How to Cut Hay With A Swather

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Having a well-maintained swather and a dependable tractor with which to pull it goes along way toward ensuring a good crop of hay. If you are well familiar with the swather's operation and are skillful at maneuvering your tractor, a few tips might help you maximize the return for your work. With careful attention to your turns, you may force nearly every stem of hay in the field into the windrow.

  • Open the field by swathing the perimeter. The perimeter swath has the potential to cause the most damage to the swather's blades. Branches blown into the field from nearby trees may be picked up by the sickles. Avoid broken teeth in the sickle by walking the perimeter to remove debris.

  • Make two more trips around the field, cutting to give your swather room to turn around when going from end to end. Depending on the field your cutting and how you will be harvesting the hay after it's cut, decide on whether to go in circles if you will make three or four loops and then mow end to end. The latter is usually best if you will be dry-chopping or wet-chopping the hay with a chopper and dump trucks. The less equipment that runs over the hay the better, so you can keep the leaves on the stems. If you're bailing the hay, you will just want to make sure you swath the hay so the bailer won't be running over any of the windrows.

  • Watch your gauges. The water, fuel and oil gauges are most important. Be sure to keep an eye on the hay row behind you too. If you notice a line of standing hay, it means you have a broken, missing or jammed blade in your sickle. Sometimes it's hard to see this if the line happens to be where the hay row is falling. Keep and eye on your augers too. When you cut hay too wet, the augers have a tendency to pile up the hay in the crimper and then the crimper looses traction on the wet hay and can plug up the swather. A plugged swather is hard to clean, and plugging can break other parts of the machine. Stop once in a while and check.

  • The most important part of swathing is maintaining the moving parts of the machine. Keep oil boxes full to keep chains lubricated and grease your fittings regularly. Depending on how many acres you cut a day, determine if you need to grease more than once. Moving parts that get hot can bend and break, putting your hay cutting goals behind. Never swath when it's raining or to soon after an irrigation. You need firm dry ground or you'll get stuck and if the hay is too wet it will rot in the rows.

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