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Raking Tips for Superior Hay Quality

A good raking job can be the difference between quality hay and uneven bales that are subject to spoilage.Hesston Hay Tips 04 2013

Whether you are cutting, conditioning, raking or baling, all steps in the process of making high-quality hay require attention to detail. Any slip-ups along the way can compromise the end result. Raking is perhaps the most critical step in the process, as more leaf loss can be caused by improper raking than by any other step in the harvest process.

“A good job of raking can make baling high-quality hay relatively easy,” says Dean Morrell, AGCO hay and forage product marketing manager for Hesston by Massey Ferguson and a 35-year veteran of the quality hay business. “On the other hand, if raking is done poorly, the result can be poor-quality bales that are subject to spoilage.” Morrell reminds producers to avoid raking alfalfa or clover when the forage moisture is less than 35 to 40 percent to prevent the loss of nutrient-dense leaves. Leaves contain two-thirds of the protein and 75 percent of the total digestible nutrients (TDN) in alfalfa hay.

Raking can’t be avoided, because this process gathers a mowed swath into a windrow or gathers two or more windrows into one for more efficient baling. By creating windrows that are uniform in width and in the amount of hay they contain, producers help ensure bales are consistent in shape and density. Also, by creating windrows as large as possible to meet the baler capacity, the amount of loss during the baling process can be minimized when hay is at its driest and most subject to leaf loss from handling.

In addition to proper timing and technique, properly setting the rake ensures good results. Overall, wheel rakes are simplest to set, but rotary rakes, which have more adjustments, often provide superior results, with less dirt contamination in the hay, and therefore less ash, which reduces forage digestibility. Check the operator’s manuals for full details on best practices for setting and operating your style of rake for superior hay production.

Here are several tips on how to set and operate rakes. Except where indicated, tips are for rotary rakes:

  • Set rake tines of rotary rakes to skim just above the ground, so they don’t dig up dirt, contaminating the hay and wearing down tines unnecessarily. Set wheel rakes to have as little contact with the ground as possible.
  • Make sure rotary rake bogey wheels beneath the rotor are level. The rotor should have one-half to 1 inch of ground clearance on all sides at all times.
  • Set the tine arm release based on crop conditions and the size windrow you desire. A dry, fluffy crop requires an earlier release setting. For a heavy, wet crop, use a later release setting.
  • For maximum drying, set the windrow as wide as possible.
  • If the rake is PTO driven, synchronize the field speed and PTO speed for a gentle lifting and turning action. This helps avoid aggressive handling that can cause excessive leaf loss.
  • Operate the rake at a consistent speed to create an even windrow for uniform drying and fewer slugs of wet, bunched hay, thus allowing hay to be fed smoothly and evenly into the baler for superior baler performance. The end result will be high-quality bales and reduced risk of crop spoilage.
  • Stay up to date on regular maintenance to ensure peak machine performance including daily greasing of pivot points and hinges. Tighten bolts and replace broken or worn tines. Check tire inflation regularly.
  • Be sure to visit your local dealer to stock up on replacement tines and basket and rake wheel bearings before the season starts to minimize downtime from common breakdowns. Dealers often have a list of parts recommended for on-farm stocking and may offer preseason discounts for parts purchases.

Hesston has been providing innovation and solutions to farmers since 1947, and is the industry leader in hay-harvesting products. For more information about Hesston by Massey Ferguson products or to find a dealer near you, visit hesston.com.

Hay-Cutting Tips for Superior Hay Quality

With alfalfa acres uncertain after the 2012 drought and both grass and alfalfa hay inventories low in many areas, brisk demand for high-quality hay is expected again in 2013. Whether producing hay for your own use or to sell, making the most of the available crop begins with cutting. Timing, technique and equipment all play important roles in success. Following are some helpful reminders as producers go into the 2013 production season.

Massey Ferguson disc mower

“Cutting hay is often dictated by the environment and the hay-drying conditions, but a general rule is to cut after the dew is gone and when topsoil is dry, to reduce soil compaction and facilitate better drying of the crop,” says Dean Morrell, AGCO product marketing manager for Hesston by Massey Ferguson hay products and a 35-year-veteran of the quality-hay business. Research has shown that hay quality is higher when hay is cut while the sugar content remains higher in the plant. As daytime air temperatures rise, sugar content in the plant decreases, so cutting later in the morning or early afternoon results in lower hay quality.

The demands of the environment and the individual operation also will influence the choice in equipment used. Modern sickle-type or disc-type mowers, windrowers and swathers are capable of cutting forage crops fast and cleanly, leaving a smooth, even windrow that maximizes crop dry-down. Disc mowers offer the advantage of allowing hay to be cut earlier in the morning or later in the evening, when better leaf moisture means less loss of nutrient-rich leaves.

“No matter what machine is being used, there are several things people should strive for when they cut hay,” explains Morrell. “First, you want a good, clean cut that will leave the plants with as little stem damage as possible, so they’re ready for quick regrowth. Second, you don’t want to leave any crop behind, and it’s also important to minimize dirt in the crop.”

