While I was at the as the Professional Crop Producers Conference earlier this year, I attended an equipment session titled “Hay Baler Adjustments and Maintenance” presented by Gary George from Deere Country Farm and Lawn.

The following article is an overview of the session.

Good baler performance starts with a good windrow. The more evenly the hay is fed into the pickup the better the baler will perform. Large piles in the windrow the will greatly affect the density and size of the bales.

Start at the PTO. Make sure the drawbar of the tractor is low enough that the baler hitch and the PTO are level. Newer tractors with straight drawbars and larger tires often result in the balers running “nose up” which puts extra stress on the driveline.

Examine the universal joints for hair line cracks and signs of wear. Look at the slip clutch linings and check spring length on the bolts. It is a good idea to release the tension on the clutch, block the plunger and run the baler to ensure the clutch is free and clean.

Readjust the tension on the slip clutch bolts to manufacture specifications.

Flywheel; check the shearbolt, should be installed with the threads out. Also check the flywheel bushings by facing the flywheel and pulling on each side and check for any wobble.

Be careful if you adjust the chain to the feederhouse. If you tighten the chain you may affect the timing. Grease the plunger.

Check the knives

Check the plunger knife and stationary knife. One-eighth inch is the recommended clearance. The gap will change under load as the plunger wears. Check that the plunger is level, straight and true.

If you are getting a poor cut replace or sharpen the knives. Be careful if you shim the knives that there is sufficient gap under load. Check the feeder fork or forks for wear and adjust if bales are not evenly filled.

Examine the wheel bearings, spindle bolts and the main pin that attaches the hitch to the baler. As hay wagons get larger and heavier, more stress is placed on these points than 20 or 30 years ago.

Knotter: clean it! Dust and debris is the single largest culprit to poor knotter performance. Grease, keep it lubed, if you have an auto lube with a manual pump, give it a pump between loads.

Use good quality twine. Sometimes changing twine will “fix” a knotter. Check knife on twine arm, sharpen it. It needs to cleanly cut the twine on every bale in the blink of an eye.

Check for wear on the length arm. If splines are worn the arm might slip and make your bales longer. Check the needle break which is the stop that comes out to protect the needles from the plunger if it is out of time.

Clean out the bale chamber at the end of the season, even if the last thing you baled was dry hay, it will still sweat and moisture will rust the chamber and restrict the first few hundred bales of the season making it difficult to properly set up the baler at the start of the season.

Kicker or thrower: On a pan thrower baler make sure the shields and bale guides are in place and teeth or tabs on the pan are not worn.

Never manually kick a baler with the tractor at more than an idle; it will break a spring on the kicker.

Check the oil in the reservoir for moisture or burnt odor. Check screen and bottom of tank for metal flakes, it will indicate pump wear.

Make sure the belt on the pump is in good condition and not loose.

Pan throwers are meant to throw bales horizontally. If yours are not doing that, check that your bale length matches the kicker trigger location.

Consult the owner’s manual for the specifics for your baler.

Properly maintained balers will last for many years and avoid unnecessary break downs in the field on Saturday afternoon with acres of hay remaining to be baled.