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Luke Blackwell in front of his Fendt 516 Vario and Fendt Rotana 416
We have been a fan of Fendt tractors for a long time, and still have a 2012 Fendt 716 that the farm has owned from new.
Luke Blackwell - Contracor - Fendt 516 Vario, Fendt Rotana 416 Variable chamber
We have been a fan of Fendt tractors for a long time, and still have a 2012 Fendt 716 that the farm has owned from new.

Variable chamber baler offers multiple options for contractor

Investing in the right machinery suited to a specific workload is paying dividends for contractor Luke Blackwell and his latest Fendt Rotana 4160 variable chamber baler allows him to offer a wide variety of bale options to his customers.
Mr Blackwell’s contracting business is based at the third-generation family farm in Hambleton, overlooking Rutland Water. He offers straw and silage baling as well as a full baled silage service, alongside hedge cutting and arable work.

As an owner operator, and with the only other staff member being his father, Mick, Mr Blackwell’s mantra has always been that investment in reliable, good quality machinery will help to reduce the cost of ownership and increase output.
“We have been a fan of Fendt tractors for a long time, and still have a 2012 Fendt 716 that the farm has owned from new. When it came to replacing our baler a few years ago, I had a few options out on demo. "
“I managed to block up a McHale on hay quite easily, so that was out of the running. In the end it came down to the relationship with our dealer, Chandlers, and the fact we have run Welger balers for years and got on very well with them. Now it is part of the Fendt brand, we didn’t see a reason to change.”

Additional options

The Rotana 4160V arrived for the 2019 season and was equipped with a few extras to make it easier for Mr Blackwell to produce 6,000 bales a year. The subsequent arrival of a Fendt 516 Profi Plus last year has meant the integration between the two machines has improved operational efficiencies.

“I normally run the 516 on 540eco PTO speed, which has the tractor operating at 1,500rpm, so fuel use is kept very low. It is a powerful tractor for its size, and I wanted to stick with a compact model rather than get something too big. There is a tendency to always go bigger but I have plenty of power for what I need in the 516 and it is small enough to negotiate tight gateways.

Fendt 516 Vario and Fendt Rotana 4160V in Hambelton England

“The tractor is well matched to the baler and helpful on big lumps as the power will drop slightly and give the baler chance to pull the material in, whereas a bigger tractor would keep going and end up blocking the pickup.”

The variable chamber allows Mr Blackwell to offer his customers a wider choice of bale options, depending on what material he is baling. 

“I offer straw, silage and hay baling as a service and can easily vary the chamber depending on the customers’ needs. I tend to produce 1.8m hay bales for our own cattle, 1.7m bales for straw customers and silage is heavier so 1.4m bales are about right. The baler’s ISOBUS connection makes changing settings easy and removes the need for another screen in the cab."

“I have developed a slick process by adjusting the timings to within two seconds of the bale chamber buzzer sounding and net wrap engaging to offer maximum efficiency. It takes a bit of time to set it up in the first place and fine-tune the timings, but now the settings are saved, I can comfortably outperform other machines.”

XtraCut knife bank

The extra roller on the net delivery system helps feed the net in and prevents missed bales, but Mr Blackwell says a lot of tension is necessary to get the required spread over the bale. From a maintenance point of view, the auto chain oiler and central banks for greasing have made daily checks very simple.
“I did opt for the wider pickup as, when baling straw swaths, the standard 2.2m unit was on its limit when following the big rows from modern combines. The old baler had the 25-knife bank, but the 4160V has the XtraCut 13-knife rack as we are only asked for this chop length. "

“The baler has produced 16,000 bales over the three seasons, and I tend to get 10,000 bales from one side of the knife. A helpful addition is that I can increase the pressure to 40bar when engaging the knife bank into work position, which makes it easy to switch between crops during the summer. "

“When they aren’t in use, the slots get covered with material passing over them and I’d have to clear these out with a penknife before the knives would engage. However, I just press a button in the cab now and the knives are ready. It is little additions like this that have really increased the work efficiencies since we bought the Rotana,” he concludes.