There are a number of things to consider in buying a baler, beyond basic concerns like budget.
1. Square or Round Bales?
Firstly, it is important to decide whether you would rather have square or round bales. There are pros and cons to each type.
Part of choosing between square and round bales has to do with the eventual use or market for the hay you plan on growing. If you are growing hay for a large cattle operation, large round bales make sense, as cattle are generally more resistant to moulds and fungi that can grow in bales stored outdoors, and larger bales are faster to produce. For supplying smaller markets—like horse stables or a hobby farm—small square bales make sense, as they are less prone to mould, easier to move, and easier to store in a barn.
Other factors to consider: small square bales require more manpower, and more time to dry between cutting and baling.
2. Offset or Straight-Line Design?
If you do choose a square baler, there are also decisions to be made. Some machines are designed with the baler and hay wagon offset to the right side, whereas others have a “straight-line” design. Generally, the straight line balers are regarded as being easier to pilot around, and also better at picking up more of the biomass from the windrow.
However, as with most things, there are devotees to each design, citing numerous pros and cons.
3. Net-Wrap or Twine?
Net-wrap is certainly a time-saver, requiring 1.5 to 2.5 rotations of the bale to wrap it, compared to 20-30 turns with twine. Apparently, net wrap can improve baling efficiency by over 30%, as well as reducing losses due to rot, shedding, or handling.Adding a net wrapping mechanism to a baler, or buying one with the capability, can increase the overall cost of the machine, as well as increasing the cost of materials come harvest time, so the cost-benefit analysis depends on the type of operation, markets, storage, time, fuel and labor costs, and more.