Review: Kuhn VBP 3165 baler

By: Mark Fouhy

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The newest edition to Harrison Contracting’s fleet is a shiny new Kuhn VBP 3165, the latest model variable belt baler combi wrapper unit

Kuhn baler, The latest addition to the Harrison fleet
The latest addition to the Harrison fleet

•            Simplicity of operation with automation

•            3D wrapping system

•            Accurate and straightforward bale fill guide

To find out more about how the new Kuhn VBP 3165 performed, we headed to King Country, just out of Taumauranui in New Zealand, to see the baler unit on the job.

Before the baling season got underway, Harrison Contracting decided that its old Lely baler was due for replacement, and although the wrapper was still going strong, the efficiency offered by a combi machine looked like the logical next step for the business. So far the new Kuhn baler is proving to be a winner: pumping out solid, quality bales for clients around King Country and Waikato. 

TEST

Having owned a McHale baler in the past and also having tried out another brand that "didn’t cut the mustard", Porky Harrison did his research before purchasing the Kuhn for his fleet. With seven or more local contractors with balers chasing the same jobs, it is key to the success of his business to be able to turn out the highest quality bales possible in the most efficient manner, given the competitive business of hay and silage contracting.

An initial viewing of the Kuhn VBP 3165 operated by a Taupo contractor left Harrison impressed at the efficiency of the combi unit and particularly the quality of the job done by the 3D wrapping system. After trialling a demo machine, provided by Giltrap AgriZone, Harrison was more than happy to go ahead and order a new machine.

New Kuhn VBP3165, Wrap carrying capacity is five on each side and an additional two on the wrapper (12 total)
Wrap carrying capacity is five on each side and an additional two on the wrapper (12 total)

On the day of our test we had 30 degree heat, full sunshine and quick drying conditions. With a small pokey paddock to contend with and a bit of mucking around discussing various features, the average bales per hour wasn’t high. However, on good going Harrison thought it should do close to 50 bales per hour, a little less than an individual baler/wrapper setup, but obviously with big savings to be had through not needing to run an extra tractor.

Although the specs say you can get away with as little as 110hp (82kW) and 80kW at the power take off, the Massey Ferguson 7619, 190hp (142kW) tractor seemed a much better fit for the machine, taking into account the Kuhn’s base weight of 5,650kg and two 750kg bales. There was also the fact that we were operating it on the hilly terrain of Taumaranui, rather than flat plains. 

Should the baler need to be changed onto another tractor, the load sensing system allows an easy swap over without having to worry about setting each individual hydraulic flow rate, etc. again, which can differ tractor to tractor.

The 3D wrapping system, which as far as I am aware is unique to Kuhn balers, performed as promised. Being an endless belt baler that produces tight bales right to the core, the maximum amount of grass goes into each bale. To finish it off, net binding is used rather than the film option provided by the latest fixed chamber balers.

Which gets me back to the 3D wrapping. While this system doesn’t save wrap, it does help with the quality of bales produced. Anywhere between four and 20 layers of wrap can be selected, with some of those being around the barrel if utilising the 3D system. Before leaving the bale chamber, the wrapper knows how many revolutions it needs to do to apply the correct number of layers, depending on what size bales you are making. One thing Harrison found initially with the 3D wrapping was that because of bringing in wider rows, the bales had an hour glass look. Narrowing down the rake sorted that issue and they were soon back to producing square-cornered and straight-sided bales.      

The new Kuhn in action
The new Kuhn in action

OPERATION

If you set up the Kuhn in full automation, this gives you auto drop floor, auto bale drop, door open close and bale eject – simplifying the process so much that I think even a trained monkey could operate it (as well as myself). Being able to switch between auto and manual bale drop gives you the ability to switch to the manual option to avoid random bales at the end of rows, and potentially find a flatter spot when operating on undulating or steeper paddocks.

With technology taking care of so many elements of the baling and wrapping process, the operator’s main job is to engage the power take-off to operate the pick up, and control the pick up to minimise tine damage and dirt being collected. Hopefully the rake driver leaves nice even rows, but if not, the bale fill indicator is excellent, using one  or more arrows to tell you which side to drive towards to help ensure the bales all come out consistently in terms of shape.

In terms of the baler monitor, seamless integration of the tasks we required is in my opinion one of the best features. Using the hot keys arranged around the screen means you don’t end up with smudgy finger prints on the monitor. I also liked the large clear monitor display. One small minus for me was the lack of an inbuilt camera unit in the monitor. However this is available as an optional extra.

In order to be as thorough as possible while testing the machine, I managed to be the first to block the baler: feeding a row into one corner of the pickup. However, with the auto drop floor engaged and reset, there was almost no time lost and I didn’t even need to leave the cab to manually juggle with it and fix in dry, dusty conditions.

The clear screen display and bale fill guide works effectively well
The clear screen display and bale fill guide works effectively well

CONSTRUCTION

Not so long ago Kuhn balers were branded as Vicon balers, with a solid reputation. While they haven’t been branded Vicon for some years now, there are still Vicon-branded machines in operation, which is testament to their quality and construction.

Thanks to European laws, side panels must be opened with a tool, which is a little annoying, but at least there is a tool box to store it in and save it getting lost. Under the right side cover there is room to store an extra roll of net for binding. With two rolls on the twin satellite wrapper, you can store another five down each side of the rear of the machine. A simple lynch pin system holds them in place, and with no cover to lift it saves a bit of time for each roll you change. Features like this that focus on simplifying and streamlining processes are key features for Harrison.

A quick look under the left side panel reveals pretty straightforward systems: a large chain drives the rollers and an auto lubricating system keeps this oiled. Unlike fixed chamber balers, there isn’t anywhere near the number of grease nipples, which saves some time on daily servicing.

They like number 8 wire in King Country, followed closely by a piece of 6x2, both of which are used to fix the inoculant spray tank to help with the silage process. When the quieter time comes, I’m sure a tidier and more permanent design will be put in place.

One bugbear with the design of the Kuhn VBP 3165 is the height at the back under the wrapper. Being low, with the wheels quite a way forward, it has the potential to drag through undulating terrain. If there was any way of modifying the bale transfer system to give an extra 100–200mm clearance at the back it would probably make quite a difference, hopefully without upsetting the bale transfer from chamber to wrapper, particularly when going downhill.   

COMBI BENEFITS

Getting back to the Kuhn’s combi baling system, Harrison Contracting is reaping the benefits of the two-in-one machine. Immediate cost savings come from the overall decrease in cost to complete baling jobs; from not requiring a second tractor on the wrapper and the associated hours, servicing, depreciation, etc., that go alongside that.

Finding reliable staff to turn up and do the work is another challenge and cost, made trickier with the seasonality of contracting work. The guys at Harrison Contracting have already noticed the benefits of one machine doing two jobs, allowing them to get through more hectares/bales in less time.

Making hay/silage while the sun shines hasn’t been a problem this summer
Making hay/silage while the sun shines hasn’t been a problem this summer

Another benefit over individual baler wrapper setups is the fact that bales are wrapped before they hit the ground, offering one less opportunity for contamination from dirt which may potentially cause mold, and poorer quality baleage.

For Harrison, the simplicity of operation of the Kuhn VBP 3165 is another big plus, with automation taking care of a lot of the steps. This potentially allows a more junior member of staff to get on the baler and get some experience on the easier jobs, freeing up senior staff members for other jobs within the business.

Opting to purchase new, the benefit of warranty is also reassuring, but breakdowns should be few and far between. If for some reason there is an issue, Porky says he’s confident in the quality of service provided by local Kuhn dealer, Giltrap AgriZone, who were excellent to deal with regarding the setup and sharing their overall knowledge of the machine to the team.

SUMMARY

For me, the standout advantages of the Kuhn VBP 3165 Combi baler unit are definitely its simplicity and ease of operation. And although we didn’t go into too many technical details on setting up the stretch of the wrap, etc., I would feel confident going to bale a paddock and get the job done with this machine. I attribute this to the baler and the way the automation works so seamlessly, rather than my prowess and years of experience baling. Although there are a number of baler wrapper combis, fixed chamber and belt baler options available in New Zealand, often the service and after sale care available is just as important as the brand you choose to go with. With the Kuhn VBP 3165 running so smoothly, taking care of the baling and wrapping side of things, the next step in improving efficiency at Harrison Contracting is a front rotor rake, providing a one-stop raking, baling and wrapping machine.   

 

PLUSES

•            Simplicity of operation with automation

•            3D wrapping system

•            Accurate and straightforward bale fill guide

•            Load sensing hydraulics makes swapping onto different tractors easy

 

MINUSES

•            Low in back end with the wrapper going through sharp undulations

•            Camera kit not incorporated into the monitor

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Brand:                                            Kuhn

Model:                                           VBP3165

Bale diameter    (min-max):         80cm-160cm

Bale width:                                    120cm

Pickup intake width:                    230cm

Rows of tine bars:                        Five

Short crop pickup roller:              Standard

Bale chamber density control:    Progressive density

Binding:                                         Net binding

Intake system:                              Integral rotor with double tines and group selection

Knives:                                          OC14 (0-4-7-7-14) or OC23 (0-7-11-12-23)

Cut length:                                    OC14 >70mm; OC23 >45mm

Control system:                           Isobus

Wrapping:                                     3D, Twin Satellite

Min power required for PTO kW/hp:       80kW/110hp

Dimensions                                                 Width: 297cm, Height: 267cm, Length:                                                                            646cm

Weight:                                                       5,650kg

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