10 steps to keeping your diet feeder on the move this winter
Simple but important actions taken now will save you money and safety concerns later, writes Derek Casey
Diet feeders are made to work hard at this time of year. As the winter kicks off proper, some TLC in the form of machine maintenance can save costly breakdowns.
There will be a lot of hungry mouths to feed around your yard should your feeder break down, but following the ten steps outlined here should keep downtime to a minimum.
Safety comes first; before carrying out any checks or work on your machine, remember to first park it on a hard, level surface. Stop the tractor and keep the key in your own pocket. The machine is now rendered safe and cannot be started by anyone else without your knowledge and permission.
The diet feeder featured in this article is a Redrock Vari Cut 20, which is a 20 cubic metre capacity machine that has a power requirement of 90hp. Regardless of the make, it is typical of many paddle type feeders in Ireland and so a lot of the tips discussed here will apply for other popular brands such as Keenan and Hi-Spec.
1. PTO shaft
Never operate any PTO-driven machine without an undamaged PTO cover. The cover needs to include an anti-rotation chain. A rotating cover is just as bad as an exposed rotating shaft.
Grease the hardy spicers and the male and female sliding tubes of the shaft. Grease the plastic nipple which will allow the shaft to rotate within the stationary cover. Should this be overlooked, the plastic bushings inside will soon wear out, rendering your cover useless and requiring replacement.
Inspect the crook of the tractor, and the eye of the diet feeder for wear. Should you find wear present in any of these components, replace them immediately.
These components are very cheap to replace compared to the cost of the accident they could cause. Lubricate liberally with oil or grease to prevent wear.
3. Greasing the moving parts
For such a large machine, diet feeders actually have quite a small number of points requiring grease. Generally, it is only bearings, certain types of chain tensioners, sliding doors and moving parts on the axle that require the attention of a grease gun.
Due to the slow RPM of the main rotor shaft, the bearings at each end generally only require grease three to four times per season — however, refer to the operator’s manual of your individual machine to verify this as it may change from manufacturer to manufacturer. The bearings of the feedout auger will require more regular greasing as it runs at a higher RPM. Other points requiring grease include, but are not limited to, sliding doors, chain tensioners and moving parts on the axle.
Most modern diet feeders feature automatic oiling of chains. If this is the case, ensure the automatic oiler is fully operational and that the recommended oil is used — generally chain oil. All chains serviced by the oiler should be damp to the touch.
A dry chain is very bad news. If your machine doesn’t feature an automatic oiler, apply chain oil manually every second day.
Wheel nuts should be checked for tightness weekly.
Check the pressure and condition of tyres, and change as necessary. Check the wheel bearings for play by jacking the wheel off the ground and checking for lateral movement in the wheel. Replace as necessary.
Check the travel of the ram on the brakes.
Adjust the brakes by moving the brake actuator onto a different spline on the splined shaft shown with the pen in the picture if necessary. Grease the axle when you are under the machine.
7. Weighing Screen
Ensure the screen is kept relatively clean. It is highly prone to having dirt thrown up onto and under it from the rear wheels of the tractor.
The display screen is linked to the four weigh cells on the machine. The accuracy of these cells can be verified by hanging a known weight of greater than 5kg from the rear ladder. Use a variety of weights for greater accuracy. If the cells are returning bogus figures, check all electrical connections first. Very many electrical problems can be traced back to a faulty or dirty plug or connector.
Ensure all knives are present and sufficiently sharp.
A mower is not expected to cut grass with dull knives, and a diet feeder shouldn’t be either. Correct knife condition is essential for obtaining correct chop length within the feed ration.
9. Cleaning rubber
Each paddle features a rubber along its trailing edge to help sweep the surface of the barrel.
This is important for ensuring the feeder dispenses the entire ration upon emptying. If this rubber is damaged or absent, there will be considerable amounts of grain and smaller feedstuffs left at the bottom of the barrel after the feeder has discharged its contents.
10. Ladder and lights
Check the condition of the viewing ladder. Note — this ladder should never be used to gain access into the barrel of the machine, it is simply there to provide a view in over the top edge of the feeder.
Check that all lights are clean and fully functional. Replace bulbs or entire lights as necessary.
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