ROCK SPRINGS, Pa. — Every year, Ag Progress Days gives farm machinery manufacturers a chance to show off their newest and biggest machines.
To the uninitiated, the new products are a confusing whirl of tines, tubes, discs and tires. To farmers, they fall somewhere between being shiny, new tools and shiny, new toys.
Hay mergers are one of the newer toys on the market. They have been around for eight to 10 years and are growing in popularity, John Hartman, a York, Pa.-based sales representative from Kuhn, said.
A merger collects hay from a wide area, generally 10 or 30 feet, and deposits it in a windrow. A farmer can then use a chopper to handle the hay from there. Heads that fold for easier transportation are common on the wider hay mergers.
Most mergers let farmers choose whether the windrow is formed to the left, right or directly behind the tractor. Heavier crops can also be deposited as two windrows. Conveyor belts channel the hay perpendicular to the rows and can change the direction it flows.
A merger can be a useful machine for hay, according to Delaney Gladhill of Gladhill Brothers in Damascus, Md.
“It picks it up off the ground where it’s sitting,” turns it over, fluffs it up and moves it to dry ground, Gladhill said in a phone interview. Gladhill represents John Deere, which doesn’t carry mergers.
A merger turns over about 65 percent of the hay, Ron Zygarlicki, an H&S rep from Wisconsin who attended Ag Progress Days, said during the demonstration. Flipping the hay cuts the drying time.
Unlike hay rakes, mergers generally do not have metal tines. Many mergers use hard plastic tines in an effort to be gentler on hay crops.
The softer tines help preserve the quality of leafy plants like alfalfa, according to Kuhn’s promotional materials.
“Everybody kind of gets a little leery” of the replaceable plastic teeth, but they hold up fine, Zygarlicki said.
Other standard features on hay mergers include wind guards to keep hay from blowing away and skid shoes to minimize damage to the ground.
“People are doing a lot of chopping” these days, and hay mergers are better than rakes for moving wet hay, Hartman, the Kuhn rep, said. Hay rakes work better with dry hay but tend to pick up more foreign debris.
Besides reducing the purity of the feed, heavier foreign matter like stones can damage machinery. And dispersed soil can spread destructive bacteria to the plants.
The attractiveness of hay mergers depends on how wet the year has been, but this year has had good rainfall. Wet hay is easier to put up, Hartman said.
Kuhn offers two sizes of hay mergers. At 10 feet wide, the Merge Maxx 300 is the smaller machine. It requires 50 to 60 horsepower to pull and costs between $30,000 and $40,000.
The Merge Maxx 900 is 30 feet wide, requires 150 horsepower and costs about $150,000.
The two models are “basically the same machine,” just with different widths, Hartman said.
Zygarlicki and his H&S staff demonstrated their company’s largest and smallest mergers at Ag Progress Days. The demonstration started with the larger Tri-flex machine, which produced an even windrow without significant clumping.
The 30-foot and 35-foot Tri-flex mergers can raise the outer thirds of the unit to lift over windrows. The mergers’ 42-inch cross conveyor and 31-inch pickup are the largest in the industry, the H&S staff said.
H&S makes mergers as small as the 9-foot-wide M-9, which Zygarlicki called an “inexpensive” option for smaller operations.
The mergers can be used with many tractors with hydraulics or power take-offs, he said.
“You can run them with the old tractors” because they do not need the higher horsepower some other newer equipment requires, he said.
Oxbo, which also had a display at Ag Progress Days, promotes its 4334 merger as “the world’s first self-propelled merger,” according to the company website.
That model covers 34 feet of field at a time and features 41-inch-high wind guards to keep lighter forages from blowing off the conveyor belts. Oxbo uses rubber tines instead of plastic ones.
Case advertises 9-foot-wide mergers on its website.
Gladhill, the John Deere rep, said farmers could also check with Vermeer or New Holland for more information about those companies’ hay mergers.
Most of the machinery demonstrations at Ag Progress were related to alfalfa, this year’s crop in Penn State’s rotation.
Sales reps showed off mowers, choppers, rakes, tedders and balers. Attendees also got to see the university’s experimental cover crop interseeder in action.<\c> Photo by Philip Gruber
A spectator watches as a hay merger is demonstrated Tuesday at Ag Progress Days in Rock Springs, Pa.
Photo by Philip Gruber
A merger fluffs the hay up as it picks it up, turns it over and moves it to dry ground.