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Top tips to keep your diet feeder feeding this winterDecember 2017

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To keep your diet-feeder going when you have hungry mouths to feed, Michael Collins gives a few pre-winter tips.

In some areas, stock are housed full-time, with others still out by day. Whatever the case, here are a few tips to ensure your diet feeder stays going when you need it most.

Before any service work is conducted, the machine should be parked on level ground with either the handbrake applied or chocks put to the wheels. Also, the tractor should be turned off with its handbrake applied.

Hitch

Check the eye of the hitch for wear. If it’s badly worn, replace it. There is a lot of weight hanging on this point, especially when the feeder is full, with even more stress when the feeder is being filled. A bale or grab of silage falling from a height into the feeder can put a lot of stress on the machine. To prolong the life of the eye and hook, add some grease to lubricate the pivot as frequently as possible.

PTO and safety covers

The PTO should be greased regularly to prolong the universal joint’s life and the profile tubing should be lubricated also. Remember, these are working under a lot of pressure, often turning through tight angles around the yard. Most important of all. Check the PTO cover is fully intact with full safety covers over both ends. Chains should be attached to prevent the PTO cover spinning and catching in an unsuspecting passerby’s clothing. Any other safety covers on the machine should be fully intact and in place.

Hydraulic hoses and electric cables

Try grouping them together in such a way they are out of the swing of the tractor linkage arms. Check for damage or leaks and replace or repair if needed. Some farmers use a bungee-chord or elastic chord to raise them up from snagging in the tractor linkage arms – one less potential repair that’s preventable by spending a few euro.

Drive chains

If chains are left run too loose, they will slip on the sprockets they are driving. This will damage the chain and sprocket, costing a lot of money to repair. Chains should be tensioned as per the operator’s manual, with a small amount of slack to allow oil penetrate the links. Where fitted, the chain-oiler should be topped up with suitable oil that will lubricate the chain and keep it moist. Do not use hydraulic oil as a lubricant. If unsure, contact the manufacture.

Bearings

All bearing should be greased before the season starts as frequently as the operator’s manual recommends. Check all seals are intact and seated properly. Look out for iron filings. If visible, the bearings need to replaced. Do this when the machine is empty and before the bearing collapses completely. When fitted, ensure all bearing covers are intact as this prevents dirt and moisture ingress.

Gearboxes

These transmit the power from the tractor to the mixing mechanism so are naturally going to be under a lot of strain. Where fitted, it’s worth draining the oil every year as condensation can get in while the machine is parked up during the grazing period. Replenish with manufacturer’s recommended oil to the required level. Also check for any oil leaks which may result from a damaged or worn seal. Replace if leaking as a few euros could save the cost of a new gearbox if all the oil leaks out.

Tyres

Inspect tyres for cuts and damage. These are often overlooked and are travelling on hard concrete every day. Tyre pressures should also be checked before starting the season.

Knives

When looked after properly and replaced when worn, the knives in a diet feeder make a huge difference for a lot of reasons. The mix is chopped better and the feeder is easier to drive. Added to this is the reduced strain on both the tractor and machine. Where fitted, paddle rubbers should clean material away from the knife upon each rotation, maximising knife functionality. Replace or adjust if the knives are not being cleaned completely.

Hydraulic rams

Whether they are opening guillotine-doors or raising elevators, these should be given the once-over. Any seeping rams should be repaired as they will drain a surprising amount of oil from the tractor. Grease any ram ends and door guide-rails whenever doors begin to shudder or become slow to close.

Lights

For the time of the year when day length is shortening and diet feeders are working in dark sheds, all lights should be working. Spend a few minutes checking them and replace any blown bulbs. Diet feeders travelling between yards are especially vulnerable as quite often they are covered in dust and debris from filling, making them harder to see during the hours of darkness. Also, make sure the tractor’s lights are clean and working properly. Cleaning the windows of the tractor will make a surprising difference and makes spotting people, cows’ heads and obstructions easier.

Author: Michael Collins, Irish Farmers Journal

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