Now is the ideal time to ensure your bale chopper, one of the most used machines on a livestock farm during winter is in top condition before its workload increases. Alex Heath gets expert advice on areas where maintenance should be focused.
Entering winter and the period when livestock is housed, it is now an ideal time to ensure your bale chopper is serviced and running to its full potential. Not only will maintenance now provide superior chopping of hay and silage and better performance when blowing straw, it could help prevent frustrating breakdowns when the pressure is on in the depths of the housing period.
In addition, a well-maintained machine will require less power to perform the task and fuel usage should be reduced.
While the principle of bale choppers between manufacturers is familiar regardless of brand with subtle differences, we got expert advise from Kverneland’s Daniel Crowe, product manager for the manufacturer’s range of bedding and feeding machines, who pointed out areas to check on its 850 Series choppers.
As always when working on implements, turn off the tractor, remove the key and keep it in your pocket. Alert others that you are working on the machine. Ensure all moving parts have come to a halt before any work commences. The fly wheel can take up to two minutes to come to a standstill.
Ensure the drawbar is attached correctly and the condition of the ring hitch is good. On KV’s machines three height settings are changed through an arc of bolt holes. Check all four bolts holding the drawbar onto the machine are tight, and torqued to 840Nm.
Check and grease the wide angle pto shaft regularly. Before the season, inspect the slip clutch on the machine end by splitting and inspecting the friction discs, ensuring they are not stuck together. The springs on the clutch assemble should be compressed to 34mm while the minimum distance between the slip clutch should be greater than 20mm. If the gap is less, the friction discs must be replaced.
The gearbox splits the drive between the flywheel and the shredding rotor. Oil in the gear box should be checked monthly and changed annually. When replacing the oil, grade 80W-90 should be used. Pay close attention to your machine’s minimum and maximum oil levels to avoid overheating. For the KV 850 Series approximately three litres is needed. Also check the bolts holding the gearbox onto the machine. The torque required for these is 128Nm.
Depending on the make and model, the drive from the gearbox shaft to the shredding rotor will be transferred either by belts or chains. On KV machines belt drive is now the typical method, with four V-belts used. Check the condition of the belts and replace if worn.
To check the tension, depress each belt, about 16mm of movement should be seen. If there is more, two bolts hold the drive pulley in place. Slacken these off and extend the spindle below until the belts are tensioned. Retighten the bolts holding the pulley in place.
On most machines drive to the floor is hydraulic, with a motor turning the chain and slat arrangement. Some see the motor directly attached to the floor, however, in some cases such as the KV machines a chain transfers the power. The position of the motor needs to be regularly checked to ensure tension on the drive chain. To adjust, a retaining bolt is undone and the motor can be lowered, thus tensioning the chain.
It is imperative the chain and slat floor conveyor is regularly inspected and adjusted to avoid the slats fouling on the flywheel, causing costly and potentially dangerous damage. To check the tension, lift the slat closest to the centre of the machine. The slat should lift 25mm, any more it needs tensioning and less it is over tensioned. To adjust, a pair of bolts at the rear of the machine should be turned, clockwise to tighten the floor conveyor or anticlockwise to loosen it. Ensure these are even to avoid any tracking or slipping of the chains.
Check to wheel nuts each week. These should be torqued to 200Nm.
The rotor parts and chops the bales. The condition and attachment of the knives should be checked daily, taking care and wearing appropriate PPE. Ensure they are not broken or deformed and not loose. Material being chopped and the required chop length dictates the number of knives to be used. For straw and wet long chop silage, 14 knives per rotor should be installed. For drier forage material, 28 or 42 knives can be added per rotor. The KV 856 model has an additional shredding rotor.
Depending on the machine the flywheel inspection hatch will be on the side of the chamber or at the front. Remove the inspection plate and turn the flywheel by hand. The throwing wings should all be straight and securely attached. If bent the performance of the machine will be hampered. These should be removes and replaced or straightened. Reattach wings and torque as per manufacturer’s recommendations.
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