Here are tips from Morrell for maximizing tonnage of high-quality hay with any mower or mower conditioner model:
• Proper blade maintenance is critical to achieving a good cut. Blades must be sharp to cut the forage cleanly and to minimize stem and leaf shattering. Check your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations on blade-change intervals, and be sure to stock up on replacement blades before hay season starts.
• Choose the right blade for the job. Shallower 10- or 11-degree blades create less air lift, thus pulling less dirt into the forage. If less suction works for your crop conditions, these blades can be a good choice. Thick, matted forage may require a blade with more lift, such as an 18-degree blade. Bottom-beveled blades have an advantage if they hit a stone or rock because they bend upward, away from the cutter bar.
• Set the cutting height at 1.5 to 3 inches. This reduces contamination from dirt, making the crop easier to rake and to pick up with the baler. To avoid dirt and ash contamination and reduce knife and general mower wear and tear, avoid pitching the cutter bar downward at too steep an angle.
• Set the header flotation height to avoid scalping the soil surface and wavy cutting height from one end of the field to the other. Ideally, the cutter will gently float across the ground without scuffing the surface. If you see scuffs or dirt streaking across the field, you don’t have enough flotation pressure, or the mower is set too heavy. If you see waves in the field, you have too much flotation pressure, or the header is set too light. Where the field surface is rough and uneven, flotation should be increased, making the head lighter to glide over rough terrain. When running the head heavier on the self-propelled unit, optional gauge wheels are recommended.
• With mower conditioners, turbulence (or windage) created by the conditioning rolls can blow the crop from its upright position before it is cut, resulting in an uneven cut. If this is a problem, increase ground speed or slow the conditioning system, or do a combination of the two, to reduce turbulence for a cleaner cut.
• Lay the windrow out as flat and wide as possible by setting the swathboard to its lowest possible setting (all the way down). A wide windrow maximizes dry-down by providing the best exposure to wind and sunlight.
• Be sure to check your owner’s manual for daily and regular service and maintenance needs to ensure peak machine performance. And, stock up on key replacement parts such as cutter blades, sickle sections, guards, drive belts and hoses to reduce costly downtime from minor breakdowns. Dealers often have a list of parts recommended for on-farm stocking and may offer preseason discounts for parts purchases.
Hesston has been providing innovation and solutions to farmers since 1947, and is the industry leader in hay-harvesting products. For more information about Hesston by Massey Ferguson products or to find a dealer near you, visit hesston.com.

MF 2170XD large square baler walk-around with Alan Haycocks – Day five, Agritechnica 2011

Alan Haycocks, Sales Engineer AGCO Harvesting, gives us a tour around the brand new high-capacity MF 2170 XD – which produces a bale size of 1.2m wide by 0.9m tall.  It produces 20% more density than a standard baler – thanks to a beefed up flywheel and stronger overall frame. This means less twine, more density per bale and less transport costs overall.

Hot Tips Offered At Local Customer Day

Massey Ferguson customers in central New South Wales, Australia recently picked up some hot tips on how to maximise the performance of their large square balers.

The Customer Day was held by local dealers Cowra Machinery Centre and Forbes Machinery Centre with approximately 60 customers in attendance that were provided with a comprehensive overview of the Massey Ferguson large square baler range.

On hand to conduct the training was John Russell, Massey Ferguson Product Manager for hay products who has been running similar customer programs for many years now.

“The main aim of the customer day is to provide customers with information that will enable them to have their balers working at top capacity come harvest time. When the hay season finally arrives, we want our customers working in the paddock and making the most of the limited time they have and providing tips on correct maintenance, preventative measures and trouble-shooting will ensure their downtime is minimised,” says John.

Part of the training which was conducted by dealership staff included an electric powered knotter system that has the same key components as the knotter system found in Massey Ferguson large square balers. “Having the knotter system on a stand enables us to show customers how the system works which in turn provides customers with an understanding of how to fix any potential knotter issues that may arise,” adds John.

In addition to the benefits for customers, the training program also provides an opportunity to meet with customers and learn more about their enterprises and gather valuable feedback on machine performance. “Running the customer days is just as important to our organisation and our dealer network as we learn more about our balers from those who are operating them in various conditions. This enables us to provide valuable feedback back to the factory and to our Service departments, “ adds John.

Feedback on the training from the customers was also very positive as they now prepare for the forthcoming hay season in Australia. “The customer day was a great success and this is largely attributed to the efforts put in by the two dealerships – Cowra Machinery Centre and Forbes Machinery Centre who have built a solid reputation for providing outstanding customer service,” adds John.

Have you ever attended a customer day in your area? What did you learn?

Behind the Scenes: A Look in Hesston Windrower Engineering

Ever ask yourself, “What were the engineers thinking when they designed this?”  Well growing up on a farm I asked myself that question a lot. To help better answer, we interviewed our WR Series Windrowers engineering design team to see exactly what they were thinking in the development of an entirely new design of windrower. Find out what new technologies they were able to incorporate into the machine and what makes the new WR Series the most advanced windrower on the market. What do you think?