Farm machinery shows are often a chance to catch up with key players in the industry. During the National Farm Machinery Show, Farm Progress connected with Mark Core, Vermeer Corp. executive vice president, Vermeer and Kent Thompson, Vermeer research and development director. The hot topic was the ZR5 Self-Propelled Round Baler sitting on the show stand, and there was news on the more traditional baler front, too.

First up, what’s happening with the ZR5? Farm Progress was the first company to offer in-depth information on this new baler in a special report released the week the machine was unveiled at Husker Harvest Days.

The machine drew a large crowd and plenty of interest, but at the time it was still a prototype. During a conversation at NFMS, Core explained that the company is moving ahead with the manufacture of the machine. “We’re looking to have a few machines ready for the market in time for the fall cornstalk season,” said Core. “And we’re hoping to have them in full production in time for the 2019 season.”

Thompson focuses on working on products that “might be” from Vermeer, and then Core’s team works to validate the market. However, when the ZR5 was made public, Core got a surprise. “The response was insane,” he said.

Essentially, the market is intrigued by the concept, and Vermeer has fielded inquiries from a range of producers. As for those first units headed to the field this fall? Core admitted there may be some competition from dealers for those initial units.

Thompson noted that production units will feature a 200-hp engine, up from the original 173 hp in the prototype. “We wanted to have a machine that would operate smoothly in the field and on the road, and that meant raising the horsepower,” he said. “We’re still using Cummins engines for this machine.” Power comes from a 4.5-liter Cummins four-cylinder engine.

The final production machine has a range of refinements. That zero-turn system has been enhanced with improved control. Core acknowledged that a first-timer in the prototype might need some adjustment time to get comfortable with the machine’s operation — but with the near-to-market version, steering is much smoother. “I struggled when I first drove the prototype,” Core said. “Today, it’s easier to drive, even for a first-time user.”

The machine uses a “drive-by-wire” system, and some software adjustments made all the difference.

Vermeer will have a limited number of machines in the market this fall. While pricing is not locked in, look for these machines to start in the low $200,000 range, though that figure has yet to be confirmed.

3 BALERS, 3 LEVELS: In the 504 Series, you can now choose the model that’s just right for your operation — from the Classic to the Signature to the top-of-the-line Premium.

New balers for 2018
The 504 baler has been a solid performer for Vermeer, but for 2018 there are more choices. Josh Vrieze, product manager, Vermeer, shared that the company will have three models of the 504R — the Classic, the Signature and the Premium. All three produce 60-inch round bales that are 47 inches wide, and each features Vermeer’s cam-less pickup design, which has fewer moving parts. All three can also use the Atlas Control System, which features an in-cab display that provides the operator key information during baling.

The 504R Classic replaces the Rebel baler in the Vermeer line. These three balers share common parts, with the same shafts, rollers and other key parts of the business end of the baler. “That means dealers can support the three machines, but need less parts on hand,” Vrieze said.

The 504R Classic is an entry-point machine, but it still has a full-width pickup and can be optioned with a twine/netwrap system. The recommended PTO horsepower for this baler is 50 hp.

The 504R Signature adds a few features, including a second door on the side and the ability to add an optional silage system — which is not available on the Classic. In addition, the Signature comes standard with the real-time moisture system.

The 504R Premium adds premium belts and even bigger tires, and comes standard with the silage baling package.

Vrieze explained that the 504R Series will offer buyers the features they want based on their farm needs. The three levels offer farmers and ranchers a range of choices, all in the same family.

The three balers — when set up with the twine/netwrap system (optional on the Classic, standard on the Signature and Premium) — are priced as follows. The Classic is about $32,000, the Signature is $38,000 and the Premium comes in at $42,000.

Learn more about the new 504R balers as well as the ZR5 at