With summer upon us, many producers are heading to the fields to begin hay season. While it's easy to be distracted by Mother Nature’s forecasts, it is important to take the time to properly prepare and operate equipment to make the most of the available dry conditions. Whether it’s fescue or brome, orchardgrass or bermudagrass, there are several steps all producers should take to make the most of their haymaking.
“Lack of preventative maintenance can lead to equipment problems that are costly in terms of delays and a timely harvest,” said Bob Schultheis, natural resource engineering specialist with the University of Missouri Extension Center. “Equipment breakdowns that delay a timely harvest or cause serious personal injury or death are all risks from operating poorly prepared equipment.”
Schultheis recommends producers should check the equipment owner’s manuals for appropriate servicing intervals, safety precautions for operation and likely parts that could fail so spares can be held in inventory to prevent harvesting delays.

“Make sure worn, damaged or missing parts are repaired or replaced. These could include cutter guards, knife sections, baler tines, belts, knotters, bearings and safety shields,” he said.  “Keep hydraulic fluid clean and hydraulic systems in good repair, and make sure tractor and equipment brakes are properly adjusted.”
Years of usage can weaken equipment and make it necessary to invest in new machines. Since these are often large financial investments, Schultheis said producers should take several factors into consideration before heading to the local implement dealership.
Increased maintenance costs, rapid depreciation, reliability, new technology and the farm machinery market can all affect a producer’s decision to invest in new equipment. Visit www.ozarksfn.com for more information on replacing machinery.
After the equipment is ready to go, producers should survey their fields for stumps, stones and foreign objects, and mark them clearly or remove them to prevent upsets, breakdowns or dangerous driving conditions. It is also vital that all operators receive proper instruction on how to use the machinery.
When in the field, take time to cautiously address problems. If the equipment gets clogged, stop the tractor, disengage the PTO (power-take-off), shut off the engine and engage the parking brake or shift the transmission into park before leaving the tractor seat to work on the problem. Schultheis said producers should make sure their tractors are equipped with ROPS (roll-over protective structures), the operator wears the seat belt and no extra riders are allowed.
“Get plenty of rest, take frequent breaks to maintain alertness during harvest and make sure family members know where you will be and your expected return time, in case something happens,” Schultheis said.


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