Vermeer continues to lead innovation in the hay and forage industry by introducing the world’s first self-propelled round baler. Unveiled at Husker Harvest Days, the prototype ZR5 self-propelled baler promises to make quick work of any field while offering unprecedented ride quality and maneuverability.   

“Our patent-pending suspension technology allows operators to better handle the bumps and jostling that naturally comes with baling hay. If you think about all those bumps over the course of the day or multiple days, ride quality can really impact the operator,” said Josh Vrieze, product manager. “In the ZR5, operators experience a smoother, more comfortable ride with the cab uniquely positioned over the suspension.”

With a nod to the lawn care industry, Vermeer has applied zero-radius turning to the steering system in the self-propelled machine.  This feature allows operators to gain better maneuverability and driving efficiency than a conventional tractor-baler combination.    

“Operators can spend less time turning in the field and more time baling.  The zero-radius turning can eliminate skipping a windrow to make the turn, or swinging out wide to get into the next windrow,” adds Vrieze. “And, when it’s time to head to the next field, zero-radius turning can be disengaged. Folks who have operated other self-propelled machines will appreciate the dual steering functionality; with the zero-turn disengaged, the operator steers the ZR5 using the front wheels for a smooth, confident ride.”

While still a prototype, automating the baling process, as well as providing the ability to automatically make real-time adjustments based on field, crop and operator inputs, are just a couple of the goals Vermeer has for the ZR5.  Integrated quarter-turn technology is part of the ZR5 baling automation process.  During the tie-cycle, the machine can automatically rotate to the left or right, positioning the bale parallel to the windrow upon ejection.  When placing bales parallel to the windrow, the picking up process can be completed up to 35% faster.

Keeping machine maintenance simple is another objective Vermeer is striving to achieve.  The bale chamber can be removed for maintenance in a matter of minutes, helping to ensure producers are spending time productively in the field.   

“Farmers and ranchers are facing one of the same challenges they did in 1971 when Gary Vermeer introduced the round baler, and that is labor,” said Vermeer executive vice president, Mark Core.  “As access to labor in rural areas becomes more limited, we believe the type of innovation needed to design the ZR5 will need to continue to pave the way for more efficiency, productivity and an eventual reduction in labor needed to produce the same amount of feed. I’m happy to say Vermeer is proud to be making this investment in innovation and dedicated to leading the way.”