How to Set Up and Operate a Round Baler

A round baler is a very cost effective solution for most average size haying operations. Here are the round baler basics you should know for getting your 460M Round Baler set up properly and ready to start baling hay. Because with equipment properly set up and sized to your operation, one person can usually bale, store, and feed all the hay harvested.

For this project, we’ll be using a John Deere 5125M Utility Tractor (US CA) and a John Deere 460M Round Baler (US CA). They’re well-matched to each other in terms of size and horsepower, and as a package, are well-suited to the fields we’ll be working in.

Let’s start with the tractor. The key issues in making sure your tractor is set up properly are ballast, tire pressure, and wheel spacing.

We made sure our tractor’s tire pressure was correct. And for proper ballast, we’ve added 6, 95-pound (43 kg) suitcase weights to the front of our tractor, so we’ve got plenty of weight up front.

We made sure the inside wheel-to-wheel spacing for both the front and rear wheels was at least as wide as the baler’s pickup, which is 61 inches (155 cm) for our 460M MegaWide pickup. This also matches the width of our windrow, so our tractor can straddle the windrow during baling. By straddling the windrow, it’s easier for the baler to pick up the windrow edges because you aren’t running over the cut hay.

Next is drawbar height. The top of the tractor’s drawbar should be 16 – 20 inches (41 – 51 cm) above ground. If it’s too high or too low, the baler pickup won’t maximize its ability to pick up all the hay in the windrow and you’ll be leaving crop on the ground.

Now for the round baler basics. To set up our 460M Round Baler, once again we start with tire pressure. For these larger, high-flotation tires, that’s 15 psi (103 kPa)

Next, we adjust the pickup height. It’s important to not set the pickup height too low to the ground as this can cause unnecessary wear on the tines, and add additional ash content to the bale. With the 460M Baler, we can raise and lower the pickup height hydraulically, and can then manually adjust the height by simply turning an adjustment crank – clockwise to raise the pickup, or counterclockwise to lower the pickup – to be between 1 and 2 inches (2.5 – 5 cm) off the ground.

We made sure we matched our net wrap size to our bale width, installed it properly, and we’re ready to go. Then we hooked up our BaleTrac Pro monitor cable. The baler monitor tells you everything you need to know about what’s going on inside the baler. Bale shape. Bale size. Bale count. Stop and wrap controls. Open and close the gate. Eject the bale. And more. It’s a wonderful tool to have when you’re into serious hay baling.

Okay. Let’s get started.

If you’ve done all these round baler basics right up to this point, then you’re set up for an easy baling experience. You should start baling in the opposite direction of the pattern in which you cut the hay and made your windrows. In other words, you pick up the hay head first.

We made sure the windrow width matches our baler pickup, which for a MegaWide pickup means a little wider than the bale chamber. You begin by straddling the first windrow with the tractor while keeping an eye on the bale monitor. If you don’t have a bale monitor, your round baler probably has a bale size gauge you can see from the tractor seat.

Either way, once the bale reaches your selected size you stop, wrap the bale, and eject it out the back of the baler. Close the baler gate and continue baling. And remember, it’s always a good idea to check your tractor mirrors to make sure the bale you just ejected has the right shape and was wrapped properly. If anything looks amiss, stop and take a closer look. You might need to make an adjustment or repair before you make a bunch of miss-made bales.

You’ll find several other videos here on Tips Notebook on various aspects of the haymaking process and other pieces of equipment you might want or need to use in your operation.

But don’t forget, always read the Operator’s Manual before storing or operating any piece of equipment, and follow all operating and safety instructions

And remember, if you’re looking for equipment that’s built to get the job done season after season, year after year, you’ll find it – and all kinds of advice on how to use it – every day at your John Deere dealer.


Helpful Links

John Deere and Frontier Hay & Forage Equipment (US CA)

John Deere Utility Tractors (US CA)

The Basics Of Haymaking

How To Store Large Round Bales

How To Load Netwrap On A 460M Round Baler

How To Load Twine In A Round Baler

How To Set Up And Operate A Mower Conditioner

Top 10 Implements For A Livestock Operation

Using a Frontier DM50 Series Disc Mower

Using a Frontier WR00 Series Carted Wheel Rake

Using a Frontier WR31 High Capacity Carted Wheel Rake

How to choose the right hay tedder for you

How GPS guidance can improve your comfort and productivity

How to handle large round bales

Find Your Dealer (US CA)