For most small farms and part time hay makers, a new baler may be out of the question, but for many, that bale more than a couple hundred bales a year, the cost of up keeping an older model baler and the cost of downtime, which usually means hay getting rained on, is enough to justify the cost of a new baler. If you've never run a round baler before it's best to learn on an older baler until you've gotten some experience. Balers have a lot of moving parts and buying used can be a very big gamble. Many times balers that are traded in, or sent to a sale have been well used and have become unreliable. This is not always the case and if buying used its important to buy from a dealer you trust and that is willing to work with you.
Now a days there are many different kinds of balers to suit the needs of every producer, from the weekender with a horse or two, to the custom operator that bales ten thousand bales a season.
Fixed chamber balers consist of either rollers or chain and slat for bale forming. They make a soft core bale, and do not pack in as much hay as their variable chamber counterparts. They can often bale hay with a moisture content of up to 80%, which is nearly impossible with a variable chamber baler. Fixed chamber balers eliminate the need to maintain and replace forming belts which can cause issues at the worst of times. They are not without maintenance though, as they have a great number of bearings that can cause problems as they get older. If you bale mostly for yourself and plan to do a lot of balage, a fixed chamber baler may be the right choice for you.
Variable chamber balers consist of large spinning belts used to form the bale. These balers create a hard core bale by using the pressure of the belts, like a rubber band, to compress the bale as it spins, making a heavier, fuller bale than a fixed chamber baler. They are much more common to find in the U.S.A. and are generally better supported for replacement parts. They can require more experience to make a nice even bale but if done right create a solid bale with square corners. This is why they are often the baler of choice for contractors and hay dealers. If you need to make a nice looking solid bale or just like to fit as much hay into a bale as possible, than a variable chamber baler could be the right choice for you.
Round bales can be made in sizes ranging from a couple feet wide to 5' wide by 6' tall. The most common width of round balers today is 4', because haulers can fit two 4' bales side by side on a trailer and still be under the legal limit. The biggest limiting factor when it comes to determining what size baler to get is the size of your tractor running it. Its very important to look up a baler manufacturers requirements for hp and if you have a lot of hills you will want a bigger tractor than what is recommended.
Twine has been used for many years to hold round bales together. Net Wrap has been around for more than a decade now and has proven its efficiency. Net wrap protects the hay more than twine does and also can wrap the bale in a fraction of the time as it takes to wrap one in twine. Net wrap makes a a sharper looking bale and is the choice of most custom balers and hay dealers. If you want to save some money,you may want to look for a twine only baler, but if you want to retain more quality hay, net wrap is the preferred option.
If you decide to buy a belt baler than you have to decide weather to get endless belts (no seams) or laced belts. Endless belts hold an advantage over laced belts by being more durable due to their lack of seams. Laced belts can easily be removed and replaced where as endless belts require the baler to be disassembled to change a belt. Due to this fact most used balers have laced belts. Endless belts can always be replaced with laced belts if necessary.