Disc mowers and mower conditioners are the workhorses of any forage operation. But when it comes to TLC, powered equipment — like tractors and windrowers — get all the love! That’s a shame, because while your self-powered equipment absolutely deserves the attention, your disc mower / mower conditioner can have a huge impact on both the quality of the cut and your ability to harvest within the optimal weather window. So before you hit the field with damaged discs, old crop lifters or worn-out knives, it can pay to spend a day getting your cutting equipment ready for the job.
Knives and crop lifters. Bent, worn or broken knives can give you an uneven cut, while worn-out lifters can lead to uneven crop flow — neither of which you want. Replacing knives and crop lifters before they cause problems is an easy and inexpensive way to help ensure you get the performance you need. Consider the type of knife as well; standard twist knives are good for all-conditions performance, while V-knives are recommended for rocky conditions in which excessive bending is a concern.
Discs. Discs should be checked for damage from rocks or ground contact. Look for cracks, warps or bends, and replace any damaged discs. Rotate discs according to the manufacturer recommendations and take the opportunity to remove any foreign material tangled in the drives. Check for worn bearings by rocking each disc up and down; some play is normal, but excessive movement may indicate a bad bearing or loose retaining bolts.
Drive hubs. Even “maintenance-free” hubs should be checked for leaks and seal integrity. And if you’re still using standard hubs? Consider breakaway hubs that are designed to shear upon contact with an obstruction. They’re cheap insurance, especially when compared with the cost and downtime associated with replacing the entire module.
Skid shoes. Make sure the skid shoes are in good shape and adjusted according to your field and crop conditions. Raise the cutting height in rocky soils; lower the cutting height for lodged crops, but be mindful of cutting too low and inhibiting regrowth.
Like many other tasks, mowing is time- and weather-sensitive. A handful of replacement parts and a bit of preventive maintenance for your disc cutterbars and conditioners will help make sure that when it’s time to mow, you’re ready to go!