Booth aaron
Manager of Product Marketing

Hay season is in high gear. Whether you are still working on that first cutting or moving on to second (or even third) cuts, ensuring your hay equipment is in optimal condition becomes a priority to avoid unexpected downtime during these critical hay harvest periods. To continue smooth operations and maximize productivity when the weather is right, regular maintenance checks are essential.

While preseason maintenance has laid a strong foundation, regular inspections are needed after a day of cutting, raking, baling and moving hay, especially when the days can be long, hot and humid. Since we know your time is valuable, here is an in-season hay equipment maintenance checklist to speed up your maintenance checks and ensure your operation continues to run at peak performance.

Routine checks for your full lineup of equipment

  1. Lubrication: Lubricate moving parts of equipment. Lubrication reduces friction and wear and tear on joints. Refer to your operator's manual for specific requirements for your machinery, as well as where you can find each grease zerk fitting.
  2. Hydraulic system: Inspect hydraulic hoses and connections for leaks or damage. Test hydraulic valve operation by using control levers or switches and hydraulic cylinder operation by cycling the cylinders through their full range of motion. Replace any faulty components to prevent hydraulic failures. Inspect the color, clarity and odor of the hydraulic fluid to ensure fluid is in adequate condition. Top up fluids as needed and address any issues promptly.
  3. Fluids, filters and air quality: Monitor oil and coolant levels in tractors and equipment. Low fluid levels can lead to overheating and engine damage, especially during prolonged operation in hot weather. Replace engine oil and filters at recommended intervals to maintain optimal lubrication and filtration. Clean or replace air filters regularly, especially in dusty environments, to prevent engine wear and performance degradation. Top off fluids as needed and inspect for leaks or contamination that may affect equipment performance.
  4. Bearings and temperature monitoring: Regularly check bearing temperatures during equipment operation. Elevated temperatures may indicate insufficient lubrication, misalignment or impending bearing failure. Grease bearings at recommended intervals to minimize friction and heat buildup. Overgreasing can lead to seal damage and contamination, so follow manufacturer guidelines. Keep spare bearings on hand for quick replacement in case of unexpected failures. Prompt bearing replacement can prevent further damage to equipment and minimize downtime.
  5. Tire inspection: Check tire pressure and tread wear on equipment. Worn or damaged tires can compromise the stability and maneuverability of hay equipment, increasing the risk of accidents, especially when operating on uneven terrain or slopes. By inspecting tires regularly, you can identify potential issues, such as punctures, cuts, bulges or excessive wear, and address them promptly to maintain safe and efficient operation.
  6. Safety features: Verify that all safety shields and guards are in place and functioning properly to prevent accidents during operation. Test emergency stop buttons and kill switches to ensure they function properly. Inspect all lighting systems, including headlights, taillights, turn signals and warning beacons. Check fire extinguishers to ensure they are fully charged and ensure first-aid kits are stocked with essential supplies.


  1. Blade inspection: Check mower blades for signs of wear, damage or dullness. Replace any worn, bent or damaged blades to maintain cutting efficiency.
  2. Cutter bar alignment: Verify that the cutter bar is properly aligned to prevent uneven cutting and minimize stress on the mower.
  3. Skid shoes: Inspect skid shoes for wear and adjust them to maintain proper cutting height and protect the mower deck.


  1. Tine inspection: Examine rake tines for wear, bending or breakage. Replace any damaged or missing tines to ensure efficient raking.
  2. Wheel bearings: Check the temperature of wheel bearings during operation. Abnormal heat may indicate bearing issues and require immediate attention.
  3. Height adjustment: Verify that rake height settings are appropriate for field conditions. Adjust as needed for optimal raking performance.
  4. Wind guard adjustment: Ensure wind guards are properly adjusted to minimize hay loss and improve windrow formation.


  1. Pickup inspection: Inspect baler pickup components, including teeth and bands, for wear or damage. Replace as necessary to maintain smooth feeding and pickup abilities.
  2. Belt tension: Ensure proper tension on baler belts to prevent slipping or excessive wear. Adjust tension as needed.
  3. Bale chamber: Monitor bale chamber pressure and density to achieve desired bale quality. Adjust settings accordingly for different crop conditions.
  4. Knotter or net wrap check: If using twine, test the baler knotter operation to ensure proper knot formation and prevent twine breakage. Clean and adjust as needed. For balers using net wrap, check for strips of net wrap in unwanted areas of the baler and remove them. Keep extra twine or wrap on hand and ensure proper installation when a refill is needed.

Bale movers (loader tractors or skid steers)

  1. Forks or spikes: Inspect bale-moving attachments for wear or damage.
  2. Loader arms: Check loader arms for any signs of stress or fatigue. Lubricate pivot points and bushings for smooth operation.
  3. Safety equipment: Ensure proper functioning of safety features such as seat belts, lights and backup alarms for operator safety.

Don’t forget that the first step of any maintenance check is a visual inspection for wear and tear – it can prevent several issues. Additionally, operators should note any abnormal sounds coming from the machinery and ensure all areas are free from dirt and debris buildup. Finally, pay special attention to crop-engaging components such as mower blades, rake teeth and tines, baler pickup tines, compression rollers and knotter mechanisms on a frequent basis.

By taking time to regularly run through this hay equipment maintenance checklist, you can minimize downtime, maximize efficiency and ensure a successful hay harvest. Remember, regular check-ins with your equipment can prevent minor issues from escalating into inconvenient downtime, keeping your operation running smoothly throughout the hay season. For questions specific to your equipment and operation, your local equipment dealer is best suited to assist you as the hay season moves forward.


This article was written on behalf of Case IH Parts & Service.