A good hay raking job eliminates the variables that can compromise a harvested crop. AGCO and its experts from the Hesston brand of hay equipment ask farmers to keep these considerations top of mind:
Avoid raking alfalfa or clover when the forage moisture is less than 35 to 40% to prevent the loss of nutrient-dense leaves.
Create windrows that are uniform in width and in the amount of hay they contain, which will help ensure bales are consistent in shape and density.
For maximum drying, set the windrow as wide as possible and match windrows width to baler capacity. The amount of loss during the baling process can be minimized when hay is at its driest and most subject to leaf loss from handling.
Here are several tips on how to set and operate rakes. Except where indicated, tips are for rotary rakes:
Set rake tines of rotary rakes to skim just above the ground, so they don’t dig up dirt, contaminating the hay and wearing down tines.
Set wheel rakes to have as little contact with the ground as possible.
Ensure rotary rake bogey wheels beneath the rotor are level. The rotor should have 0.5 to 1" of ground clearance on all sides at all times.
Set the tine arm release based on crop conditions and the size windrow. A dry, fluffy crop requires an earlier release setting. For a heavy, wet crop, use a later release setting.
If the rake is PTO driven, synchronize the field speed and PTO speed for a gentle lifting and turning action. This helps avoid aggressive handling that can cause excessive leaf loss.
Operate the rake at a consistent speed to create an even windrow for uniform drying and fewer slugs.
Stay up to date on regular maintenance to ensure peak machine performance including daily greasing of pivot points and hinges.
Tighten bolts and replace broken or worn tines. Check tire inflation regularly.
Be sure to visit your local dealer who should have a list of parts to stock up on replacement tines and basket and rake wheel bearings before the season starts to minimize downtime from common breakdowns. Also, doing this before the season can take advantage of preseason.
For more information visit hesston.com.
Other blog posts regarding Hesston haying tips:
Top Hay Mowing Tips from Hesston
Top Hay Conditioning Tips from AGCO