment, those of the Massey Ferguson have remained in position. He said the new baler is also much quieter and the significant difference is apparent from inside or outside the cab.
Lack of grass this year meant the baler made fewer bales, but it has continued to impress with its rate of work and bale quality, and Darren said its operation has been made easier following investment in a new Massey Ferguson 7726 S Dyna-VT Next edition tractor, with infinitely variable speed control allowing the baler’s rate of work to be precisely matched to conditions.
“Massey Ferguson’s large square balers have always had a good reputation, and I believe the Welger-based round balers will prove equally successful,” added Darren. “I was also pleased to learn that the latest tedders incorporate Lely’s legendary hook tines, so this will be considered an option when my current tedder is replaced.
“The new baler performs well and is reliable, it makes excellent bales, and back-up from the MST team is very good too, so my next baler will definitely be another Massey Ferguson from the same dealer,” he confirmed.