Baler Maintenance Tips From Hay Producers

Check out what these experienced producers do to keep their balers in the field.

By Tharran E. Gaines

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Jesse Wilmot admits that he likes to sleep, even if some of his nights are pretty short. That’s because Wilmot, and his business partner, Kelly Bonham, bale most of the hay on their Maysville, Oklahoma, operation at night. Hence, any problem with a baler delays sleep that much longer. That’s one of the reasons Wilmot and Bonham try to keep their six Hesston® by Massey Ferguson balers in top condition.

Of course, that shouldn’t be much of a problem this year, since five of the six 2100 Series big square balers Wilmot and Bonham own were bought new in 2013. “We try to trade balers every few years to avoid any downtime,” says Bonham, adding that a breakdown is a little less critical since they have several balers running at a time. “But we still keep them as clean as possible using an air hose to regularly blow off dirt and debris.”

Wilmot says they also go through all the balers during the off-season to check bearings for wear, replace broken tines, adjust chains, etc. If they encounter any problems they can’t repair themselves, they call Livingston Machinery Company in Chickasha, Oklahoma.

“We also get all our parts, including the twine, from Livingston Machinery so the equipment always performs the way it was designed to,” Wilmot adds, noting that the partners also own two Hesston by Massey Ferguson WR9770 windrowers. “We put about 3,000 bales through each of the 2190 machines on an annual basis and about 5,000 bales through the 3 X 3 models. So, they get fairly heavy use.”

Wilmot explains that during the haying season, they typically cut around 250 acres per day, and bale that same amount a day or two later.

“That’s about all you can put up at a time,” he says. “So even though we have a number of balers, it can take both 2150s or all four 2190s, depending on what size of bale the customer wants.”

Approximately 1,500 miles to the northwest, Gary Berrington also knows the importance of keeping his balers in top condition. Based near Wellington, Nevada, Berrington uses 10 Hesston and Hesston by Massey Ferguson three-twine small rectangular balers to handle 6,000 to 7,000 acres of alfalfa—going through 80 to 100 pallets of twine in the process.

“I have two mechanics plus myself who go through the balers every year,” he explains, noting that he buys any needed parts from Ott’s Farm Equipment, his Massey Ferguson dealer in Fallon, Nevada. “We generally start by checking all the wear parts in the bale chamber, including the plunger bearings. After that, we move to the knotters, where we check everything from the bill hooks to the tensioners and guides.”

Berrington insists any grooves worn into the twine guides can impair the flow of twine from the twine box to the knotters, potentially leading to a miss-tie, which, in turn, leads to lost time. He has also found through years of experience that some brands and types of twine cause more wear than others. So it’s important to check knotter components often.

“Finally, we’ll move to the front of the machine where we check the stripper plates, cam bearings, pickup tines, etc.,” he continues.

It’s not that Berrington doesn’t trust his dealer to make the necessary repairs, though. He insists distance is one factor, since Ott’s Farm Equipment is nearly 80 miles away. However, he believes the customer is in the best position to know his equipment and the types of wear to expect, based on conditions and use.

“The dealership may have plenty of experience with repairs,” he says. “But their mechanics aren’t the ones out here doing the baling. I feel you have to have some experience with maintenance on your own to know what needs to be replaced and what can wait.”