UGA Forage Extension Team

Get prepped for hay season

By Carole Knight
Bulloch County CEA

As temperatures begin to creep up and spring starts to arrive, it is time to start thinking about the coming hay season. Timing is everything when it comes to high-quality hay production. A pre-harvest inspection of your hay making equipment can help make up valuable time and hopefully cut back on downtime later on. Here are some tips and things to check on before you make your first bale.

Sharpen up. A good cut on the grass reduces leaf loss and prevents stem damage, which can slow plant recovery. Sharpen or replace dull, damaged blades, sickle sections and cutting mechanisms. Also, check the conditioning rollers, adjust spacing, and roll timing as needed. Properly maintained conditioners will minimize drying time.

My buddy “Ted”. Tedders and rakes may not be as mechanically complex, but they still need to be functioning effectively. Look for teeth that are misaligned or broken, replace or bend if possible. Setting the correct pick-up height will minimize leaf loss and reduce dirt uptake.

Don’t bail on you baler. Perform a thorough inspection on your hay baler. This is the centerpiece of your hay making operation and if it is not functioning properly, things come to a halt. Check shafts, sprockets, pulleys and bearings for signs of wear. Inspect any belts and hoses for cracks. Properly tighten chains and belts. The bearings in the baling chamber often cause the most headache for round baler owners. Now is the time to check them, not when smoke is billowing out of the chamber. Check the rollers for any excessive movement or play. Look at tires and check their air pressure. It is a good practice to do a test run by warming up equipment to check for improperly working components.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Lubricate and grease any bearings and other moving parts that may have grown dry and stiff during the off-season.
Take inventory. Make sure you have plenty of twine, net wrap and or plastic. It also good to have some spare parts on hand to minimize downtime when something breaks. Adequate inventories can save you a trip to town or prevent a complete shutdown.

Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” So many factors contribute to a successful hay season. Don’t let improperly prepped equipment be the factor that slows you down. With your equipment ready, you’ll be prepped for a great hay season.