Effective weed and pest control plays an important role in growing optimal yields of high-quality forage for dairy cattle. Proper pre-season inspection and maintenance of spraying equipment can help ensure timely and accurate applications of crop protection products this spring.

Your checklist should include the following:

  • Conduct a complete pre-season inspection of your machine to take care of any needed repairs. Also make a list of potential problem areas to monitor closely during the season so they can be fixed before they become bigger problems that result in costly service and downtime.
  • Check belts, engine and hydraulic filters and oil, cab air filters, any fluids and tires, including tire pressure. Make sure your machine is fully greased and check for any hydraulic leaks that were not taken care of at the end of the previous season.
  • Clean spray tank, pumps and hoses thoroughly to avoid possible herbicide contamination to susceptible crops. Sprayers should be cleaned out as soon as possible after use to prevent deposits of dried spray residue. Never let a sprayer sit overnight without cleaning.
  • Ensure your pump is in good working order by keeping a yearly record of the maximum achievable pump pressure. This could be a great indicator of a weak or failing pump.
  • Boom cleanout is also essential to reduce the risk of clogging nozzle tips due to settled product. Minimizing plugged nozzles will help ensure product will be accurately and consistently applied.
  • Read and follow all application product labels as they pertain to product rates, tank-mix compatibility, pump pressure, and nozzle and nozzle tip selection.
  • Be aware of environmental conditions to avoid off-site drift of pesticides that might damage neighboring crops.
  • One of the most important issues is to make sure your machine is correctly calibrated – not just when you purchase a new sprayer but before and periodically during each growing season. Check to confirm the flow meter is calculating gallons accurately so you are not overapplying or underapplying, as well as the pumps for any injection systems.
  • Do a catch test on the nozzles you will be using to make sure they are in the specified range. Catch-test any new nozzles to ensure they are correct, as even new nozzles can be inaccurate.

Working with a custom applicator

Dairy producers who rely on custom applicators rather than doing their own spraying can still play an active role to get the most return on their application investment. Good communication and trust are key.

  • Talk with your professional applicator upfront and ask questions so you can fully understand what applications are being made and why.
  • Know what products are being applied on each field and the application rate.
  • Be sure to let the applicator know of any particular weed or other pest challenges you faced in the previous season that may impact this year’s forage crop.
  • Note any wet areas or former building sites that have been buried and pose the risk of getting stuck, as not every operator knows the history of your farm.

Practice safety

Finally, for producers who must travel on public roads to get to their fields, safety should be top-of-mind. During the height of the spring planting season, a dairyman is pressed for time, and making a field application is just one of many tasks to juggle. Follow these tips for safe transport of your sprayers:

  • Don’t try to multitask when driving on the road – such as doing paperwork, texting or other activities that take your eyes or attention off the road.
  • Stay out of traffic lanes when possible, since cars behind you will have difficulty seeing around your sprayer. Slow down and pull over to let them pass at the first opportunity.
  • Exercise special caution when pulling out of a field onto a public road, as trees or other obstacles may block your visibility. Remember that large spray rigs require a wide turning radius when pulling onto a roadway.
  • Use flashers, headlights and rotating beacons, where regulations allow, to improve the visibility of your machine.
  • Ensure roading lockout switches are enabled before pulling out onto the roadway to prevent any unwanted boom movement or machine operations.
  • Sometimes the fastest trip to the next field is to slow down and take your time to get there. Be aware that the machine is bigger and slower than a car, so you may need added time to make turns, or a route may need to be planned to make it into a small field approach.

Maintaining focus and applying caution when moving application equipment is a sound approach for protecting your safety and equipment, and that of other motorists on the road. And by following proper preseason maintenance and operational guidelines, you can ensure your sprayer will work as intended and give you the best possible return on your equipment investment. PD


Craig Miller is sales and marketing specialist for AGCO Application Equipment.