By Jason Evitts, UT Extension Agent

Hay season is just around the corner and now is the time to begin preparation for a timely and hopefully uneventful hay harvest.

In the Southeast, we seem to always fight with Mother Nature to get our hay harvested at the right time. An equipment breakdown or failure at the wrong time is not only costly, but could also lead to a hay crop getting wet and maybe even not harvested at all. So plan now to maintain your hay equipment. Just because it was working when it was stored does not mean it will function correctly when you start this season.

Photo courtesy of UT Extension

Maintaining the baler should be the first priority, because there is no need to cut anything if the baler/roller has any issues. Blow off any dust, dirt and debris using a high-pressure air hose or a leaf blower. Take care around any electrical connections. Once the dust, dirt and debris is removed, inspect all moving parts for wear, especially belts, bearings, universal joints and gearboxes. Inspect your pick-up teeth and moving parts. Replace or repair any damage parts that you find. Carefully read your manual and adjust any tensioners and grease all lubrication points on the baler. Then make sure that your bale monitor, if equipped, is functioning properly.

The mowers, rakes, and tedders require less maintenance than the baler, but still it is important to inspect these pieces of equipment. When maintaining the mower, inspect the blades and sharpen or replace the ones that are worn. Check any drive belts for wear and replace if needed. Inspect gearboxes and check oil levels in the bar according to the manual. With rakes remove any dust and debris, check all moving parts and check the rake teeth. Replace any worn or broke teeth and grease all lubrication points. The hay tedder should be cleaned and all moving parts inspected. Check oil level in gearboxes. Replace any worn or broke teeth.

This may sound like common sense, but sometimes as farmers we get busy doing other farm chores and forget the simple things. A quick cleaning of equipment and close inspection can help identify a small problem long before it becomes a major repair, right in the middle of hay season. It also doesn’t hurt to have a few extra blades, teeth, and spare belt stored in the barn or shop to save a long trip to town or farm supply store. Just remember: a little bit of maintenance can go a long ways to saving you time and money!!

For more information on agriculture and farm practices you can contact the UT Extension office at 615-374-2421 or by email at [email protected]