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A small round baler was innovation 60 years agoA small round baler was innovation 60 years ago

What will your grandchildren think about the farm equipment you use today?

Tom Bechman 1

September 3, 2015

2 Min Read

Dudley and Julie Wallace, Stilesville, brought this 1952 WD and Allis Chalmers Roto-Baler to the 2015 Indiana State Fair. The folks at Pioneer Village thought it was deserving of being placed in a spot by itself where more people could see it. The sign printed for the baler says "Allis Chalmers does it again! A baler that makes small, round bales farmers can leave in the field."

Related: How many acres could you cover with this vintage corn picker today?


Was the idea ahead of its time or were farmers just not quite ready for that drastic a change in haymaking? The baler caught on in some places, especially among beef cattle producers who had rolling fields of grass hay. If they only cut the field once, the idea was to leave the bales where they fell and let cows eat them in the winter. Some people put them on wagons and stored them inside.

Some 25 years later, Gary Vermeer, Pella, Iowa, would take the concept a giant step further. He would develop a baler that made big round bales. They were designed to be moved out of the field so the forage could regrow for a second cutting. And they could be stored inside to prevent spoilage, and then fed to a group of cattle one at a time.

Labor was still readily available to throw square hay bales in the 1950s – not so much in the 1970s. By then, the round bale was an idea whose time had come, but for a slightly different reason: so one man could make and store away hay without looking for teenagers to lift bales and work in super-hot haymows.

Related: Here's a vintage tractor you won't find in everyone's barn

People report using the Roto-baler as early as 1947. Actually, two brothers in Nebraska invented the concept of a round bale in the late 19th century, and received patents in the early 1900s. They formed the Round Baler Mfg. Company.

Some ideas aren't as new as you think!

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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