Kelly Friel, from trade product and equipment suppliers Zoro, offers her advice for people looking to protect their hay and silage making machinery from damage.

Harvest season is right around the corner, which means you should be starting to prepare crops and turn them into suitable feed for livestock during winter. During this time, it’s important to maintain your hay and silage making machinery to improve their lifespan and reduce the risk of breakdowns, which can be costly, but also to make sure your machines are running at maximum efficiency. Poorly maintained machines can also be dangerous and cause accidents, so it’s important to look after them properly to reduce the risk of serious injury.

Below are my tips for farmers preparing their machinery for hay and silage making.

Types of machinery used

Cutting, turning, gathering and baling require a number of machines. Some of them are vehicles, some will be pulled by vehicles, and others will be used by hand. Each farm will have their own preferences when it comes to agricultural machinery, but you will generally have some combination of the following:

  • Tractors: Vehicles designed to pull heavy agricultural machinery
  • Cutters: Machines that cut crops, such as rotary, sickle bar, and conditioner-mowers
  • Hay turners: Machines that air out and dry the cut crop, including tedders and rakes
  • Balers: Machines that compress and cut the turned crop into bales for easy storage
  • Wrappers: Machines that wrap the bale in plastic to protect it from the elements. Some machines are baler-wrapper combis, which do both steps at once.

These heavy-duty machines are expensive, but they aren’t without common faults, especially when they’re being used extensively for prolonged periods like during hay and silage season. Fortunately, you can catch a lot of problems early on by performing basic maintenance, reducing the need for costly repairs and replacements.

Maintenance tips for machinery

Your machines will go through a lot this season, so get into the habit of doing a daily walkaround to check them for signs of wear and tear such as leaking fluids, worn tracks or tyres, or cracks in belts and hoses. Make sure to check if the joints and chains need lubricating, or for build-ups of excess lubrication, to keep everything running smoothly. You should also check:

  • All electrical systems are fully operational, including headlights
  • All nuts and bolts are secure to prevent parts from coming loose
  • All safety guards, such as over the power take-off (PTO) shaft, are in place
  • Leftover hay, dirt, and debris have all been removed to prevent blockages

At the end of the season, repeat these checks again and replace the filters and seals if applicable. It’s also a good idea to relax belt tensioners before you put your machinery away for the winter, and always store your machines indoors or under a tarp to prevent rust.

Remember: before doing any machine maintenance, even just checks, perform a Safe Stop. It’s important to provide personal protective equipment and safe means of access, especially if you have employees, to reduce the risk of accidents occurring during maintenance.

Always use the right tools for the job, as failing to do so can be dangerous, and use the correct cleaning and hygiene products recommended by the manufacturer to prevent rust, rot, and other corrosions. It’s always best to check the manual, so refer to it if you’re not sure about any aspect of agricultural machine maintenance.

The tips in this guide can help you look after your hay and silage making machinery this harvesting season. Proper maintenance of all agricultural machines is important for safety and can help keep costs down, so make sure you’re doing everything you can to protect them from wear and damage.