Anyone attending a major farm show in Canada or the U.S. recently will almost certainly have noticed Kubota equipment on display, and probably a lot of it. The brand has clearly been targeting farmers, and it clearly intends to make much bigger inroads in the ag equipment sector in North America.
Kubota executives are also making no secret of their plan to keep up the pace of new machinery introductions that we’ve seen from the company in the last couple of years. As we talked beside the brand new BV4580 5′ x 6′ round baler during its first public showing at the U.S. Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, in August, David Palmer, senior product manager for implements at Kubota, made just that point.
“This is just our first launch,” Palmer said. “We have other products we’re working on that we’re going to be continually bringing in. They’re going to support the product range we haven’t had products in.”
The larger BV4580 round baler will help make the orange brand a much bigger player in livestock equipment. It’s a niche it wants to grow in, which explains the introductions in the U.S./Canada market. Prior to the debut of the BV4580, Kubota had already brought on integrated balers with narrower four-foot chambers from Kverneland.
Kverneland, a Norwegian brand, was acquired by Kubota in 2012. That acquisition gave Kubota an instant line of hay and tillage tools. Realistically though, only Kverneland’s hay tools were anything close to a fit for mainstream North American agriculture, and up until now we’ve only seen implements with the smaller working widths and sizes that Kverneland produced to suit its original markets. But under Kubota ownership, those implements are now being scaled up to better interest producers on this side of the Atlantic.
The BV4580 is a prime example of that. According to Palmer, the brand is also incorporating new technologies and design refinements into the mix as the new products roll out.
Kubota believes it can deliver value. “We have a completely different intake system, and we have an integrated auger-rotor system in the chamber floor of this baler,” Boone explained as we walked around the baler on display at the Iowa show. “As material is brought in from the side, it’s able to flow. And this rotor is giving us an even feed into the bale chamber, which gives us maximum density on our bales.”
In side-by-side tests against two leading competitors, he says, the BV4580 had a 10 per cent advantage, both in density and performance over those machines, so it’s really given us a lot of capacity for feeding into the baler.
And the BV4580s get a new in-cab monitor, which Palmer said customers were partly responsible for.
“Our previous controller was a little bit bigger and had a black and white screen that was hard to see in the sunlight,” he said. “So we’ve gone with a smaller monitor, but it has a high-density screen on it. Even in the cab in the sunlight it’s easy to see. It’s a real user-friendly monitor, simple, easy to understand.”
With the ability to produce 5′ x 6′ bales that weigh up to 1,800 pounds, these balers are likely to see genuine interest from commercial-scale livestock producers who would have just walked past the smaller, four-foot models. (By mid-October, Canadian producers still hadn’t been officially introduced to the BV4580. The launch here was set for late in the fall, after our press time, although there had been a few balers in field trials in the West.)
The new balers will be built at Kverneland’s Ravenna Baler Competence Centre in northern Italy and shipped to North America. Final assembly of Canadian balers will take place in existing Kubota facilities here, while U.S. balers will get final assembly at Great Plains Manufacturing’s air drill and planter factory in Salina, Kansas, which is the latest implement brand to come under Kubota ownership.
This spring’s announcement detailing the purchase reveals that, like Kverneland, Great Plains will continue to operate as it has with its original brand name painted on the flanks of machines built in the Salina plant — for the time being, at least. But it’s almost certain that its products will soon also find their way into the Kubota brand lineup, just as Kverneland’s have.
“We’re moving into the grain sector as well with the acquisition of Land Pride and Great Plains,” said Palmer. “Kubota has made a commitment that we’re going to be a full-liner in the ag market.”