North American machinery manufacturer Vermeer has just unveiled its new prototype self-propelled round baler.

Unveiled at Husker Harvest Days, the ZR5 promises to make “quick work of any field”, while supposedly “offering unprecedented ride quality and maneuverability”.

“Our patent-pending suspension technology allows operators to better handle the bumps and jostling that naturally comes with baling. If you think about all those bumps over the course of the day or multiple days, ride quality can really impact the operator,” said Josh Vrieze, product manager.

In the ZR5, operators experience a smoother, more comfortable ride with the cab uniquely positioned over the suspension.

With a nod to the lawn-care industry, Vermeer has employed ‘zero-radius turning’ technology to this new machine’s steering system. This feature, says Vermeer, allows better maneuverability than a conventional tractor-baler combination.


“Operators can spend less time turning in the field and more time baling. The zero-radius turning can eliminate skipping a windrow [or swath] to make the turn, or swinging out wide to get into the next one,” added Vrieze.

“And, when it’s time to head to the next field, zero-radius turning can be disengaged. Folks who have operated other, similar self-propelled machines will appreciate the dual-steering functionality; with the zero-turn disengaged, the operator steers the ZR5 using the front wheels for a smooth, confident ride.”


While still a prototype, automating the baling process, as well as providing the ability to automatically make real-time adjustments based on field, crop and operator inputs, are just a couple of the goals Vermeer has for the ZR5.

So-called ‘quarter-turn‘ technology is part of the ZR5’s baling automation process. During the tying-cycle, the machine can automatically rotate to the left or right, to position the bale at a right angle to the windrow (swath) upon ejection. This, says Vermeer, speeds up the subsequent picking (loading) of bales – making that operation up to 35% faster.

Keeping machine maintenance simple is another objective Vermeer says it has sought to achieve. The bale chamber can apparently be removed for maintenance in a matter of minutes.

“Farmers are facing one of the same challenges they did in 1971 when Gary Vermeer introduced the round baler, and that is labour,” said executive vice president, Mark Core.


“As access to labour in rural areas becomes more limited, we believe the type of innovation needed to design the ZR5 will need to continue to pave the way for more efficiency, productivity and an eventual reduction in labor needed to produce the same amount of feed.

“I’m happy to say Vermeer is proud to be making this investment in innovation and dedicated to leading the way.”