Automation: why Justin Hannsz switched to the ZR5-1200 self-propelled baler

With a red Angus cow-calf operation, plenty of row crops, additional acres dedicated to hay production and three on-the-go kids, you could say Justin Hannsz and his wife, Lindsay, keep themselves pretty busy on their homestead in Haskell, Texas.

So busy, in fact, they knew just one tractor and large round baler combo was no longer going to cut it for their custom hay business. They needed a new haymaking solution. “This time of year, I spend 80 – 100 hours a week doing hay,” Hannsz said.

Two large round hay balers vs. one ZR5-1200 self-propelled baler

Hannsz’s need for speed and increased productivity was about more than just high demand for hay in his part of Texas. It had to do with his limited baling windows, due to low humidity, for his hay grazer and Bermuda grass varieties. “In our part of Texas baling is a little different, we do probably 75% of baling at night,” Hannsz said. “We have to work around the humidity, and during the daytime the humidity is too low.”

With the growing hay demand, paired with the added challenges of baling hay at night, Hannsz contemplated adding a second tractor-baler combo. Of course, there had to be a better way — and it turns out there was. Enter the Vermeer ZR5-1200 self-propelled baler — “I can do what two tractors and balers can do with that single machine” Hannsz said.

From sundown to sunup

Hannsz says a typical workday for him starts at midnight and he bales until sometime in the morning when the humidity drops. After he services his ZR5-1200 efficiently (thanks in part to the slick auto-grease feature), he checks cattle or crops. At some point he’ll try to catch a little sleep if he’s lucky, then he’s back at it again.

“With the ZR5-1200, I knew I could up my production,” Hannsz said. “With my tractor-baler combo, I could get about 50 bales per hour, but with the ZR5-1200 I can do over 75 bales per hour. I could probably do more bales than that if the hay was good.”

The ZR5-1200 automation

Hannsz also says operating the ZR5-1200 at night is less stressful “mentally and physically” with its automated bale ejection and its two pickup cameras (one shows the baler pickup and the other shows the rear view of the machine). “I feel like I can do more bales in the night and I’m less fatigued,” Hannsz said. “The ZR5-1200 suspension takes a lot of the jarring out of the equation, plus the fact that you’re not having to look back at the pickup. The camera system in the ZR5-1200 works excellent.”

Automating parts of the baling process, the ZR5-1200 also aims to reduce the number of steps an operator must complete to make a bale. “The ZR5-1200 will do pretty much everything for you,” Hannsz said. “When the bale gets to size, the machine stops, wraps the bale, opens the tailgate, kicks the bale out and closes the tailgate. All you have to do is push one button for the machine to start moving again.” To begin baling again, operators simply push a button and can roll through the field at speeds up to 12 miles per hour (19.3 km/hr).

“I feel like on my operation, the ZR5-1200 replaces two tractors and balers, not only because of the speed of baling, but because of the transport speed,” Hannsz said. “We may leave one field and travel 20 miles (32.2 km) to the next field with the ZR5-1200 traveling at over 30 miles per hour (48.3 km/hr).”

Customer demand has never been better

The time crunch of haymaking in the Texas climate is challenging for Hannsz to take care of his customers. Some of his bigger customers, particularly those in the dairy industry, count on him to deliver quality, consistent bales. “I try to be very competitive with my hay process,” Hannsz said. “The most important thing for my customers is to have a tight, heavy bale.”

So, what happened to his old tractor and large round hay baler combo? Hannsz says it hasn’t left the shed since the ZR5-1200 showed up. “I would dread having to go back to the tractor and baler after running the ZR5-1200,” Hannsz said. “Honestly, I can’t think of any pros at this point with my old tractor-baler combo.”

The whole Hannsz family agrees. “My wife loves the ZR5-1200, because with it I’m able to get done with my baling faster,” Hannsz said. “So that means more time with her and the kids.”

The secret is out

However, despite all the ZR5-1200 benefits, Hannsz joked he’s not quite ready to let the cat out of the bag on his newly enhanced levels of productivity. “I wouldn’t recommend the ZR5-1200 to anybody around here, because I don’t want my competition to own one,” Hannsz said with a hearty laugh.

And that’s why Justin Hannsz switched to Vermeer ZR5-1200 self-propelled baler.



Information noted above was gathered from a third party who was advised his/her experience might be featured in marketing materials. This article contains third-party observations, advice or experiences that do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Vermeer Corporation, its affiliates or its dealers. Individual results may vary based on care and operation of machine and crop and field conditions, which may adversely affect performance. Vermeer Corporation reserves the right to make changes in engineering, design and specifications; add improvements; or discontinue manufacturing 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. Vermeer and the Vermeer logo are trademarks of Vermeer Manufacturing Company in the U.S. and/or other countries. Please contact your local Vermeer dealer for more information on machine specifications. © 2020 Vermeer Corporation. All Rights Reserved.