Massey-Ferguson No.703 Baler

The Massey Ferguson No. 703 Baler and its Place in the Great Scheme of Things


For those members unfamiliar with the equipment, the No.703 baler produces a high density bale, that is to say a bale which is highiy compacted. But there are low density alternatives in the shape of trussers, medium balers and presses. The incorporation of ancient terms into new technology which had its own terms soon led to some confusion in terminology overall. For example, I have before me the 1894 advertisements of three American makers of almost identical high density balers. One is described as a baler, one as a hay press and the third as a baling press. In more modem times, the Welgar WSA 350 was described as a low density, press type, pick-up baler. I shall try first to explain some of the differences.

The mechanical trusser, which is for static use, is an outsize version of the binder deck and produces a low density truss with ragged, open ends. It might be mounted on a two wheeled carriage or be fitted to a thrasher. Its natural successor, the stationary medium baler, also works by means of tines pulling material into a collecting area but because of its “press” operation the truss is very much squarer. Press operation means that pressure to form the bale is applied from the sides whereas for high density the pressure is applied from one end. These later medium balers are still being used behind the thrasher to bunch thatching straw because the press action does not damage the material. One might quite legitimately caIl the medium baler a hay or straw press.

There were pick-up presses as well as pick-up balers and these presses were still being made after the pick-up baler was established. I believe the pick-up press was less expensive but it also survived because there were circumstances in which the low density bale had advantages: it was much used in the Fens for building root clamps; it made it possible to pick up hay earlier, especially if the farm utilized barn drying; it was more convenient for breaking out litter and foodstuff; even if rather loose and untidy, it was lighter to handle and used common binder twine. I have even been told that the flatter trusses could be used like tiles to roof bale stacks.

High density baling was pioneered in America by a Mr Dederick in the early 1800s. He designed a “beater” press whereby an upright frame was fed with loose hay and the beater was raised much in the action of a pile driver. When the beater was tripped it dropped into the baling chamber with great force and the process was repeated. This produced a bale some 24x42x42 inches weighing from 300 to 4001 bs. This device established the principle that high density is achieved by ramming material into a confined space. In due course smaller, portable but horizontal versions were made in which horizontal ramming was powered by means of horse-gin or steam driven belt puIley.

By the turn of the century the situation enjoyed by the the hay market had transformed the high density baler into a major player in the American agricultural economy. The hay crop for 1893 was greater in value than any other agricultural product. Estimated output was 65,250,000 tons with a value of 590,000,000 dollars, twice as much as the wheat crop.

The high density stationary baler or “wire tie” (see Photo on page opposite) more commonly known in this country, never really lost its massive proportions. Its principal employment remained behind the thrasher as an alternative to trussing or elevating the material loose. One of the best known was the Jones. Its successors were smaller but still notably long equipment of heavy build mounted on a heavy, four-wheel chassis. The high density principles to be incorporated into pick-up baler design were thus established, that material be delivered to a bale chamber where a ram would repeatedly collect it, drive it forward and so build up a bale against resistance. However, it was first necessary to pick up the material.

For decades the towed elevator had permitted mechanical pick-up from the windrow. Towed behind a trailer, it picked up hay by means of tines, carried it to a good height and tipped it over the top to fall into the trailer. The mechanism was ground driven. Built mostly of thin section wood, the towed elevator is lightweight by virtue of quite flimsy construction, very flexible in use and susceptible to damage.

The requirement, therefore, was to combine two entirely different types of machine, one a massive, static device operated by brute force within narrow confines, the other a large, gangling device of flexible construction designed for mobility and to cover large areas. Much original thinking was required if these two sets of entirely different engineering principles were to be reconciled into the pick-up baler, it was not easy and the problems overcome at every level through several decades make interesting reading.

Ruston Hornsby 1russer mounted on a Garvie Thrasher (Mill) with Ransomes Wire-Tie Baler in attendance. Part of the collection of member Peter Small and photographed during the 1998 AGM at Cupar by Tim Willis.

John Cousins No. 701

The Massey Ferguson No. 703 Pick-Up Baler and its Place in the Great Scheme of Things


As with much agricultural design, the development of the pick-up baler began in America where wheeled machinery had been taken to the windrow and hay brought to it for round baling as early as 1908. Straw was mostly carted off the field for thrashing. The arrival of the combine harvester changed this because the thrashing residue now began to remain on the field. The early combines were designed to spread the residue. But most farms were mixed and farmers refused to waste their straw in this way. The answer was to disconnect the drive to the straw spreader and so permit the combine to drop the residue in a windrow.

