By Will McClure
Drivers passing by the Farmer's Coop Gin may have noticed something a bit different among the many modules of cotton waiting to be processed as some cotton farmers have made the move to bale their cotton in a different manner. With the use of new equipment, some farmers have moved to a "round" bale instead of the more common modular ones. Coop Gin Manager Rex Ford helped provide some insight into this new process that these local farmers have begun to adopt.
Ford stated that the decision to move to the round bales actually came from the farmers themselves, with the gin looking into the new bales once they saw the farmers using them. Ford said that the farmers needed to purchase new equipment and change the way that they baled their cotton, citing that it was a major expense for these farmers. However, once the transition was made, the process of baling the cotton into the round bales would prove to be much easier for the producers.
"From the farmer's prospective," Ford said, "they eliminate lots of equipment and hard labor. They eliminate probably two strippers, two module builders, two boll buggies, tractors and the manpower that it takes to go with that. One guy, really two guys, can go out there and one runs the stripper and the other guy stacks them four in a row and that's when we haul them in."
Even though there are major expenses with the transition, the process of putting the new bales together has proved to save time and energy, as well as provide a tighter bale, with Ford stating that there is very little cleanup behind them by comparison to the modules. They also provide a cleaner operation for the gin itself as the cotton stays drier, especially when the weather produces rainfall. At the same time, however, a single round bale ends up being smaller than a module, with four round bales equaling a single module, thus requiring more bales to be collected by the gin, but they take less time to process.
Once the bale has reached the gin, Ford said that there is no real difference how the bales are processed with the only major change being a machine that picks up the bale and unwraps the plastic before moving it into the gin. The new process allows the wrapping to be cut in a precise even manner. Once cut, the mechanism that has built-in rollers holds the bale in place while a worker takes the wrapping off as it spins around, allowing for an easy process as the bale eventually makes its way into the gin.
Ford said that the major change with the new bales has come from the fields as the gin has been able to use the same trucks to haul the bales, though with less aggressive chains to keep the bales secure. Ford said that the farmers that have moved to the round bales have been very happy with the process thus far, with the only real negatives, if any, being the cost of the new machines and the cost of the wrapping materials.
Even with only a few farmers moving to the new process, it is clear that the new bales have helped these farmers with their fields in getting them ready for processing. Ford predicted that the switch to the round bales, much like when the modules began being used 25 years ago, will potentially grow very slowly as more farmers look to invest in the new equipment and the new way to bale their cotton. Ford said he does not know how long the transition may take, citing that the overall switch to modules lasted 15 to 20 years, but the move to the round bales seems to be the way the industry is headed.