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Looking at it as a sporting event, mid-July is the halftime of the hay baling season in most of the Corn Belt. A couple cuttings of alfalfa are probably already made and, if the moisture is there, perhaps a couple more cuttings are still to be done.
And even if there are not two cuttings of alfalfa on-deck (yet another sports-related cliche), there is brome grass hay and some oat hay being cut this time of year as well. Some may even bale corn and/or soybean stubble in the fall after harvest is completed.
On my family's small eastern Nebraska farm, we will usually put up anywhere from 150 to 200 round bales of hay a year. This hay, mainly alfalfa, brome grass and some oat hay, is for our cow/calf herd. We mainly bale in round bales but will bale small square bales every once in a while.
It has been a challenging year in terms of hay quality in our area. Every cutting has been rained on at least once during this grow season. You think you finally timed it right and you are going to get some hay put up without rain and then a rogue thunderstorm crops up and moisture is deposited on the windrows of hay. It has been somewhat frustrating, that is for sure.
The baling season can be stressful enough but battling Mother Nature only makes it that much more difficult. Safety experts remind hay growers to maintain their equipment to help alleviate this stress to help prevent accidents as well as to help prevent breakdowns while the hay is down.
Take the proper safety precautions when working with haying equipment is important, according to Andrew "Dewey" Mann, safety research associate for Ohio State University (OSU) Extension's Agriculture Safety and Health program.
"We all know that farmers have a list of at least 10 things to do at any given time," Mann said in an OSU news release. "We want to help remind growers about taking the time to do maintenance that will help alleviate stress and help prevent breakdowns prior to the next hay harvest."
Mann said no matter how large or valuable your hay crop is it is not worth risking an unnecessary injury or death.
"It's important to remember to communicate safe practices daily, slow down and use good judgment," he said.
Here are some tips to remember when completing maintenance on haying equipment, according to Mann:
-- Replace broken or worn parts
A baler with broken or missing pick-up tines, loose belts or chains or other damaged parts will not allow the hay to feed properly into the bale chamber. Bent or loose blades on rotary cutters are more prone to thrown objects.
-- Ensure proper clearance between crimping rollers on mower conditioners.
-- Always lubricate sprockets and chains when the machine is turned off.
-- Whether in the shop or the field, always ensure the PTO is disengaged and the engine is shut off before dismounting to service or adjust the equipment.
-- With mowers and square balers, wait until all components have stopped moving.
-- Always lock and block the rear gate if you must be underneath it.
-- Be prepared for a fire. Carry a Class ABC fire extinguisher on all tractors. Ensure that all are charged and are in working order.
-- Keep all shields and safety guards in place. Replace immediately after maintenance is complete -- don't wait until you are ready to go to the field.
To read the entire OSU press release, go to the website at http://cfaes.osu.edu/….