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Mechanics Corner: Get tires rolling and hay baling

Scott Sloan Published on 23 May 2014

There are a variety of equipment styles and different techniques for the hay and forage process, but regardless of your philosophy, the old adage still applies: Make hay while the sun is shining. Whether your process starts with a self-propelled windrower or a tow-behind silage cutter, time is of the essence once the grass has been cut.

The next passes need to be made as quickly as possible, so equipment downtime simply isn’t an option. That’s why it’s essential to properly inspect your tires every spring and ensure your equipment will run when you need it most.

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Visual inspection
The first step is a visual inspection to spot any signs of wear and tear that may pose a risk of failure in the field. Look for signs of uneven tread wear, sidewall cracks, puncture damage, unusual bulges or bubbles, and missing or broken tread lugs. Any of these signs warrant a visit to your tire dealer for replacement or repair.

Many tire dealers offer customer support services that include an inspection and general evaluation of each tire on every piece of equipment – tractor, baler, hay rake, etc. – along with a maintenance checklist that producers can complete on their own before hay season kicks off. This type of pre-season service reduces the potential for unexpected downtime during one of the busiest times of the year for dairy owners.

Inflate, then operate
Conducting a visual inspection not only spots problems that require immediate attention but can also uncover warning signs of trouble down the road. Signs of uneven wear are often related to incorrect tire inflation pressures.

Overinflated tires create increased contact along the center of the tire, wearing out the tread in the middle of the tire. Underinflated tires create more deflection along the sidewall, making them more susceptible to cracking, puncture damage and premature wear. It should go without saying that inflation pressure is the most important aspect of tire maintenance.

Properly inflated tires help to minimize surface compaction in the field and reduce equipment fuel consumption. They also experience less slip and better maneuverability, which means field work gets finished faster. The end result: better field conditions, more dollars in your pocket and more time to tend to your herd.

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Of course, finding the correct tire pressure requires more than simply inflating to the psi noted on the side of the tire. Optimum inflation should be based on load and implement weight. A common formula factors in the size and load index of the tires, plus the total weight (machine weight, load, implement weight) supported by each tire.

Fortunately, many tire manufacturers have made the process easier with mobile device-friendly calculators that quickly determine the ideal inflation pressure for metric radial tires from virtually anywhere – field, shop or milking barn. Visit the Titan Tire website to see just how easy it is to use an online tire pressure calculator from your smartphone, tablet or laptop.

On-the-go tire pressure calculations are especially helpful when adding or adjusting implements throughout hay season. For example, switching from a tow-behind silage cutter to a hay rake or simply widening a hay rake will change the overall axle weight and therefore should be recalculated to determine the proper tire inflation pressures.

Stock up for the season
Weather permitting – hay season is sunup to sundown and sometimes even a night-time effort. Forced downtime to replace a tire that isn’t in stock is not an option. Coordinate with your tire dealer to be sure your specific tires are in stock or can be on hand without delay should the need arise. If you feel it may be time to replace tires at some point in the year, work with your tire dealer to explore tire options and get them in stock.

Time for an upgrade?
Just as farm equipment has evolved and become more sophisticated, so too has the design technology behind farm equipment tires. If upgrading your equipment, it may be just as necessary to look at upgrading your tires with some of the new premium tire technologies.

Advances such as increased flexion and very high flexion tires have been designed with greater sidewall flexibility than standard radial tires, allowing them to carry heavier loads at lower inflation pressures – an important performance upgrade for today’s heavy equipment. Lower inflation pressures provide better flotation and less ground disturbance in the field, which can result in greater yields.

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Another recent advancement in tire design includes low-sidewall technology. With a larger rim diameter and smaller sidewall than standard tires, low-sidewall tires boast significantly more stability, which results in reduced power hop in the field and reduced road lope during transport. With a smoother ride, a grower can expect greater transport speeds between fields and increased overall productivity.

Don’t take tires for granted
While tire maintenance may seem like a minor concern in the big picture of hay season, in reality, it plays a major role. In fact, tire maintenance and proper tire selection can make all the difference between making hay when the sun is shining and getting stuck watching the grass grow. PD

Scott Sloan is an ag products manager with Titan Tire Corporation. Contact him by email .

Scott Sloan
  • Scott Sloan
  • Ag Products Manager
  • Titan Tire Corporation

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