Making hay is an expensive process and poorly maintained equipment can add unwanted expenses and downtime, said Dirk Philipp, assistant professor for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
"The equipment itself and repairing broken equipment is costly as well, so efforts to maintain the equipment will pay off long term," he said. Equipment for haymaking includes mowers, balers, rakes, tedders, and hay-moving equipment.
Philipp offers a pre-season maintenance checklist for each piece of equipment.
- Check the disk blades and replace knifes if needed included other parts such as wear plates or guards or whichever safety parts should be replaced or checked along with the knives.
- Check on the conditioning rollers and adjust the spacing as well as roll timing. Properly maintained conditioners crimp the forage so drying time is minimalized.
- Grease bearings and other moving parts according to the equipment manual. Worn bearings can heat up. Use a laser thermometer to find the hot bearings.
- Worn out bearings on silage choppers and balers can heat up enough to cause fires.
- Change the oil on the gearboxes in mowers and balers.
"Keep your machines clean from plant parts such as chopped or cut forage," he said. "Oil leaks can be detected more easily this way."
Check for correct operation of the disk blades.
"These are driven and synchronized through a gearing mechanism," he said "In some rare instances this gearing can malfunction, causing costly repairs, so make sure the mechanical parts work properly and are serviced regularly."
For balers, similar maintenance recommendations apply:
- Check the equipment manual for required service.
- Inspect the belts and tension mechanism; repair belts if necessary to maintain uniform tension.
- Do a test run by warming up the equipment to check for improperly working components.
Tedders and rakes may not be as mechanically complex as mowers and balers, but still need attention with respect to proper functioning:
- Many times rake or tedder teeth are misaligned or broken, replace those or bend back into shape if possible.
- Setting the correct height on rakes and tedders minimized leaf loss while optimizing forage pick-up.
- Rakes and tedders likely need readjusting going into the new hay season. Check to see if the pick-up height is even across the width of the rake or tedder.
"For all equipment, refer to the equipment manual for maintenance intervals, placements of grease fittings, specification of replacement parts, and adjustment procedures," Philipp said. If the manual is lost, check with the manufacturer or look online.
Source: University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension