Chainless 4000 tested by Farm Trader

Published 1st October 2011
New Zealand

First launched in 1999, the Hustler Chainless 4000 Balefeeder, which I saw working on the Tainui Group Holdings Ltd dry stock farm at Tauhei, is the series four version.

Hangawera Station farm manager Ian Mathieson has used other balefeeders, which he says weren’t up to the grade. Now on their third generation Hustler balefeeder, he knows what to look for.

A key feature of the Chainless 4000 trailed balefeeder is the lack of feed chains to rotate the bale, which typically have high wear rates and require considerable maintenance. Hustler also provides the advantage of a pair of carefully designed self-cleaning twin-varispeed rotors. The lower rotor turns a third of the speed of the top rotor and out in the paddock I could easily see how well it rotated the bale and fluffed up the feed then laid it down evenly, increasing its quality for the stock. Also noted was that the slippery Polyethylene platform continuously kept the bale against the rotors meaning little adjustment in the platform height was required throughout the whole feeding operation.

From Mathieson’s point of view, stability is king. During winter, supplement is fed out along the ridges where there’s little space to turn, yet he finds it’s less of a problem with the Hustler Chainless 4000 Balefeeder because of its extra wide 2.1m wheel track. Thanks to the good design both square and round bales are used on Hangawera Station without hassle or changing anything. “I’ve trialed two other brands and found they didn’t very easily feed-out both square and round bales,” recalls Mathieson.

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For safety reasons the hydraulics are routed through a diverting valve in such a way that you only need two remotes to independently run either the self loader, the platform or feeding drums. The loading arm is unique in that the bale is securely spiked by the rear tynes and then turned through 180˚ before coming to rest at a point just above the main platform. The driver watches a scale at the front of the Hustler where he can set the auto-latch point to hold the bale at his preferred height so they can easily remove the bale wrapping. The bale is then gently lowered onto the platform. The loading arm becomes ready to spike the next bale allowing you to take two bales into the paddock, with one in the breach ready to go. Because of this system I saw no banging and crashing, which is why, after thousands of hours, the Hustler is still going as good as new.

Mathieson says a key feature of the Hustler is its ability to hold the bale at any point in order to unwrap it or take the net off. “The thing about piercing the bale is that you don’t always have to be accurate, it will always works, and it will never roll off on the hills.” Weighing 950kg, the implement can safely carry twice its own weight around hills! The bales didn’t roll around the cradle when Mathieson was driving around the hills because it was wedged against the rotors, and the spare bale was just as secure during transport.

With so many stock units, feeding out is a big task, compounded by the fact the cattle are broken up into small lots. Many would say a silage pit and a feedout wagon would best serve Hangawera Station, however the reality is that Mathieson knows exactly how many bales to feed out to each group, and he sizes those groups to suit the required bales. Perhaps the biggest advantage gained from using a balefeeder strong enough to carry a pair of up to 1000kg oversize (“twelves”) round silage bales is that Mathieson is able to put more stock in each paddock. This is because he can deliver a couple of small bales worth of additional silage into each paddock. In turn, the extra feed per oversize bale has allowed more stock to be carried in each paddock, in the Hereford bulls case, from 45 to 55. “It means we’ve gradually lifted our mob sizes to suit the bigger bales, which then has created a higher stocking rate. And the gear handles it,” Mathieson says.

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Hangawera Station gets very dry in summer and extremely wet in winter, making it slippery going around the hills when feeding out. The clay-base soil also means a heavy silage wagon would get stuck, so overall the Hustler Chainless 4000 Balefeeder has proved to be not only the most reliable feeder, but also the best allround option for what they do.

After more than 6000 silage and hay bales spread over four seasons their Hustler is still going well. “For a machine which has fed out that amount of bales, it’s a very low maintenance machine,” Mathieson says. He has replaced one hydraulic hose which had pin holes and a row of plastic wear plates on the platform. Mathieson says he wouldn’t buy any other type of feeder. “I like its safety features on the hills, the width of the balefeeder, the loading capability and on the hills I can hold the bale from moving around on the platform, which I have to.”

At 700ha, Hangawera Station is the largest dry stock station in the Waikato. The rolling hill to steep country farm carries around 3300 sheep and up to 16 stock units per hectare. Having many small stock lots is relevant to their feed out system, and the Hustler they use. A noticeably quiet running three-year old Same Iron 130 tractor hauls the Chainless 4000 around the large farm, and is used to cart and stack the 1250 oversize round silage bales and 300 square hay bales each year.

Words and images by Terry Stevenson