Equipment Considerations When Baling Corn Stover

Baling corn stover is a dirty business. Because of that, there are many factors to take into consideration when determining your equipment needs for the job. Durability is key, but there are several other items to keep in mind to help keep things running smoothly and efficiently when it comes to baling corn stover.

Durability
Perhaps the most important factor to baling corn stover is the overall durability of your baler and other equipment. Obviously, your baler needs the internal components that can withstand the dust, dirt and contamination of the cornfield. This may include special chains, pick-up components or lubrication systems that help your baler hold up to the tough conditions.

The pickup on your baler is going to stand the most abuse from picking up stalks off uneven ground. Because of that, it’s important that your baler has heavy-duty pickup teeth, and rubber-mounted teeth will provide more give and be less likely to break. In addition, durable, semi-pneumatic gauge wheels will help resist puncturing from the stalks in the field.

In addition to the internal components being durable enough, it’s important to consider how the baler will hold up to the rough field conditions. High flotation tires are beneficial when it comes to driving over the ridges and rough terrain in cornfields. Overall, a heavily built baler will stand up better to the abuse it will take when running through the corn stalks.

Capacity and Efficiency
Baling corn stover means a large volume of coarse material flowing into the baler. And because there is a tight window of opportunity to get this material baled, you are often trying to bale as many bales as possible in a very short timeframe. This means your baler needs the capacity to handle these very large volumes of coarse material and still run at a quick pace. To meet this need, the pickup should be built specifically to get your cornstalk bale started by helping to form a tight, round bale. It should also offer features to help reduce plugging that can occur more frequently in this material. Being able to get the corn stalk bale started without hassle is key to your productivity in the field.

In addition, cornstalks are light, so most operators will run their baler at maximum density to achieve an acceptable bale weight. Because of this, you need heavy-duty bearings in your rollers to support the force in the bale chamber.

Bale Packaging
As anyone baling cornstalks can attest, this material doesn’t stay together quite as readily as hay bales, and the higher density will mean more pressure on the bale. Using netwrap rather than twine can save you valuable time, as well as provide better packaging of the bales. You’re going to use more netwrap to hold these stalks together, and you’ll want to make sure that the netwrap you choose is of high enough quality to do the job well. Make sure you plan for using more netwrap than you would when baling hay, and have plenty available so you can keep running. Depending on how you’re handling the bales, you may need 3 to 4 wraps of net to hold the bale together.

Moisture Matters
When baling corn stover, monitoring your moisture level is as important as any other crop. If the corn stover is too wet, you’ll deal with mold and other issues just as you would with hay. Additionally, heavy, wet stalks can cause more issues, such as plugging and bale shape problems, when baling them up. It’s important to make sure you’re baling at the proper moisture level – ideally, around 15% moisture just like dry hay.

Beyond the Baler 
Keep in mind that baling requires field preparation, and depending on what you plan to do with the stalks, in the long run, that could mean mowing and/or raking the stalks prior to baling. As with your baler, durability and efficiency are key, but there are a couple additional considerations to keep in mind.

If you need to cut your stalks prior to baling, it’s important that the mower or stalk shredder is also built tough enough for cornfield conditions. If you use a mower, the header should offer excellent flotation in order to more easily follow the ground contours of the field with less opportunity for damage. In addition, you’ll want a cutter bar that is built tough enough to withstand the field conditions. Shear protection will be especially important to prevent more invasive damage to the internal components of your cutter bar, as you’re more likely to find rocks in your cornfield than in your traditional hay field. Finally, make sure that your mower has the adjustability to meet your baling and/or raking needs that will follow.

If you’ll be raking the material into windrows for baling, you’ll want to understand the tolerance for dust and dirt in the bales. Rakes with hydraulic suspension control will give you more flexibility to control this. In addition, they will help the rake teeth be more resistant to breaking than if you were to use a traditional wheel rake. Also keep in mind the windrow settings for the rake, as you’ll want to make sure that they are compatible with your baler.

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