With the return of the windrow the pick¬up elevator was back in business. But times were moving and the fear was that much of the saving of time and cost brought about by the combine harvester would be nullified by inefficient straw handling. As one American article put it in 1933, there was a need to take the machine to the crop and v, salvage straw left in the field by the grain combine at negligible cost and at the same time leave it in the bale ready for market or for the most economical storage and convenience in handling Because of the combination of these functions, the first square bale machines were called Hay & Straw Combines but the confusion of the name and the fact that the description “pick-up baler” was being used in the same breath soon resulted in the latter term becoming general.

Even with the growing use of combine harvesters, the development of the pick-up baler was still driven by the common need to harvest grass and legumes, notably the bulky alfalfa cut three or more times a year. The pick-up elevator and the baling press had been in use for many years but the engineering principles involved in their combination were new, especially in the matter of reconciling weight and capacity. Some first principles in the new design turned out to be the right ones: balance upon a single axle to follow ground contour; shortest possible turning radius; the building in of safety clutches. Others, such as the ability to handle different types of crop, took much longer. Many of the first mechanical features we would recognise today: a tined cylindrical pick-up, an elevator and a cross conveyor produced a flow of material into a bale chamber. The bale was tied, first by wire twisted by hand, then automatically using a heavy twine. The first pick-up balers were still labour intensive. In the Thirties, for example, the Arm Arbor baler required an on-board crew of three: one to monitor and control the cross conveying of material to the bale chamber and two to tie and dispose of the bale.

From the beginning it was intended that both high and low density pick-up machines should be capable of static baling and this led to a variety of low density equipments. Some manufacturers (the Claas Pick-up and Stationary Presses are a good example) made it possible to remove the pick-up table so that the machine could be used in front of a thrashing drum in the same way as the straw trusser. There were stationary medium balers which could be fitted with a Draper pick-up kit and towed in reverse and others which had no pick-up capability. Some of these were produced into the early Sixties in place of the now defunct trusser.

The market leader in this country was Lorant, as this extract from a February 1949 Engineering Report on Agricultural Machinery shows. It was produced by an independent study group called Political and Economic Planning, which believed the 19405 might be known to future generations as the age of the Second Agricultural Revolution because of farm mechanisation.
“The biggest contribution to labour¬saving in recent years has been made by the fully automatic one-man pick-up baler, which was developed first in the U.S. and later in this country by the Hertfordshire firm of D. Lorant. This machine, as the name implies, requires a single worker to gather hay and bale it. Tn general, British production has been rather of stationary wiretying balers which need additional labour for the knotting operation, while imported machines have been only semi-automatic and have also required an extra pair of hands .

It seems that between 1944-48 some 380 machines were replaced or brought into use in England and Wales and that in 1947 some 170 were manufactured in this country and 380 imported. I am not familiar with in-house development at Lorant but post war the company imported the Claas Pick-up and Stationary Presses and in 1948 began to manufacture them under licence. Ransomes acquired the firm in 1951 and sold the products as Ransomes Lorant. There was an engine powered pick-up with removable table, a PTO version and a stationary medium baler which could be converted by fitting a Draper pick-up kit. These were all low density equipments and I do not believe the company ever made a high density baler.

From the beginning there was a debate as to whether the pick-uip baler should be PTO driven or have its own on-board engine, which debate did not finally conclude in favour of the PTO until the late Fifties. The other developments of significance were the steady improvement in conveying material from elevator to bale chamber, introduction of the guillotine into the baling chamber making it easier to pull the bale apart and the move to automatic tying. By the late Forties the pick-up baler was more or less in its final form, typified perhaps by the PTO driven International No.45 introduced in 1948, which I am told was widely available in this country and is of fond memory.

John Cousins No. 701

The Massey Ferguson No. 703 Pick-Up Baler and its Place in the Great Scheme of Things

Part 3: Enter Ferguson

To my knowledge Harry Ferguson played no part in the events described in Part 2. His essential interests were in tillage, planting and husbandry plus general work around the farm in which his tractor could play a key role. I referred to his belated arrival upon the cereal harvesting scene in Issue No 24, writing in conjunction with the late Richard Dowdeswell, a sorely missed storehouse of all things Ferguson. It began with the provision addition of a pick-up baler to the Ferguson inventory.

The B-EO-20 Side Mounted Baler was produced in the USA for the TO tractors as one of the very interesting “Tractor Mate” series of side mounted equipments of which the Ferguson Tractor-Mounted Combine would have formed part had it gone ahead. As with the other Tractor Mate equipments,
the tractor was reversed into position, hitching was automatic and the whole process was claimed to take only 90 seconds. Normal drive was by PTO but a Ferguson on-board engine could be fitted instead with a weight penalty of 850 Ibs. There was also for auxiliary drive to be taken to the outboard wheel.

