Catherine and Jeff Watkins own a farm at Kukerin in Western Australia’s wheatbelt. Their main crop is oaten hay for export, along with wheat, barley, and lupins. At the time they considered getting a stacker in 2016, they were doing 10,000 bales of hay a year and they were unsure if that volume could justify the cost of an auto-stacker.
They used to hire several telehandlers to move their bales three at a time, and stack them into zones six bales high and 40 ft. long for trucking purposes, so the paddock would end up looking like a block of flats. That worked well for 10 years, but then Catherine and Jeff developed their farming practices. Instead of cultivating paddocks, they protected their soil with no-till direct drilling. Their soil is improving, but the surfaces are rough. “It was a tough gig on the operators driving telehandlers over the paddocks, plus it beat the machines up, so we went down the path of an auto-stacker” Jeff says.
In 2016 Arcusin stackers were a rarity in Australia. Jeff did his own research and decided the AutoStack XP model was the best machine for the job. ”The Arcusin picks the bales up directly on the A-B line and spins them on the machine. It has less moving parts and less maintenance than other stackers. I work with 4x3 and 4x4 bales, and I liked that I could change settings for the different sized bales within the cab. To adjust the wings on the trailer or change for bales of different lengths just takes a few minutes of manual adjustment”.
Jeff and Catherin’s AutoStack is offset so the driver can clearly see the loading elevator bed in the mirror. The driver lines up the elevator arm with the bale, and then the bale rides up to the table and is nudged into position. When loaded, the operator backs up to the stack and the bales lift off in a vertical stack, six high and two wide. A hydraulic leg pushes the bottom bale off as the machine drives forward.
Jeff says the support he has received from Arcusin has always been excellent. “They are a family-run business and I was impressed with their attitude. They came out here to meet everyone who owns their machines and listened to what we had to say”.
Jeff pulls his AutoStack with a 210 HP tractor. The tractor’s tires are filled with water to counter-balance the weight of the loaded trailer. The machine has a steering axle and will go anywhere. The only issue Jeff faces is keeping the sensors clean in the dusty WA environment. “This is really dry farming and some years we can’t see the bale stacker with all the dust. But all our machines are driven by sensors, so we have learnt to adapt and know if we have any issues which sensors to clean”.