Before you know it, the sun will be shining and hay will be lying in the field ready to be baled. Does your normal spring round baler start-up procedure go something like this? Connect round baler to tractor. Turn on the PTO and hope something doesn’t break.
If so, then you may want to consider adding some items to your checklist. Winter is a good time to pay attention to some details that can save you a lot of downtime when you should be in the field baling at the right time to preserve the digestibility of that precious feed.
Most of us do a pretty good job at cleaning and lubricating the baler during preseason and postseason, but some of the bigger maintenance tasks can be overlooked with the “grease-n-go” approach. Bale-forming belt condition and chain wear are both key inspections that should be carried out prior to the start of the season.
Although many producers who own and operate their own round balers may not have as much time to think about more involved maintenance or inspection tasks, it might prove beneficial to at least review some quick pointers regarding belt inspection and chain wear.
It is recommended to first observe the way your bale-forming belts are tracking. If they are all running straight and not wandering side-to-side, all is well. However, if you observe significant travel that causes belt contact with other belts or the side sheets of the baler, you could have some maintenance to perform.
One issue could be belt stretch. If the belts have become unequal in length, they need to be resized so they don’t fail prematurely. Every two years, you should take the belts out and measure them to be certain they are the same length (plus or minus one inch).
Also inspect the belts for cuts, tears or protrusions that could have been caused by sticks, tree limbs or stones coming into the baler and causing damage.
Inspect for any spin burns that can be caused if a belt stalls while the baler is powered. This can happen when foreign objects enter the bale chamber. Lastly, check your lacings (if the baler has laced belts). Lacing pins should be inspected every 800 bales to 1,000 bales.
Heavy-duty lacing kits are also available to decrease the amount of inspection you need to do over the life of the round baler. Inspect the hooks to make sure the legs of the hook are parallel and still have a good grip with no tears or cracks in the belt around it.
Chain stretch and wear
Chain wear is a normal condition and needs to be checked regularly to ensure proper length is maintained. Over time, the movement of the chain over the sprockets will cause the pins and rollers to wear and become elongated or oval-shaped. When this happens, the pitch of the chain will change because of the increased length.
At only 3 percent length extension, the chain should be replaced to avoid the dreadful clanking of a sudden failure. You can purchase a chain wear gauge that will assist with this task. Regular lubrication will help to extend chain life.
Take a look in the operator’s manual of the baler to see what is recommended for normal chain lubrication. Keep in mind that these pointers could also apply to any piece of equipment that uses drive chains.
Make these two often-overlooked maintenance inspections now to save yourself time and money when things get hectic in the spring and summer months. With today’s hay prices, you’ll want to be spending your precious time in the field making the best possible hay instead of working on the baler. PD