Preseason Hay Equipment Maintenance

Spring planting is a busy time.  When moisture prevents field work from occurring, take some time to check your hay equipment to be prepared for the season and prevent costly downtime later.

First, clean off any equipment that was put away dirty.  A leaf blower or compressed air hose works well here.  Check out implement tires to ensure proper pressure and no flats.  Check shielding on all equipment and make sure other safety components like lights and reflectors are functioning.  Having safety equipment like a fire extinguisher on hand is a good practice to get into.  If you do have one, make sure it’s charged/filled and ready for use.

Inspect, lubricate, and service all power-driven areas such as belts, bearings, chains, and gears.  Set tension on belts and chains. Check oil levels in gearboxes.  Check hydraulic hoses for cracks and change filters.   For sicklebar headers, check, sharpen, or replace cutterbar sections and adjust wear plates, hold-down clips, and guards.  Make sure your cutterbar has proper knife register. On disc mowers, replace knives and rotate or replace worn turtles over the knives.

Conditioning rollers often are overlooked.  Look for uneven wear and adjust the roll gap, roll timing, and roll pressure for your crop.

On round balers, inspect belts, chains, and slats or rollers frequently for wear.  Bailers that use net rap should have the rubber rollers that feed wrap inspected to ensure there are no cuts or rough areas where wrap could snag. Trim frayed edges and repair belts as needed to maintain uniform tension.  When not in use, keep belts clean and release belt tension.

 Ensure your PTO shaft won’t cause issues during the season by removing all shielding and checking for wear then greasing before putting everything back together.

Check plunger knife clearance and plunger alignment on square balers. Inspect the tying mechanism and adjust as needed.

 Pick-up teeth on balers and on rakes frequently are broken or bent.  Replace defective teeth and adjust height if necessary.  Cam-type pickups should have the cam roller bearing checked.

For rakes, and tedders take some time to replace damaged tines and set pick-up heights.

Also, be sure you have replacement parts on hand for frequently broken or replaced items.  And most important of all, review your owner's manual to identify recommended maintenance procedures and proper settings.

-Ben Beckman is a beef systems Extension Educator serving the counties of Antelope, Cedar, Knox, Madison and Pierce.  He is based out of the Cedar County Extension office in Hartington.  You can reach him by phone: (402) 254-6821 or email: