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Baler Belt Questions and Answers

Posted on January 5, 2023
When should I replace my baler belt? There are a few factors that can help you determine when to replace your baler belt: Age: Belts typically have a lifespan of about 2-5 years, depending on the quality of the belt and the amount of use it has seen. If your belt is getting up there in age, it may be time to consider replacing it. Wear and tear: Visually inspect your baler belt for signs of wear and tear, such as cracks, fraying, or thinning. If the belt is showing significant wear, it may be time to replace it. Performance: If your baler belt is slipping or not performing as well as it used to, it could be a sign that it needs to be replaced. Damage: If your baler belt has been damaged, such as by a puncture or tear, it will need to be replaced. In general, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the condition of your baler belt and replace it before it fails completely. This can help prevent downtime and costly repairs. What causes baler belts to break? There are several factors that can cause a baler belt to break: Age: As belts get older, they can become brittle and more prone to breaking. Misalignment: If the pulleys or rollers that the belt rides on are misaligned, it can cause the belt to twist and break. Overloading: If the baler is overloaded, it can put too much strain on the belt, causing it to break. Poor maintenance: Not properly maintaining the baler and its components, such as not properly lubricating the rollers, can cause the belt to break. Contaminants: If there are foreign objects or contaminants on the belt or in the baler, they can cause the belt to break or become damaged. Incorrect belt size: Using a belt that is the wrong size for the baler can cause it to break. Manufacturing defects: In rare cases, the belt may be defective and break due to a manufacturing issue. How long do baler belts last? The lifespan of a baler belt can vary, but most belts will last for 2-5 years, depending on the quality of the belt and the amount of use it sees. Factors that can affect the lifespan of a baler belt include the type of material being processed, the type of baler being used, and the operating conditions (such as temperature and humidity). Proper maintenance, such as keeping the baler clean and lubricating the rollers, can also help extend the lifespan of the belt. If the belt is showing signs of wear or damage, it’s important to replace it before it fails completely to prevent downtime and costly repairs. How do you measure a baler belt? To measure a baler belt, you will need to determine the length and width of the belt. Here’s how to do it: Length: To measure the length of the belt, you will need to know the distance between the center of the drive pulley and the center of the tail pulley. This is known as the belt’s “pitch length.” To measure the pitch length, you can use a tape measure or a ruler to measure the distance between the two pulleys. Alternatively, you can use a piece of string or a flexible tape measure to wrap around the pulleys, then measure the length of the string or tape. Width: To measure the width of the belt, you will need to measure the distance between the inside edges of the belt. To do this, you can use a tape measure or a ruler to measure the distance at the widest point of the belt. It’s important to get accurate measurements, as using a belt that is the wrong size for your baler can cause it to break or perform poorly. How hot is too hot for a baler bearing? The temperature of a baler bearing can increase due to friction and heat generated during normal operation. However, if the temperature gets too high, it can cause the bearing to fail. As a general rule, the temperature of a bearing should not exceed 140°F (60°C). If the bearing is running hotter than this, it could be a sign of a problem, such as improper lubrication or a lack of proper ventilation. It’s important to monitor the temperature of the bearings on your baler and take action if the temperature exceeds the recommended limit. This can help prevent bearing failure and extend the lifespan of your baler. If you are unsure about the temperature of your baler bearings or how to properly maintain them, you should consult the manufacturer’s manual or a qualified mechanic. Are baler belts directional? Some baler belts are directional, meaning that they have a specific orientation and should be installed a certain way on the baler. These belts often have an arrow or other marking on the belt indicating the direction of travel. It’s important to install the belt in the correct direction, as installing it backwards can cause it to perform poorly or even break. Not all baler belts are directional, however. Some belts can be installed in either direction without affecting performance. If you are unsure whether your baler belt is directional or not, you should consult the manufacturer’s manual or a qualified mechanic. They will be able to provide you with the correct information and guidance on how to properly install the belt. How do I know what size belt I need? To determine the size of belt you need for your baler, you will need to know the length and width of the belt. Here’s how to measure the belt: Length: To measure the length of the belt, you will need to know the distance between the center of the drive pulley and the center of the tail pulley. This is known as the belt’s “pitch length.” To measure the pitch length, you can use a tape measure or a ruler to measure the distance between the two pulleys. Alternatively, you can use a piece of string or a flexible tape measure to wrap around the pulleys, then measure the length of the string or tape. Width: To measure the width of the belt, you will need to measure the distance between the inside edges of the belt. To do this, you can use a tape measure or a ruler to measure the distance at the widest point of the belt. It’s important to get accurate measurements, as using a belt that is the wrong size for your baler can cause it to break or perform poorly. If you are unsure about the size of belt you need or how to measure it, you should consult the manufacturer’s manual or a qualified mechanic. They will be able to provide you with the correct information and guidance. How are baler belts sized Baler belts are typically sized based on their length and width. The length of the belt is typically expressed in inches, and is measured as the distance between the center of the drive pulley and the center of the tail pulley. This is known as the belt’s “pitch length.” The width of the belt is typically expressed in inches or millimeters, and is measured as the distance between the inside edges of the belt. When shopping for a baler belt, it’s important to know the size of the belt that you need. You can find this information in the manufacturer’s manual for your baler or by consulting a qualified mechanic. They will be able to help you determine the correct size of belt for your baler. It’s important to use the correct size belt for your baler, as using a belt that is too small or too large can cause it to perform poorly or even break. Do baler belts stretch? Baler belts are made from a variety of materials, including rubber, fabric, and steel, and can behave differently over time. Some belts may stretch slightly when they are new and being broken in, but most belts will not stretch significantly over their lifespan. If a baler belt is stretched out or sagging, it could be a sign of wear or a problem with the baler. If you notice that your baler belt is stretched out or sagging, you should inspect it for signs of wear or damage. If the belt is worn or damaged, it will need to be replaced. If the belt is in good condition, the problem may be with the baler itself, such as misaligned pulleys or worn bearings. In this case, you will need to have the baler inspected and repaired by a qualified mechanic.

How to Choose the Right Round Baler Belt

Posted on August 4, 2022
If you’re in the market for a round baler, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is choosing the right belt. The wrong belt can cause all sorts of problems, from decreased performance to expensive damage to your baler. In this blog post, we’ll show you how to choose the right round baler belt for your needs. We’ll start by discussing why it’s so important to choose the right belt. We’ll then cover the different types of belts available and how to select the right one for your purposes. Finally, we’ll walk you through the process of installing a round baler belt. By the end of this post, you should have all the information you need to make an informed decision about which belt is right for you. Why it’s important to choose the right round baler belt. The consequences of using the wrong belt If you use the wrong belt on your round baler, it can cause a number of problems. The most common problem is that the bales will be too loose or too tight. This can cause the bales to fall apart when they’re being transported or stored, which is a huge waste of time and money. Another problem that can occur is that the baler won’t work properly. This can lead to costly repairs, and it can also cause downtime for your business. In some cases, it may even be necessary to replace the entire baler. So, it’s very important to choose the right belt for your round baler. If you’re not sure which belt to use, you should consult with a qualified technician or dealer. How to choose the right belt for your needs There are a few things you need to consider when choosing a round baler belt. First, you need to know what type of baler you have. There are two main types of balers: stationary and portable. Stationary balers are usually bigger and more expensive, while portable balers are smaller and less expensive. The second thing you need to consider is the size of the bales you want to make. Round balers come in different sizes, so you need to make sure you get one that’s big enough for your needs. The third thing you need to consider is how often you’ll be using the baler. If you only plan on using it once in awhile, then you might not need as heavy-duty of a belt as someone who uses their baler every day. Those are just a few things to keep in mind when choosing a round baler belt. If you have any questions, be sure to consult with a qualified technician or dealer before making your purchase. The different types of round baler belts. Flat belts Flat belts are the most common type of round baler belt. They’re made of a single layer of tough, reinforced fabric, and they’re typically used on smaller balers. Advantages: -They’re less expensive than other types of belts. -They’re easy to install and replace. Disadvantages: -They don’t last as long as other types of belts. -They can be damaged more easily by sharp objects. V-belts V-belts are made of two layers of reinforced fabric, with a V-shaped cross section. They’re stronger than flat belts, and they’re typically used on larger balers. Advantages: -They last longer than flat belts. -They’re less likely to be damaged by sharp objects. Disadvantages: -They’re more expensive than flat belts. -They can be more difficult to install and replace. How to install a round baler belt. The tools you’ll need To install a round baler belt, you’ll need the following tools: -A socket wrench set -An assistant -A measuring tape The step-by-step process Installing a round baler belt is a fairly simple process, but it’s important to do it carefully and correctly in order to avoid damaging the belt or the machine. Here’s a step-by-step guide: 1. Park the round baler on level ground and make sure that the PTO is disengaged. 2. Raise the bale chamber door and remove any hay or debris that may be inside. 3. Locate the old belt and remove it from the pulleys, being careful not to damage the pulleys in the process. 4. Measure the new belt to make sure it’s the correct size, then place it on the pulleys. 5. Engage the PTO and run the machine for a few minutes to ensure that the belt is installed correctly and running smoothly. 6. Disengage the PTO and lower the bale chamber door, then you’re all done! Conclusion If you’re in the market for a round baler belt, it’s important to choose the right one for your needs. The wrong belt can cause serious damage to your equipment, and even put you in danger. There are three main types of round baler belts: flat belts, v-belts, and serpentine belts. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to do your research before making a purchase. Once you’ve chosen the right belt, installing it is a relatively simple process. With the right tools and a little know-how, you’ll have your new belt up and running in no time.
If you want to get the most out of your baler belts, it’s important to choose the right ones and install them properly. There are different types of baler belts available, each with its own advantages. Selecting the right type of belt and installing it correctly can help you get the most productive use out of your baler. The importance of baler belts. The benefits of using baler belts The baler belt is a key component in the baling process, as it provides the tension needed to compress the crop into bales. Baler belts can be made from a variety of materials, including polyester, nylon, and Kevlar. Polyester is the most common type of baler belt, as it is strong and durable. Nylon is also a popular choice for baler belts, as it is less likely to stretch than polyester. Kevlar is the strongest type of baler belt, but it is also the most expensive. Baler belts can vary in width, thickness, and length. The width of the baler belt should be matched to the width of the bale chamber. The thicker the baler belt, the more tension it can withstand without breaking. The length of the baler belt will determine how many bales can be processed before it needs to be replaced. The types of baler belts There are two main types of baler belts: V-belts and flat belts. V-belts have a V-shaped cross section that helps grip the pulleys and keep the belt from slipping. Flat belts are just that – flat – and they rely on friction to stay in place on the pulleys. V-belts are more common on older balers, while flat belts are more common on newer models. How to get the most out of your baler belts. How to choose the right baler belts The first step to getting the most out of your baler belts is to choose the right ones for your needs. There are a few factors to consider when making your selection: -The type of crop you will be baling (e.g., hay, straw, corn stalks) -The size of your bales (e.g., small, medium, large) -The speed at which you want to produce bales (e.g., slow, moderate, fast) Once you have considered these factors, you can narrow down your options and select the best baler belts for your operation. How to install baler belts After you have chosen the right baler belts, the next step is to install them properly. This process will vary depending on the make and model of your baler, but there are a few general tips to follow: -Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully before beginning installation. -Make sure all pulleys and idlers are in good condition and properly aligned. -Do not overtighten bolts or clamps during installation; this can damage the belts. Following these tips will help ensure that your baler belts are installed correctly and will perform optimally. How to maintain baler belts Proper maintenance is essential to getting the most out of your baler belts. A few simple tips can help extend their life and keep them operating at peak performance: -Inspectbaler belts regularly for signs of wear or damage, such as cracks, fraying, or cuts in the fabric. -Remove any debris that could cause premature wear, such as stones or sticks caught between the belt and pulley surfaces. -Keepbaler belts clean by wiping them down with a cloth after each use; this will prevent dirt and other materials from grinding into the belt surface and causing premature wear. By following these tips, you can keep your baler belts in good condition and minimize the need for repairs or replacements. If you want to get the most out of your baler belts, it’s important to choose the right ones and take care of them properly. With the right baler belts, you can enjoy all the benefits they have to offer. So make sure to keep these tips in mind when making your purchase and using your baler belts.
In an ideal world, hay sales would always play out on the local level. Buyers would be able to inspect the bales before purchase, and transport costs would be minimal. Unfortunately, Mother Nature occasionally ruins the hay crop in whole states, so consumers must wander far afield to find a supplier. Conversely, ideal weather can create a hay glut, for which producers are hard-pressed to find enough buyers locally. Internet hay exchanges have been around since the 1990s. As in any transaction, there’s always the potential for fraud — on both sides. But by exercising common sense, seller and buyer can launch a mutually advantageous business relationship online. Internet Hay Exchanges: Initial Research Whether you’re the seller or the buyer, fire up your search engine and type in such keywords as “internet hay exchange” or buy (sell) hay online. These sources operate nationally, with search options listed by state. Several of these clearinghouses include the Canadian provinces. Many will post “hay for sale” notices for free. Others require nominal subscription fees covering multiple text listings and photographs. The USDA’s Farm Service Agency also offers a (free) online clearinghouse, Haynet, to bring together hay producers and consumers. The Hay Seller’s Listing The seller’s online listing should provide such essentials as: The kind of hay for sale (grass/legume type, or, if mixed, the approximate percentages involved) Which cutting (first, second or third) Cutting date Kind and size of bales — small square, large square or large round and approximate bale weight; Price per bale or per ton and whether the price includes transport fees; Timing of payment (upfront or partial, with the remainder paid on delivery); Form of payment (cashier’s or treasurer’s check, personal check, major credit card or PayPal). Few sellers are set up to take credit cards. And accepting a personal check from an unknown buyer can be risky. PayPal is becoming more and more common in online hay sales, because of the protection afforded both sides. Follow-up Communication Now it’s the buyer’s turn. After zeroing in on some likely ‘hay for sale’ ads, he should contact the sellers, by phone or e-mail, to learn whether there’s any room for negotiation on the price. Can the seller provide the names and contact info of satisfied customers? What animals are the typical end consumers of the seller’s hay? Horse owners, for example, need higher quality hay than farmers who run beef cattle, which can better utilize low-nutrition hay and can better tolerate mold. In the course of this communication, buyer and seller should agree on the inspection criteria upon delivery of the hay. Although few sellers draft formal sales contracts and many hay transactions evolve from an oral agreement, it’s a good idea to get something in writing, in advance of delivery. An exchange of e-mails, spelling out the terms of the transaction, can protect both sides. Other Complications with Online Hay Sales Seller and buyer may not be the only parties to the transaction. They may need to contract with a separate hay transport company. Transport details should be worked out well ahead of delivery. Various government entities can also get into the mix. Some interstate hay transports require prior certifications. Many northern states, for example, demand proof of proper storage conditions for hay originating in fire ant regions. Some jurisdictions have specific weed control certifications for incoming agricultural products. Without the necessary documentation, a semi-load of hay can be turned back at the state border. What has your experience been with online hay exchanges? For more information visit

Baling Hay for Big, Beefy Cattle

Posted on July 10, 2014
The temperature may be tropical and the summer hayfield may be a picture of abundance. But it’s time to think about winter — and the nutrition needs of your beef cattle. That means baling the right kind of hay, in the right amount, to ensure your herd keeps weight on during the lean months to come. A Few Summer Chores Take a hike through the hay pasture. Keep an eye out for toxic weeds, to avoid contaminating your hay and risking your animals’ health with too much buttercup or jimson weed. And remember that hay containing the seeds of such plants becomes a prime dispersing medium for them. If you’re  among those who avoid any kind of herbicides in the baling season, remove the toxic weeds (and dispose of them elsewhere) or burn them out. Keep a close watch on the weather, because haymaking requires exquisite timing. The idea is not only to maximize the number of harvested bales, but to manipulate their nutritional value. Alfalfa, for example, contains the highest protein level, at 18 percent, before it blooms. If baled at full bloom, the crop drops to about 15 percent protein. How Many Bales of Hay? Figuring out how many bales your animals will need depends on many variables. Does the wintering herd include youngsters or lactating cows? Their nutritional needs are higher than dry cows or steers. Does the herd have some shelter from snow, wind and rain? In cold weather, wet cows need more food to maintain body temperature and weight. How long and how cold are your winters? Does the climate afford some grazing even in January? Even though dead winter grass offers little nutrition, it’s a source of roughage. Adequate roughage promotes a full feeling and discourages overfeeding on expensive hay and supplements. The daily feed intake for the average beef cow is roughly comparable to 3 percent of body weight. Some beef producers quote a figure as low as 2 percent, while others opt for 4 percent. For a 1300-pound cow, that means a range of 26 to 52 pounds of hay per day. Many contributors to online agricultural forums suggest starting out with 2 tons of hay per beef cow in four-season climates. The minimum tonnage should increase in direct proportion to the number of weeks without a producing pasture. Round bales of hay vary in weight from about 700 pounds (for the 4′ X 5′ size) to 1200 (for the 5′ X 6′). At the low end of the feeding spectrum, this means at least 3 smaller bales per head per winter. Agricultural extension agents typically advise having more than the minimum on hand, however, to adjust to unpredictable weather and hay spoilage. Hay Quality Issues Hay containing higher levels of protein will keep weight on the animals. In addition, cattle chowing down on more nutritious hay need less of it than of low-protein grasses. But higher protein hay can also promote bloat and other digestive problems. As a result, most cattlemen bale a mix of legumes and grasses for their herds. Traditionally, beef cows and steers are sent to feedlots to be ‘refinished’ with grains before being harvested. Graining promotes weight gain and the marbling associated with good meat flavor. But the beef industry is rethinking some of the conventional wisdom. In taste tests, meat from cattle fed exclusively on grasses and legumes often outranks meat from grain-fed animals. Farmers keeping their herd exclusively on grass obviously incur higher hay bills and other maintenance costs, but may score a higher price per pound from the growing niche market for grass-fed beef.
Baler belt for John Deer baler. Theres nothing quite so frustrating for a farmer than belt failure in the midst of baling. At very least, the problem means down-time. Losing an opportunity to take advantage of sunny weather can also mean lost hay. At worst, belt problems can cause costly damage to other baler parts or pose a safety hazard. Problems requiring complete belt replacement or a repair like splicing result from diverse causes. A little investigation can help determine whether to replace or repair the troubled belt. Excessive Wear If a belt breaks without any sign of trauma — like broken connectors or gouges from sharp field debris — its probably suffering from excessive overall wear. Splicing in a new section of belt at the break point isnt a satisfactory solution, because another break is likely elsewhere on the belt, at any time. Some baler manuals provide guidance about the lifespan of belts. Many will need replacing after a decade or so. But some farmers are still baling with 20-year-old belts. A better indicator is bale volume. After handling 7,500 bales, a belt will have reduced ability to grip the hay or baler rollers. But some belts may chalk up 25,000 bales or more before needing replacement. Storage and operating conditions also affect belt lifespan. A baler kept inside the barn is likely to have longer belt life. Exposure to sun and ozone can dry out belts and make them brittle and/or slick. Farmers who bale with higher belt tension, in the interest of maximizing bale density, often report a shorter lifespan for their baler belts. A baler acquired second-hand may not come with records of belt age and bale volume. An experienced farmer can run his own diagnostic. Simply sliding a hand over the belt surface can determine whether the surface is too slick or still has adequate gripping power. Eyeballing the belts tracking provides other useful clues. Although some rubbing against belt guides is normal, excessive rubbing will cause substantial curl to belt edges, perhaps fraying or even folding over. With such signs, replacement may be the best option. Hook Splicer Connection Failure The cables or pins that hold together the belt ends will not last as long as the belt surface itself. Some manufacturers recommend replacing these every year or so, even if the belt is still holding together. If a belt has come apart thanks to corroded or bent connectors, the fix is quick: simply replace the pins/cable. We carry three different sizes of hinge pins for alligator rivet fasteners. The fasteners themselves — whether consisting of alligator rivets or hook splicers — may be the cause of belt failure. The obvious remedy is to replace the fasteners, not the belt. Foreign Objects Often, a belt tears after a close encounter with sharp debris in the hay. If the injury is small, particularly if the rip runs parallel to belt length, no repair may be needed at all. If the tear is extensive or runs perpendicular to belt length, it will affect the overall integrity of the belt. In that case, the torn section of belt must be replaced. This means cutting out the damaged piece, then measuring it and cutting a new piece of belt to size. Its usually a good idea to grind down the gripping surface at either end of the patch, to ensure a smooth transition when secured to the old belt, whether with alligator rivet fasteners or hook splicers. Most farmers are capable of handling this repair themselves. There are several useful online videos, like the one below, to show the steps involved in installing a patch.   An experienced pair of hands can make this repair within half an hour, with the help of some power tools and a bench vise. Some farmers claim to be handy enough to make such repairs in the field. An Ounce of Prevention Visually inspecting belts before heading off to bale hay can pre-empt some breakdowns in the field. But its a good idea to have splicing tools and replacement belts on hand — to minimize the down-time when those nasty surprises occur.
Some essential, multi-purpose tools for your tractor’s toolbox. Ask five farmers what tools are in their tractor toolboxes and youre likely to get five different responses. The answers will vary according to the time of year, personal preferences and the job that tractor is tackling. At minimum, however, certain multi-purpose tools can come in handy in a broad range of farming scenarios. A well-equipped tool box can save the farmer a long hike back to the barn. Multi-Purpose Tools You might not be able to splice a worn baling belt in the field, without the help of a bench vise and electric grinder. Changing a massive tractor tire requires a heavy-duty jack, which may take up too much room in a toolbox — if it fits at all. But a lot of trouble in the field can be resolved with basic tools found in any home garage. Heres a short list. Tighteners: Almost any tractor operation, from bush-hogging to baling, involves major vibration. Eventually that means loose nuts and bolts.An adjustable wrench will come in handy for large bolts. An assortment of open and socket wrenches will ensure a fit for smaller items that come loose. Before stocking the toolbox, however, you need to know whether your tractor uses standard or metric measurements. In some cases, engine parts require one version and tractor attachments another. Slot and Phillips screwdrivers are also essential — for tightening the screw on a hose-clip, for example. Extractors: When working in tall grass or brush, tractors encounter nasty surprises. Loose wire, rebar, even vegetation itself can wrap around machinery. Small pry bars, pliers, wire-cutters and knives can come to the rescue. Muscle: A sturdy hammer has multiple applications in the field.It can bend back a piece of rebar wrapped around an axle. When heavy vibration jolts a tractor part out of alignment, a good whack can often straighten things out again. Livestock producers know that a hammer blow to the head of a seriously injured cow or sheep can save the animal needless suffering. Duct tape: Dont forget the king of multi-tasking. Duct tape can temporarily seal a leak in a radiator or hydraulic hose and hold together frayed belts. An example of specialized “muscle” tools (come-along and chain). Seasonal Considerations A tractor may not be cutting grass in winter, but it rarely lies idle in the cold season, when farmers catch up on soil amendment tasks, fencing repairs and stump pulling, to say nothing of using the tractor to plow out the driveway. A folding snow shovel is a useful addition to a toolbox in winter, because even four-wheel-drive tractors can get stuck in snow. Winters short daylight hours often cause the farmer to finish his field tasks in low light. A flashlight in the toolbox can come in handy. Warm weather additions to the toolbox include cans of soda or bottles of water, to keep the tractor operator hydrated under the baking sun. And the insect repellent sprayed on exposed skin before the farmer headed off to cut hay will almost certainly need replenishing before the job is done. Health and Safety Additions Bad things can happen in the back forty. A cell phone added to the tractor toolbox before the start of any field work can literally be a lifesaver. A basic first-aid kit makes sense, too. Even a minor wound can get infected, unless a Band-Aid is on hand to minimize exposure to the dirt kicked up by tractor operations. And be aware of the health applications of duct tape — as a tourniquet or component in a makeshift splint. Any combustion engine poses fire risks. Consider adding a small fire extinguisher to the mix. Final Note Some will say this list is too short and should include such items as grease guns and hitch pins. Others will consider the number of suggestions excessive. This list is intended merely to get you started. It takes only a little forethought to tailor your toolbox contents to your individual needs — and save you costly down-time in the long run.  
Is your equipment ready for baling season? Once the warm weather kicks in, forage grasses and legumes have a way of reaching prime cutting height a lot faster than even veteran haymakers can predict. Make sure your hay equipment is ready for deployment sooner rather than later. Clean Up Tasks Ideally, everything underwent a thorough cleaning before winter storage. If not, youll need to remove the old hay debris before the new season — by sweeping or using air pressure on balers, mowers, conditioners, rakes and tedders. Stickier accumulations, like the sap from alfalfa stems, may need hosing down and scraping. Basic Automotive Inspection for Hay Equipment Tractors and specialized hay equipment benefit from an annual inspection very similar to what cars go through every year. Check the levels of gearbox oil, hydraulics, coolant, brake and battery fluids. Depending on the manufacturers recommendations, you can top up some of those fluids. Others will need replacing after so many hours of operation. But even if your tractor hasn’t hit the magic number of operating hours, its oil needs changing at least once a year. The same holds true for all filters. After draining out the old oil, look for such contaminants as metal filings, which can provide early warning of engine problems. Like cars, tractors and specialized hay equipment need their moving parts lubricated regularly. Apply grease to all zerk points. Check battery terminals and spark plugs for buildup and clean where needed. Measure battery voltage and recharge if necessary. Inspect all tires for signs of wear. Adjust air pressure to meet recommended levels. Nuts and Bolts Hay equipment takes a lot more abuse than the average family car. Repeated passes over a bumpy field can loosen nuts and bolts on mowers, conditioners, tedders, rakes, balers and the tractor itself. Tighten any loose nuts and bolts. Cutting Equipment Cutting equipment not only dulls with weather and use, but wears unevenly. On disc mowers, rotate knives to maximize their life. Worn out knives (and any worn turtles covering them) should be replaced. Examine the spacing and timing for the rollers on conditioning equipment. Adjust, as needed. The knife clearance and plunger alignment on rectangular balers may similarly need adjusting. Rakes and Tedders A season of haymaking can misalign rakes and tedders. Before the first spring cutting, make sure the pickup height is optimal for the crop to be worked. Even out that height across the rake or tedder width. Bend misshapen tines back into alignment. Replace missing or broken tines. Round Balers Subjected to a higher proportion of crop weight, the center belts in round balers have a tendency to stretch. At the start of the new hay season, cut any of these longer belts so that all belts are at the same length — to ensure tight bale density and conformity. The pin or cable fasteners that hold belts together are particular weak points. Most baler manufacturers recommend replacing these fasteners at least once a year. Examine the belts for holes and major cuts, caused by rocks and other sharp debris. Look for uneven belt wear. Edge curling will make the belt camber, rubbing along belt guides and accelerating the fraying process. You may be able to re-size unevenly worn belts or realign them by adjusting the rollers. Cut off any frayed belt strings to prevent them from tangling in the rollers. Slide your hand along each belts surface to make sure it can still grip the crop. If the surface feels too slick, replace the belt. Whenever theres any doubt about the viability of a baler belt, it needs replacement. Record Keeping Take notes as you inspect your hay equipment. Jot down the number of hours of operation when items are replaced or serviced. This practice not only ensures compliance with the manufacturers recommended maintenance schedule, but also serves as a guideline for future troubleshooting. Record signs of wear that may not need immediate correction, but will warrant another look in a few weeks or months. Inventory the replacement parts and tractor supplies you have on hand. With up-to-date records, youll know when you need to restock such items as belts, fastening pins, belt lacing tools, oil, coolant, etc. Reorder sooner rather later, to reduce the risk of costly downtime at the peak of haying season.  
  How do you store hay and prevent spoilage? With even the best hay, a lot can go wrong between baling and feeding. Common-sense hay storage practices, however, will minimize spoilage. Hay Enemy Number One: Moisture UV rays often bleach nourishment from hay bales, and rodents destroy a certain percentage of stored hay by chowing down on the more delectable varieties or simply nesting in the bales. Such challenges, however, are preventable or manageable with the help of indoor hay storage, good housekeeping and barn cats. Heading off the damage from excessive moisture is more complicated. Even when baling takes place at the optimum time, with a moisture content below 20 percent, all hay bale in their first few weeks. Plant cells in the hay continue to  for a while after cutting, and microbes naturally present in the field interact with plant sugars and oxygen. Those processes can breed mold. The risk of mold doesnt stop after the sweating period, especially if hay bales are exposed to rain and snow during hay storage. More and more farmers in both the United States and Canada are producing large round bales. Because of their unwieldy size, those bales are often stored outdoors. It is not uncommon for farmers in wet, humid areas of the United States and heavy snow areas of Canada to lose the outer 4 to 8 inches of their round bales to mold. Rain, snow and wet ground conditions can thus destroy 25 percent of round bale tonnage–losses many farmers can’t afford. With indoor hay storage, losses rarely exceed 8 percent. But that percentage can increase significantly with poor barn conditions. Indoor Hay Storage Tips Many hay producers and their customers wait up to three weeks after baling before they store hay inside barns. Others only partially fill their haylofts during the sweating period, to allow for good air circulation. Such practices reduce the risk of fire, not just mold. The chemical processes involved in plant cell respiration generate heat. In the early weeks, new bales typically have hot spots in excess of 120 degrees. In densely packed, humid conditions, that core temperature can exceed 200 degrees, with the real risk of spontaneous combustion. Even after the sweating period, bales stored on the barn floor benefit from air circulation beneath the bottom tier. Wood pallets and railroad ties are cheap ways of raising the bales off the ground. But even elevated hay bales can wick up moisture from a wet barn floor. Ideally, the floor should crown somewhat higher than the surrounding terrain. Roof gutters and French (ground) drains around the exterior of the barn can further ensure a dry floor and healthy bales. Round Bale Hay Storage A little elevation can similarly minimize dry matter losses in round bales stored outside. Farmers often use railroad ties, old tires and rocks as platforms for the giant bales. Another trick is to take advantage of slopes, to drain water away from the hay. Some farmers opt for the so-called Canadian method, sacrificing a lower tier of round bales, positioned cut-side-down, to serve as a platform for a top row of round bales, lined up end to end. How do you store hay? Where space is limited, round bales may be stacked in triangles. Farmers with adequate space, however, generally arrange round bales in a long line, end to end, in a north-south direction. This arrangement ensures maximum sun exposure. In addition, at least three feet of space should separate the long rows, to guarantee good air circulation. Some farmers tuck their round bales under trees, in hope of protecting them against rain and snow. In reality, however, this hay storage arrangement only increases moisture content, by depriving the bales of sufficient sun and air circulation. Another taboo is stacking round bales side by side. This is particularly risky in snowy Canada and the northern United States. This arrangement creates mini-valleys that hold in snow and rain. The Cover Controversy Round bales wrapped in netting before field storage generally stand up to the weather better than twined bales. The tighter the bale, the more resistant it is to weathering. Less porous coverings — whether a sausage-link sleeve connecting several bales or a tarp pinned down over the bales — may be of less value, however. Heavy plastic coverings, in particular, can restrict air flow and thus increase the risk of mold. One Canadian study, carried out in Alberta in 1988, showed higher losses for plastic-wrapped round bales than for unprotected bales.  
Farmers, the ultimate high-stakes gamblers, walk a fine line — between too much and too little sun, too much and too little moisture. Nowhere is that fine line more evident than in the hayfield. Mother Nature gives no guarantees she will provide the optimum window of time for harvesting forage vegetation, whether for baling or ensiling. In humid, cool areas of the United States, the farmer may need four sunny days between cutting and baling. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce that time frame and improve the odds of ending up with high quality hay and silage. Cutting Height Obviously, the farmer wants to harvest as much crop as possible. At the same time, a sturdy stubble left in the field provides a useful drying platform, allowing airflow between the mown vegetation and the moist soil. The stubble also minimizes the risk of contaminating the harvest with ash from the ground. Wide Swaths The wider the swath in which vegetation lies after cutting, the better. Tests show that windrows measuring at least 70 percent of the cut width dry much more quickly than narrower windrows. The broader width increases sun exposure and ensures good airflow on the shady side. Even with less than ideal mowers, the farmer can usually adjust his equipment to widen the swath. Many agronomists call a wide swath the single most important factor in a high-quality hay and silage production. Swath Manipulation Swaths dry unevenly, with the bottom layer lagging considerably behind the top layer. Many farmers  to spread out the swaths, to maximize the exposure to air and sunshine. Others use inverters to flip the swaths. Using tedders and inverters successfully is — once again — all about timing. The idea is to wait until the top layer is fairly dry. Waiting too long, however, could result in excessive loss of dry matter because of breakage. Conditioning Equipment Specialized machinery that conditions the just-cut crop remains somewhat controversial among farmers. Many balk at the initial purchase price. Others object to yet another processing stage — adding to labor, fuel costs and the risk of increased dry matter loss. Studies conducted by Cornell University suggest the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, however. Conditioners crack open the stems of grasses, legumes and similar forage crops. This process broadens the surface area of the cut vegetation and also redresses the imbalance in the drying time of stems and leaves. Unprocessed stems, safeguarded by a waxy coating, typically take longer to dry. There are two basic types of mechanical conditioners: Roller crimpers-made of rubber or steel, work best with crops like alfalfa. Flail impellers are best used for grasses. Chemical Conditioners Drying agents, sprayed on the crop at cutting time, can also speed up the drying process. These desiccants — solutions typically based on sodium or potassium bicarbonate — are harmless and effective. The sheer volume of liquid required adds to the processing cost, however.
Hobby farmers make many mistakes during their first year of hay making. Farming is hardly a precise science. Mother Nature can throw curves that even veteran haymakers cant handle. But learning from the mistakes of others can go a long way to ensuring a successful first-year hay harvest, even for the hobby farmer. Hay Making Mistake: Choosing the Wrong Kind of Hay Inexperienced farmers are often tempted to plant the wrong kind of hay for their soil or their climate, simply because that particular species brings a high price. Alfalfa is a case in point. Because of its high protein value, alfalfa is popular with many livestock producers. But growing that legume successfully presupposes optimal soil conditions: pH levels of 6.5 for a virgin crop, a good depth and a level, well-disked surface. Even with the right soil and the right climate, the alfalfa grower will need to fertilize regularly, to meet the crops high demand for phosphorus and potassium. Because alfalfa fields lie dormant for longer than grass crops, weeds can get a head start in winter. The increased need for herbicides, fertilizer and lime (if the soil is too acidic) can undercut whatever benefits that high per-bale price may bring. This doesnt mean alfalfa is a taboo for the novice, but he should thoroughly study alfalfa management; while at least investigating such lower maintenance alternatives: Timothy- which tolerates cold well. Orchardgrass- a hearty grower in diverse climates and forage actually preferred by many livestock producers. Hay Making Mistake: Waiting Too Long to Cut Seeing a thriving hayfield warms any farmer’s heart. The newbie, however, is often tempted to let that crop grow just a little higher to maximize the yield. That can be a poor decision for several reasons. Admittedly, a delayed harvest may result in more bales, but the quality may suffer. Those bales may have more stems than leaves or the leaves may have less nutrition, because the plant had been putting its energy into setting seed. Early mowing increases the likelihood of multiple harvests, because cutting stimulates growth hormones. Even in the cool Northeast, farmers can sometimes squeeze four cuttings into one growing season. Second-, third- or fourth-cut hay has a higher nutritional value than the first cut — and brings a higher price. Timely mowing is also an ally in the war against weeds. Cutting before horse nettle, sneezeweed, buttercups and other weeds get too well established prevents those pests from overshadowing the hay crop. Hay Making Mistake : Folding Before the Chips are Down Like any good poker player who knows when to bluff through a lackluster hand, a successful farmer needs to recognize those disasters that can be fixed. A common mistake, for example, is to assume that just-cut hay will be ruined after an unforeseen downpour. Instead of throwing up his hands, the farmer should run for his tedder, once the rain stops. By spreading out the rows, he just may be able to dry and bale the harvest before the next surprise from Mother Nature. What hay making advice would you give to a first year farmer?  
Having the space for large wind turbines and solar panel assemblies, farms can be ideal sites for renewable energy systems. As a major electricity consumer — to pump water through irrigation systems, dry grain, run barn fans, cool dairy produce, etc. — the farmer has considerable interest in reducing steep monthly utility payments. Increasingly, American farmers are investing in solar and wind power. Some want to go off the grid completely. Others want to power specific systems, like water heaters or irrigation pumps. Still others contract with local utility companies to share any unused energy generated by the farms solar panels or wind turbines. Such arrangements can substantially reduce the farmers electricity bill. At best, he may realize a net profit from selling sun or wind powered electricity to the local power company. The USDA Rural Energy for America Program provides some grants helping farmers purchase the necessary equipment. It can help fund feasibility studies to determine the costs and benefits of tapping solar and wind energy. The IRS provides income tax credits to taxpayers who have installed solar or wind systems in their home, farm or business. Even with such government incentives, however, the initial investment is substantial. Large wind turbines may exceed $50,000. A 10-Kilowatt solar system may run $35,000. Choosing the right system can be tricky. Most states  enough sunshine to power auxiliary heating or cooling systems. But for areas with tough winters, a comprehensive solar power setup is unfeasible. Similarly, large swaths of the southeast lack sufficient wind speed to make wind turbines cost-effective. Wind turbines often face legal and insurance hassles while some communities have aesthetic objections. Others worry about damage to migrating birds or accidents caused by storm-damaged turbine blades. Would you allow wind turbines or solar panels on your farm?  
For hay producers, is the large round bale more economical than the small square? Because of all the variables involved, theres no easy answer. Round Baler Belt Certinly, the big ton bales are increasingly popular among American hay farmers. The total equipment investment for producing round bales is typically less than for small bale production. When it comes to baling and stacking hay on comparable acreage, round bale producers may need only two thirds of the manpower required for the small squares. The big bale producer also enjoys a time advantage. Because small squares require more drying time between cutting and baling, the window of opportunity for harvesting hay can be quite limited, especially in wet, cool climates. Small Square Hay Bales Small squares, however, may have the edge when it comes to spoilage. Significant quantities of small bales store with relative ease — without specialized equipment — in even modest barns. Protection against precipitation and sunlight retains the hays food value for longer. Indoor storage of large numbers of ton bales are not feasible for many farms – so many producers store their hay outdoors. Without covers, those bales can incur storage losses of 10 percent — due to spoilage; plus bale covers add to the production costs. The Hay Market The final determinant is the market. If the hay producers customers are sizable cattle farms, large round bales make sense. If hes selling to small livestock farms, 50-pound square bales are the better option. Horse owners, for example, often lack the equipment needed to work with ton bales.  Horses are also more vulnerable than cows to the molds that grow in the huge bales, when set outside, even in hay-rings. For these reasons many horse owners boycott round bales and quite willingly pay the much steeper price (per pound) of small squares.  

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