As far as I know the Company produced only two models. These were the B-EO-20 Side-Mounted Baler, which seems to have been in production 1954-1956, and the FE-12, probably in service from 1957. I do not know if these equipments were designed and developed inhouse or under contract and [ do not know when the FE-12 ceased production.

It seems there were problems and that comparatively few of these balers were sold. They must now be highly collectable. Should one of our American members be so fortunate as to possess one or have access to one in a collection then I am sure Alan Dunderdale would welcome some decent photographs for the Club’s archive. I have never heard that any of these balers reached the UK.

Presumably because of the poor sales performance of the B-EO-20, the successor Ferguson F-12 was of conventional design, a pro driven machine of modest dimensions which was probably developed in Canada. It was said to be not unlike the Massey-Harris No. 3, which might support one contention that it was designed by Massey-Harris¬-Ferguson. It was certainly built in Toronto but I do not know for how long or if it was also built in the USA. It seems most unlikely that any of this model ever reached these shores either.

Ferguson B-E0-20 side mounted baler

In Australia, some time before 1956, Ferguson marketed the Ferguson FA-700 pick-up baler. I assume FA stood for Ferguson Australia. It was driven by governed TE-A 20 engine and there was no pro option, at least not at first, and it was presented being towed by TE-D 20 by means of the pick-up hitch, a practice confined to engine powered balers.

In the UK, from around 1956 to 1958, and possibly from as early as 1953, Massey-¬Harris-Ferguson sold an almost identical baler as the No 701, except that there was now a pro option. Whereas one is tempted to assume this must be a development of the FA-700, a very similar machine had
previously been marketed under Massey-Harris colours. If it is, in fact, an old Massey-¬Harris equipment now available to the combined Massey- Harris- Ferguson market, what was it doing in Australia under Ferguson colours as the FA-700 ?

I have only ever examined one 701 baler and it was fitted with the Standard TE-D 20 engine (earlier models had the two cylinder Armstrong¬Siddeley diesel. Very occasionally one still comes across red painted engines in Ferguson tractors and these are replacement engines salvaged from 701 balers.

The engine could be dismounted out of season and used as a power source around the farm. The 701 is most notably distinguished by the prominent inline wadboard, similar in appearance and action to the “nodding donkey” pumps in oil fields and with a rise and fall of almost two feet. Also the cross conveyor housing is very prominent and round topped. It was briefly listed in conjunction with the 703 as a heavy duty baler. In all, the 701 looks to be much older than it can be and it must be the last of the wad board balers. But whatever its original colours, I do not know when it first saw the light of day.

I shall look at the introduction of the No. 703 in Part 4.
John Cousins No. 701

The Massey Ferguson No.703 Pick-Up Baler and its place in the Great Scheme of Things

The No.701 Pick-Up Baler

Further to Part 3 of the article in Issue No.42, I am indebted to Andrew Boorman for much of the following material.

The baler was introduced by Massey-¬Harris in 1951 and fitted with onboard engine. At first this was a Wisconsin V4 but Andrew believes that not many machines were so fitted and none in this country that he ever heard of. Here the original engine was the Coventry Victor flat 4 but it was prone to oil leaks, which attracted dust leading on to abrasion and overheating. So it was replaced by the very efficient Armstrong-Siddeley two cylinder diesel, which gave universal satisfaction. In fact so successful were these engines that many of them entered upon a second life driving water pumps in Cyprus when their parent balers were eventually scrapped.

In due course the Standard engine fitted to the TE20 tractor was offered as an alternative and this may have started with the petrol engine. I am doubtful that the Ferguson engine ever superseded the Armstrong-Siddeley diesel for in 1958/59, when the new Massey-Ferguson was intro¬ducing its range of equipment, the No.701 was listed alongside the No.703 (soon to replace it) with the option of PTO drive, TE20 Standard TVO or the A-S diesel.

I am also indebted to Alwyn Marwood’s coincidental article on his No.701 Baler on page 17 of Issue No.42 in which he observes upon the onboard FE35 TVO engine, presumably another optional fitment between 1957-58. If original, the engine suggests that his baler was produced by Massey-Harris-Ferguson in spite of its Massey-Harris markings, the latter being in accordance with the “Twin Track” policy then in force.

