Your Reading List

Less stress and more hay in a day

Everything you could want to know about a bale is found on a scannable tag on the twine.

Launch of the IntelliCruise feed-rate control system in 2016 marks the latest advancement in forage harvesting technology from New Holland after introducing its CropRFV last year and CropID in 2013.

IntelliCruise does exactly what the name implies. It’s a variable cruise control for the tractor that adjusts ground speed according to a set rate for forage feeding into the baler. The electronic control unit mounted on the baler signals the electronic control unit on the tractor to automatically slow ground speed while picking up heavier swaths and increase speed while picking up lighter swaths to maintain a consistent feed rate in crops that aren’t uniform.

In charge-control mode, the signal from the baler’s load sensor adjusts tractor speed according to how much forage the plunger pushes with each stroke. In slice-control mode, tractor speed adjusts to bale slice thickness to produce bales with a uniform number and thickness of slices.

Claude Lesperance, field support specialist with New Holland at Guelph, Ont., says the advantages of automatically matching the tractor’s ground speed to crop load are three-fold. It optimizes baler performance resulting in as much as a nine per cent increase in baler capacity and productivity. This means that you’ll be able to put up about nine per cent more hay by weight in a day with IntelliCruise controlling the tractor’s speed. In turn, IntelliCruise helps reduce driver fatigue from continuously gauging swath volume to shift speed up and down accordingly from the cab. Research to date shows that there will be a savings on fuel but the amount depends on many variables.

IntelliCruise is built to the very latest ISOBUS class III standard and is installed on New Holland’s 2016 model large square balers. The baler has to be married up with a tractor with ISOBUS class III functionality, which the company’s 2016 model T6 and T7 tractors offer, Lesperance explains.

Customers who purchase a new baler and don’t have a compatible tractor won’t be charged for the IntelliCruise system in the price of the baler. When the time comes to upgrade to a tractor with ISOBUS class III technology, the customer can buy the unlock code to activate the IntelliCruise system.

ISOBUS is an electronic network adhering to International Standards Organization 11783 for use of bus applications with universal connections and compatibility regardless of manufacturer. Instead of dedicated monitors and wiring for each device on each piece of equipment, the ISOBUS class III network makes it possible to have one virtual terminal in a cab that will recognize any certified 11783 ISOBUS class III compatible electronic control unit on the tractor and other attached equipment.

A bus is a twisted four-wire cable for transmitting electronic data, already widely used in the automotive industry. The basic ISOBUS standard for agricultural equipment was first published in 2001. The earlier class I and II networks allowed the electronic control unit in the tractor to display information about the tractor and its subsystems. Class III has the added capacity to receive data from electronic control units on an attached implement and carry out commands based on that information via the tractor’s task controller programmed through the farm’s management computer.

CropRFV and CropID

First, a grab sample taken from swaths just after cutting is sent to a feed-test lab. The RFV from the analysis is entered into the CropRFV system to calibrate the program for that particular field at the time of baling. The system’s moisture sensors and weigh scale take readings on the fly and feed them into the program to adjust the baseline RFV accordingly for each whole bale, not just samples here and there.

The underlying premise is that leaves are the most nutrient-dense, digestible part of forages and pack much more tightly into a bale than stemmy, fibrous material. It follows that bales with more leaf material weigh up heavier and are of higher quality than bales of the same moisture content than bales made with more stems.

The RFV of alfalfa hay can vary widely across a field depending on the stage of maturity of each plant at cutting and on harvest conditions. In trials to prove the Harvest Tec system’s accuracy, the lab results for RFV on 108 first-cut alfalfa bales ranged from 159 to 230 even though the bales were made within a two-hour period on the same field.

RFV combines an estimate of digestible dry matter and dry-matter intake into an index for use when comparing forage quality and, therefore, how well an animal could be expected to perform when fed hay or silage with differing RFVs.

Acid detergent fibre (ADF), which is the non-digestible component of forage, is used to inversely predict the portion that is digestible. Neutral detergent fibre (NDF) is all of the plant parts that are somewhat digestible and give the animal a feeling of fullness. It is used to estimate how much of the forage an animal would be able to consume based on its body weight.

The equation for indexing the RFV of forages was developed so that full-bloom alfalfa with 41 per cent ADF and 53 per cent NDF has a RFV of 100. Forages with RFVs above 100 are considered superior to full-bloom alfalfa.

RFV is a useful tool for pricing, buying and selling hay, and predicting animal performance relative to other forage choices, but actual values for crude protein and energy are needed to balance rations.

The Utah State University’s research, to prove the Harvest Tec system’s accuracy, involved coring 542 bales from three cuts of alfalfa to send for lab analyses. The results were compared with RFVs generated by the Harvest Tec system for bales from the same cuts. The conclusion was that the system offers a practical way to get a prediction of hay quality as it comes out of the field.

Further testing under widespread conditions on eight farms in six states with varying temperatures, precipitation (or irrigation) amounts, varieties, cutting times, bale sizes and balers found a strong correlation between the Harvest Tec system’s RFV results and lab RFV results on core samples from more than 3,000 bales.

The CropRFV monitor displays RFV as bales are made and details are summarized in a printable job report that shows averages for the field.

The CropID program takes the CropRFV system to the next level by tagging each bale with its RFV along with bale weight, moisture, date and time of baling, field location and variable-rate preservative application. The information is written to a radio-frequency identification chip in a vinyl tag attached to the baler twine.

The CropID tagger, also underpinned with Harvest Tec technology, can be used without CropRFV to write any of the other data to the chip.

The tags can be read with a hand-held scanner or the scanner can be mounted on handling equipment to sort bales into low-, medium- and high-RFV lots for consistency when shipping and/or feeding the hay. An arch-like portal scanner, usually positioned over a scale, is capable of reading information from tags on each individual bale loaded on a truck. Data from the portal scanner is transmitted to a computer program for viewing or printout.

Lesperance says an option in lieu of the CropID chip is a dye marker kit. It sprays one, two or three marks on both sides of the bales as they leave the bale chamber based on pre-programmed RFV values you put into the CropRVF system. You could, for instance, set it up to spray one mark on bales with RFV less than 100, two marks for bales with RFV of 101 to 150, and three marks for those with RFV of 151 and higher.

For more information about these innovations, visit your local dealership or Lesperance’s power-point presentation from the Canadian Forage & Grassland Association conference is available at

About the author



Stories from our other publications