Key service points on a trailed silage mower conditioner

Smooth operation: Certain parts of the mower will need attention mid-season in order to keep running smoothly and knocking grass ahead of the harvester or baler
Smooth operation: Certain parts of the mower will need attention mid-season in order to keep running smoothly and knocking grass ahead of the harvester or baler
Top hat

This week, I look at some of the key service points to watch out for on a trailed silage mower conditioner.

A lot of contractors use downtime during bad weather to ensure they are ready for action when the sun comes out.

As the silage season grinds on, knives, discs and bearings need attention to ensure a mower can keep up the pace ahead of a silage harvester or baler. A suggested approach is to go from the drawbar at the front of the mower, right through to the conditioner (an approach that ensures you don't forget anything).

Two useful tips here are:

* try to think ahead by having a few of the most common spare parts in the jeep so that they are quickly available when needed - knives, belts and replacement oil;

* and check with your local dealer for out of hours back-up - most good dealers have on-call staff available at this time of year and are opening late, which is a brilliant support.

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Gear oil

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, we are looking at the top and bottom gearboxes of the swivel hitch. This mower (a John Deere 1316) takes 0.8 litres of oil in the bottom and 2.4 litres in the top compartment.

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Joints

Watch out for wear in the knuckles of universal joints. As always, make sure your PTO covers and holding chains are in place. Heavy knocks to the mower can crack the drawbar so check its structure regularly.

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V-belt

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 (above) that drives the conditioner is worn and needs replacing, or else it simply needs to be tensioned. In the bottom picture, you can see the skid has come away from the drum.

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Skid

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 1,000 acres.

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Cutter bar

The cutter bar. 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.

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Top hat

The two large drums at either end of the cutter bar are often called 'top hats'. Top hats 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.

 

10 steps to more power

* Make sure your PTO covers and holding chains are in place.

* Set up the flotation springs correctly and grease the top links that are used to set cutting height.

* Most mower-conditioners use a triple V-belt to drive the conditioner. If you find your mower gets blocked in heavy grass, then the V-belt is slipping - either the belt needs to be tensioned or replaced.

* 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.

* The cutter-bar oil bed takes around 2 litres of 80/90 oil. This should be changed every season.

* Underneath the cutter bar, check the skids regularly. The fastest way to damage your knives is to continue cutting with skids broken or missing.

* Check deflectors on top hats (large drums on either side of cutter bar) for wear. Replace as needed.

* Knives should be replaced when damaged or after 500 acres, whichever comes first.

* Worn bushels will make conditioner spikes spin out of balance or even detach, causing heavy vibration. If you feel this happening, check conditioner for loose spikes.

* Check the cutter bar drums for loose bearings. If badly worn, these bearings can drop down into the cutter bar gearbox and do untold damage to the gear teeth. Again, heavy vibration is a tell-tale sign of a worn bearing.

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