Part 4: Enter the No.703 Pick-up Baler

(Instruction Book (1st Printing) No.703 Pick-up Baler)

In late 1958 early 1959, a reshaped Massey-Ferguson consolidated and relaunched its range of equipment with some impressive new additions. The one of immediate interest was the No.703 baler. It was designed for the TE20 and FE35 tractors but it was illustrated in use with the FE35 and our experience is with this combination. It was described as “the very latest baler design” and “the most practical, most profitable baler ever produced”. Be that as it may, it was certainly smaller than the No.701 (almost 4ft shorter and 14 inches narrower), lighter (comparing engine models 1500lbs less), altogether more compact and a very modern looking piece of equipment which does not look out of place today. Whereas the No.701 bale size was fixed at 14xl8x36, now it was variable at 14x16x20-45 to meet a wider range of demands in all materials. Pick-up was reduced from 52 to 48 inches but an improved packer feed is said to have maintained volume output. Added advant¬ages were that a new· “Gentle-quick” design minimized leaf loss and damage between pick-up and bale chamber while pick-up, packer and bale discharge functions were now all visible from the tractor seat. Bales could be dropped to the rear, delivered to a sledge by way of optional chute and sledge hitch or deflected to the left by removing part of a new split tailgate.

As far as possible, “built in” lubrication was now provided to the new baler by means of oil impregnated bearings designed to last the life of the machine, although a few drops of light oil might be added annually or every 20,000 bales. For the rest, grease nipples were reduced to six, three oilers were provided on the PTO shafts, two gearbox levels had to be maintained and one level in the packer bearer housing.

The No.703 marks the final displace¬ment of engine power. We have two Instruction Books, the first an undated 1st Printing in which the emphasis is definitely upon the engine powered version and PTO text is confined to six half lines on page 7 under General Details and three half lines on page 8 under Safety Precautions. The second is an undated 2nd Printing, annotated as being applicable to balers after Serial No.4766, in which the emphasis has shifted entirely to PTO drive, which merits its own Section 7 of seven pages. I would add that the weight penalty of engine power was only 140lbs. This was achieved by fitting either a 12 bhp TVO or 13.5 bhp petrol engine or later a small diesel. I do not know what these engine choices were, although I might guess at the Armstrong-Siddeley two cylinder for the diesel. The PTO requirement was 535 rpm for optimum working.

There was also a No.703B windrow pick-up attachment, which could be fitted to the MF726, 780 and new 735 combine tables. This made it possible to pick up and thrash difficult crops which were best swathed first and left to dry for a period, such as oil seed rape and some seeds.

These combine harvesters could also be fitted with their own low density baler, a Raussendorf Straw Press. Raussendorf were pre-war manufacturers of sufficient standing for Massey-Harris to act as their agents and distributors. In 1945 Herman Raussendorf found his factory in the Russian Zone and relocated to Eschwege where Massey-Harris asked him to design a new press and financed its production. Eventually Massey-Harris took him over but kept the name alive. Raussendorf now joined the design team which produced the small but very successful No.630 combine, which was a parallel development to the No.735.

A Contemporary Comparison of the No.703 with other Balers

In early 1961 Massey-Ferguson compiled for the use of staff a product comparison table. This compared those equipments from other manufacturers which were most in competition with the No.703 baler. These were: the International B-46; New Holland Super Hayliner No.68; the Jones Minor Mk V; the Bamford BL48; the David Brown “Albion”; the Welgar AP12.

Comparison was made under specific headings: the method of drive; the number of bales/minute; pick-up width; transport width; the method of cross feed to the bale chamber; the number of ram operations/minute; size of the bale cross section; bale length; the overall weight of the machine.

Much of the performance detail was quite similar. The No.703 being shown as PTO driven, only three of the other machines now offered an engine option. Bale delivery varied between 5-lO/minute, the fastest rate being claimed by the Jones. At 54 inches pick-up width, two were smaller and the rest larger. The No.703 had the narrowest transport width by up to 5 inches. The No.703 was the only machine with under-acting tine cross feed, the Jones had overacting, the Welgar had side-acting and the rest still used the auger. Most machines had ram speeds around 70/minute, the Jones ran to 80 and the Welgar 85. Except the Welgar (14″x19″), all bale cross sections were the same at 14″xl8″. All machines could vary bale length, overall between 12-52 inches. At working weight of 2900lbs, only the Jones was heavier at 3800lbs. The Welgar weighed in at 2800lbs, the rest closely varied between 2460-2520lbs.

Published in Journals 40 Summer 2002, 42 Winter 2002, and 43 Spring 2003, John Cousins.