Bells and Whistles of the ZR5-1200 self-propelled baler

For over five decades, Vermeer has been at the forefront of innovation in the agricultural industry, revolutionizing the way hay is produced. It all began in 1971 when Vermeer founder Gary Vermeer introduced the “big, round baler,” a groundbreaking invention that allowed hay producers to create bales nearly 10 times larger than any other baler on the market. Since then, Vermeer has remained dedicated to pushing the boundaries of technology and equipment to meet the evolving needs of the industry. In 2018, Vermeer introduced the ZR5-1200 self-propelled baler, a game-changing machine that combines automation, intelligent features and comfort within a single unit.

Built with durability in mind, the ZR5-1200 is purposefully crafted to excel at one task — putting up hay. This innovative machine replaces the traditional tractor and baler combination with a high-performance, zero-turn design. Vermeer has been committed to providing cutting-edge solutions from Gary Vermeer’s belief that there is always a better way to accomplish a job. His vision of a one-person system revolutionized the hay-making process, empowering farmers and ranchers to produce large volumes of hay efficiently and independently.

High performance

Who can say that they can make a bale in one step? Well, just talk to farmers and ranchers running a ZR5-1200.

By automating key parts of the baling process, the ZR5-1200 helps reduce the number of manual steps needed to successfully make a bale. “You can sit in the cab and steer without performing as many monotonous actions and just keeping on baling. This can really help operators when they’ve been in the field all day long,” explained Bart Elder, lead product manager for Forage Solutions. When the desired bale size is achieved the machine will automatically stop, tie, open and close the tailgate, and return to the previous spot in the windrow. After that, operators just need to hit the “Go,” button and repeat until the job is done.

Precision and versatility with smart features

Smart features and flexible controls are just another way the ZR5-1200 is set apart from traditional tractor and baler combinations. A key feature for farmers and ranchers is the independently adjustable pickup and belt speeds, and the pickup reverser. With separate motors for the bale chamber and the pickup, operators can experience unparalleled flexibility in managing crop flow and optimize baler performance based on the crop type. Elder said, “At the end of the day these features enable operators to fully adjust the crop flow, and that is key to baling efficiently in a variety of crop materials.” The pickup reverser on the ZR5-1200 is beneficial if the baler experiences a plug of crop materials. This feature may be unable to completely remove all plugs, but it will at least loosen the material up and reverse the material out of the pickup to give operators another opportunity to bale it.

Yet another advanced feature in the ZR5-1200 is an inclinometer, which can be crucial when baling in hilly terrain. An inclinometer provides slope information, both front to back and side to side, enabling operators to position the bale precisely to help improve bale stability.

The automatic statistics storage monitor in the cab helps farmers and ranchers track and manage their baling operations effectively, whether they are custom operators serving multiple clients or an operator wanting to monitor individual fields. This advanced monitor stores data such as the day a specific field was baled, number of bales per field, average moisture and tonnage per field, bales per hour and the total time taken to bale a field. Elder says, “It gives you a lot of great data to go back on. You can use it to evaluate how many tons you pulled off a field and what the average moisture was, as some farmers and ranchers sell hay based on the recorded tonnage for that day. The monitor provides a ton of useful data that can be used in multiple ways.” By leveraging this data, operators can make informed decisions, help enhance productivity and allow accurate invoicing and management of their hay production.

Superior cab comfort

The ZR5-1200 prioritizes operator comfort with its superior design and advanced features. The cab is specially designed to offer wide visibility, allowing operators to fully see the windrows ahead. “The expansive and open view from the windshield is industry leading. With a tractor, you are looking out over the hood, exhaust or around tires to see the windrow,” Elder says. Paired with a high-quality camera system, operators can watch underneath and behind the machine with ease. The two-camera system is located at the front of the machine to watch the pickup, and at the back of the machine to watch the bale being dumped during automatic mode, or to keep an eye on traffic during transport mode. When you need to get hay baled sometimes that means working the night shift, which is why the ZR5-1200 camera system uses infrared technology to provide a clear image of baling operations — even in the dark.

Sitting in the ZR5-1200 cab is an extremely comfortable experience with the patented independent suspension system. The unique positioning of the cab provides a smooth and comfortable ride — allowing operators to better handle the uneven ground conditions that naturally comes with baling. To add to operator comfort, the cab is airtight to reduce noise and minimize dust in the cab. Diminished sound within the cab allows higher comfort for the operator after long hours in the baler. Elder explains, “I’ve had many farmers and ranchers tell me that if they baled all day, eight hours in a tractor baler combination, they’re just wore out. When they get out of the ZR5 after baling for eight hours, they can actually do another task.”

To further enhance convenience, the ZR5-1200 has wireless capabilities, allowing operators to go hands-free for taking calls or enjoying their favorite music through the speaker. With superior visibility, a comfortable and quiet cabin, and wireless connectivity, the ZR5-1200 combines comfort and convenience to provide operators with an exceptional baling experience.

As Vermeer continues to carry Gary’s legacy, the Forage Solutions team strives to enhance equipment for farmers and ranchers with an unwavering passion for the agriculture industry. The dedication to innovation and commitment to meeting the ever-changing demands of the industry allows hay producers to be equipped to do more with Vermeer hay tools.


Vermeer Corporation reserves the right to make changes in product engineering, design and specifications; add improvements; or discontinue manufacturing or distribution at any time without notice or obligation. Equipment shown is for illustrative purposes only and may display optional accessories or components specific to their global region. Please contact your local Vermeer dealer for more information on machine specifications.

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