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Mechanics Corner: In-season hay success comes from post-season maintenance

Bart Elder for Progressive Dairyman Published on 23 November 2016

I’m here to tell you the benefits of winterizing your equipment makes the hassle well worth it. Post-season maintenance can save you a great deal of time and money in the long run.

After a long season of making hay, preparing your hay and forage equipment for winter storage can seem to be a tedious and even needless chore. After all, what could possibly happen to a round baler or trailed mower as it hibernates in your machine shed?

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More than some think. Plus, tuning up your hay tools now means one less thing to do come spring when it’s time to make hay.

I’m here to tell you the benefits of winterizing your equipment makes the hassle well worth it. Post-season maintenance can save you a great deal of time and money in the long run. Let’s break down the key steps you should complete now to position yourself for a successful first cut next spring.

Deciding where to start can be one of the hardest parts. My suggestion is to read the operator’s/maintenance manual for your baler or mower/mower conditioner. It might sound like I’m stating the obvious, but educating yourself on the basics will pay off. It’s a great resource for basic troubleshooting tips with instructions on how to clean, inspect and repair your equipment.

It’s essential to thoroughly clean your equipment top to bottom – preferably with an air hose. Using water or a power washer is not advised, as water can find its way into areas (like bearings or fittings) where it isn’t supposed to be.

While you’re cleaning, take time to carefully inspect your machine. Never inspect your machine while it’s running. Safety should always be a first priority.

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Grease and inspect every fitting; make sure you grease all wheel bearings and search the machine for potential issues. If you don’t pay attention to your lube change schedule, you’ll pay the price later with premature wear, damaged seals, poor operating performance or worse; this is an area you can’t afford to ignore.

Check for a lube schedule in your maintenance manual. Also, be sure to look over your tires; usually, they’re one of the most overlooked components – until they go flat. Underinflated tires can negatively impact performance in the field.

As you continue your parts inspection, check cylinders for leaks and hoses for cracking, and look for exposed wiring on electrical harnesses. Be sure to clean the connections with a solution made specifically for electrical components.

There are a few baler-specific and mower or mower conditioner-specific checkpoints you will want to look for as well. When you’re working on your baler, check the components that tend to be higher-wear items: scrapers, roller bearings, cam track bearings, pick-up teeth, belts and lacings, roller chains and sprockets.

If you operate the baler for roughly 30 minutes and then follow the shutdown procedure, you can use an infrared gun to identify bearings that may be wearing out.

Again, never inspect your machine while it is running. Be sure to adjust or replace drive and roller chains as needed. Also, make sure belt tension settings are loosened and that you remove your monitor from the tractor once the season is over.

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These steps are important during winter storage to extend their life cycles. If you were experiencing any minor issues with the twine or netwrap systems, now is also the best time to get those fixed.

For mowers or mower conditioners, you will need to pay close attention to the wear on the discs. If you see a wear pattern starting to develop on one side, rotate them. If they’re damaged or excessively worn, replace them. Also check the cutting blades and rotate or replace them if necessary.

If you need to replace a blade, be sure to replace both blades on the disc – balance is important. On mowers, it’s always important to check all of the gearbox oil levels as well.

Depending on the model of your mower or mower conditioner, discs should be removed to check the oil and grease. This is a great time to remove any mud, wire, rawhide, twine and netwrap that may have accumulated under the discs.

Be sure to check under the cutter bar discs for buildup too. Buildup is not out of the ordinary; sap from legume stems tends to gum up and harden in this area. In severe conditions, it can even lock discs in place and burn out a clutch.

If your mower has conditioning capabilities, now is the time to make adjustments to the system, whether a tine conditioner or roller conditioner.

Forgetting one or two things on the list could result in poor performance, and performance and production are what really matter. So if you’re concerned about missing several spots, you should deliver your equipment to a dealer for a checkup.

When calling to schedule an appointment, make sure you have your model and serial number handy so your dealer can properly assess the situation. And remember, your dealer is there to serve you, so don’t be afraid to utilize their expertise; next season’s success may depend on it.  end mark

Bart Elder is the territory manager for Vermeer Corporation. Email Bart Elder.

 

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