7 top tips to keep your mower on the go this silage season
This week I take a look at some of the key service points to look out for when dealing with a used trailed silage mower conditioner.
From the pictures you can see, a suggested approach is to go from the drawbar at the front of the mower, right through to the conditioner (a systematic approach that ensures you don't forget anything). It's a good practical idea to have a few of the most commonly used spare parts in the van or shed so they are quickly available when needed - knives, belts and replacement oil.
This is the time of year when having a trusted local machinery dealer really pays off. In fairness, most good dealers are offering extended out-of-hours service during the busy summer months and many have even laid on extra staff and support service for 'on-call' management of machinery breakdowns. These guys are highly trained technicians - the lifeblood of the machinery trade - so support them if you can. Having a good technician's mobile number in your phone is priceless when the days start to run into each other.
1 Oil should be changed once a year
Use 80/90 gear oil in both the swivel hitch gearbox and the main gearbox at the slip clutch. This oil should be changed once a year and should be checked regularly. In this picture (below) we are looking at the top and bottom gearboxes of the swivel hitch. This mower (an older John Deere model 1316) takes 0.8 litres of oil in the bottom and 2.4 litres in the top compartment.
2 Watch out for wear and tear
Watch out for wear in the knuckles of universal joints. As always, make sure your PTO covers (below) and holding chains are in place. Heavy knocks to the mower can crack the drawbar so check its structure regularly.
3 Is your mower clogging regularly
If you find the mower gets clogged up in only moderately heavy grass one of two things can be wrong. Either the triple v-belt (below) that drives the conditioner is worn and needs replacing or else it simply needs to be tensioned.
4 Missing skid
In this picture (below) you can see the skid (bottom) has come away from the drum. A missing skid means that disc will be cutting closer to the ground than its neighbours, skinning the grass and soil. This in turn increases the likelihood of bending/breaking the knives on that particular drum.
Skids can either be knocked off with a heavy bang from a stone/mound of earth or can simply come off as a result of wear and tear. A skid should normally last at least around 1000 acres.
5 Cuttar bar maintenance
The cutter bar (above). It's a good idea to run the mower for a minute before changing the cutter bar oil. This heats up the oil, reducing its viscosity and makes it flow better. The mower should then be jacked up slightly on its left hand side to help the old oil to flow out of the bung. Make sure all the old oil is out before replacing with clean 80/90 gear oil as per your mower manufacturer's guidelines. Knives need to be replaced when damaged or after 500 acres, whichever comes first.
6 Top hats
The two large drums at either end of the cutterbar are often called 'top hats' due to their shape. Top hats (below) play an important role in pushing the cut grass into the path of the conditioner. If you look closely, you will see deflector strips on them. Keeping these deflectors in good shape means the whole sward will be pushed into the path of the oncoming conditioner.
7 Keep you conditioner in top shape
With wilting and dry matter content a science of its own these days, the conditioner (below) is key to silage quality and should be checked regularly. Worn bushels will make conditioner spikes spin out of balance and, in some cases, come off, causing heavy vibration. If you feel this happening, check the conditioner for loose or missing spikes.
Most good dealers are offering extended out-of-hours service during the busy summer months
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