August 4, 2006
By Bobby Horecka
Dale Alvarez remembers his father giving him one piece of advice not long after he got out of school.
"He always said I should pick up a trade and stick with it," Alvarez said.
And for the young man on his own, the trade he chose led him to the metal shop, where Alvarez has spent more than three decades repairing farm machinery and crafting implements he routinely uses in his custom baling operation near Kirbyville.
Following his father's advice seems to have paid off.
Baling hay isn't an incredibly complicated task, Alvarez says. You cut the grass, give it a few days to dry, rake it up and make your bales. But that can prove quite the chore for a one-man operation custom baler, particularly when it comes to hauling around all of the necessary equipment for the task.
So Alvarez set out to build a device that could attach to his baler and rake up the hay all at once, which ultimately saved him a step in the operation as well as the need to haul around an extra piece of equipment. That device he now calls a Baler-Mate, and it's a patent-pending invention that's gained him national notoriety.
"It's a true one-man operation," he says. "You get the job done in less time by raking and baling at the same time. Not only does it eliminate the need for an extra tractor and rake, but it saves fuel and manpower."
Earlier this year, Alvarez's Baler-Mate took grand prize at the Farmer Idea Exchange competition held at the American Farm Bureau Federation's 87th annual convention held in Nashville, Tenn. For his effort, the inventor was awarded a year's use of a New Holland TV-145 bidirectional tractor.
Although appreciative of the recognition, Alvarez said his ultimate goal has yet to be realized. He's hoping to offer his patent to an actual equipment manufacturer and begin work on other projects.
The original model, which Alvarez says he uses regularly in his haying operation, has three rake wheels on each side of the baler, all held in place by hydraulic stabilizer arms that are easily folded along the sides of the baler for transport. That model allows him to windrow an 18-foot swath of hay directly into the baler.
Alvarez has since custom built a couple of other models for ranchers along the Texas Gulf Coast, each time modifying and improving the original product.
One allowed a wider swath windrow and the other simplified the original folding mechanism. The Baler-Mate is capable of accommodating any size baler or tractor used to pull it, he said.
Mum's the word on what other contraptions he may be concocting, but Alvarez assures, "This definitely won't be my last."
To learn more about the Baler-Mate, visit Alvarez's website at www.balermate.com or give him a call at 409-423-9800.