Getting the baler ready for the workload of hay season is no different than preparing the bull battery to go to work breeding cows. If it’s not done right, little success can be achieved.
“Maintaining your equipment is a crucial part of the hay production system,” says Rocky Lemus. “Check it over in the off-season.
During the first cutting, make sure the baler is picking up at least 90 percent of the hay in the windrow. It is also important to make sure bales have the right tightness and density,” Lemus says. “With the raking and mowing equipment, it is important to make sure that wearing parts such as blades, mower knives and hay rake tines are in good order or replaced to minimize leaf loss.”
Most cattlemen are prepared for branding long before the actual day. The same holds true for hay season – getting ready before the process is started will make most outfits more efficient.
“Hay equipment needs to be ready at least four weeks in advance, because it could take extra time to get parts.
Most of the hay equipment will be adjusted during the first cutting and the baler will be primed with the first couple of bales,” Lemus says. “For most, one of the major issues is wrapping the bales.
Make sure you have the right twine or net wrap and it’s installed correctly. Prior to getting to the field, check the hopper safety gate, eject door, bale chamber, door lock wheel, ejector chain, ram hook and retaining hook. A hay baler is a complicated machine and safety should be the first thing that comes to mind for producers.”
Small tasks, like greasing the equipment, take time but are important to the overall function and should help keep producers on schedule. Timing is important and having the baler primed to go in the field at a certain time could be more important to the overall quality of the hay than the timing of the cutting.
“Don’t overlook lubrication. Wipe all grease fittings clean before applying the grease gun, since moisture might have condensed inside fittings during the winter if the equipment is exposed to inclement weather,” Lemus says. “Having to delay baling hay because of equipment failure will have a larger effect than if the cutting is delayed.
A decrease in moisture content of the hay below 15 percent will increase leaf shattering and lead to less palatable hay with a lot of stems.”
According to Lemus, storing equipment properly during the winter months could lead to less rust and lower depreciation costs. Some equipment will need to be replaced before hay season. If the equipment has been stored, used and maintained correctly, it will last a long time.
“A baler can have an average lifetime of 12 to 15 years before major mechanical issues start to happen. If a producer spends over $5,000 a year on repairs, it might be time to start thinking about a new baler or other equipment,” Lemus says. “Protecting this expensive investment begins with proper storage.”