| June 2002


This drawing comes from the 1910 Luebben patent

A friend asked if I'd listened to the news this morning. I confessed I hadn't, and he said he'd heard that the Ohio Department of Agriculture had just banned round bales. I swallowed the bait and asked why they'd do such a tomfool thing. My friend grinned and said it was because Ohio cows weren't getting a square meal! That old joke introduces the subject of this month's column, the development of round balers, which many think are a fairly recent invention.

During the late 1800s, a large hay market developed to supply the growing population of 'town' horses as the gap between town and farm increased.

Many different inventions were fashioned to satisfy this demand, most having to do with baling technology. Compressing hay into bales made it much easier to ship and store, and stationary wire-tie hay presses became very popular. These bales had some disadvantages though; they were heavy and hard to handle, and bits of wire could be fatal if swallowed by the animals. Also, square bales could be saturated with rain, and subsequently mold and rot.

On Oct. 18, 1910, Ummo Franklin Luebben of Lincoln, Neb., received a patent for a 'new and useful baling press.' Luebben's press made round bales instead of square ones, and they were tied with binder twine instead of wire. Luebben claimed his bales retained all of the plant leaves and were waterproof, allowing them to be piled in the field and left until ready for use. Luebben also claimed the open core of his round bales eliminated the danger of green hay spoiling from heat buildup. Not all of these claims proved valid.

Lets Talk Rusty Iron

A 1910 activities report at the Kansas Agricultural College Experimental Farm contains the following description: 'The first crop was cut on May 23. This crop was light, and half was injured by rain after cutting. At this time, baling alfalfa green was tried. The Luebben baler was used. Hay was baled as soon as cut, and (also) after it had started to cure. Neither stage of curing was a success. The hay molded and even rotted in the bale. The alfalfa that was thoroughly cured was the only hay that kept well. The Luebben baler is all right if a large amount of hay can be cut and cured; a condition that is very hard to secure without getting it wet. It needs a large force of men and teams to run it at full capacity.',

Luebben's baler never achieved much success, even after the firm developed the Luebben vacuum curing machine to use along with the baler. The curing device was supposed to eliminate the curing period for un-baled hay in the field, where it was subject to rain.