Breakdowns and Hay Season

If there’s one thing synonymous with hay season, it has to be equipment breakdowns. There’s always something. If it’s just twine on the baler snapping or the frame on a mower cracking, it’ll happen. Not many farmers and ranchers are lucky enough to have all brand new equipment, so that’s why learning preventative maintenance is so important.

This hay season has been no exception. I have been on the hay mower most of the time and it’s more than sitting in the cab and letting the auto-steer do the work (wouldn’t that be a nice technology to have…). I’m always watching the mower track. I want to cut as much grass as possible with each pass, but don’t want to miss any. Because if I do miss a patch, everyone that follows in the field will see it. Probably not a good job for a perfectionist or someone with OCD.

So far this season I have a good track record of finding things that are already doomed and they will break on me. Like the John Deere mower with the out-of-time and unbalanced rollers, to the u-joint that broke off with a bang, pop and flew through the air. Then the mechanic tells us the frame is cracked. Good news, it wasn’t me. Don’t forget the disc that was cracked in half on the Kuhn mower. That could have been bad. And then I learned that the discs turn different directions and each requires different blades. Then there’s the gear boxes, drive shafts, bearings, and all that other great stuff I’ve had to deal with.

When I came here I told em point-blank I’m no mechanic, but I am learning. Preventative maintenance is imperative. Pretty much every joint and moving part needs grease. So if in doubt, just look. When something breaks, hopefully it won’t be the point I missed. And the A/C never works if you forget to blow out the engine at the end of everyday. Even then you’re lucky to have cool air all day long. And a tractor cab without an A/C is nothing more than a glass bowl sauna.

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What are some memorable breakdowns you’ve had in the fields? What’s you’re favorite/lease favorite brand of equipment as far as longevity in the field? John Deere, New Holland, Kuhn, Case, Massey Ferguson?


  1. I usually drove a Farmall H with a New Holland rake. If I was lucky, I got to drive the John Deere with power steering. Talk about baking in the sun!

    But anyway, I ran the wheel off my rake. Twice. (Not on the same day, not that it makes it any better.) I was not the popular daughter those two days though neither time was my fault. But the day I dropped the front end of the tractor in an abandoned well? … I, ah, probably could have handled that situation better. 🙂

    Hope your equipment holds together the rest of the season!

  2. I think the only people who really LOVE it when the farmers get back in the fields after a long cold winter is the parts dealer. Farming season equals big checks to take to the bank for them. I don’t know what is worse the down time and fixing part of break downs or the check I get to write every time I go the Case or JD dealers. I am sure those guys a smiling this time of year… At least until I walk back in the next day with the WRONG part they gave me the day before. If someone could explain how they send the wrong parts so often or don’t get all the parts needed that would be great!! Even when I take the broken pieces with me I always seem to not get exactly what we need the first trip!!!

    1. Yeah getting the wrong parts is not much fun. We got the wrong part for a JD mower 3 times! Finally sent em a photo of the part, and they STILL got it wrong. Finally just called up someone else

  3. Breakdowns! Every farmer’s nightmare and not too happy for the farm wife either…how I hate to see the guys heading in for the phone with glum faces!

  4. I my part of the country where most of the farming is row crops we are seeing more and more precision equipment all the time. We of course still have mechanical breakdowns, but lately they’ve been pretty minor. Seems now the most frequent cause of downtime is shifting to electronic problems. A lot of times the solution is just as simple as stopping what you are doing and just shut everything off and unplug the power. Just like you home computer, this works many times. Our worst problem has been not be able to raise the cultivator up and down on occasion. John Deere apparently has 4 tractors with this issue, which to me means they don’t know how to fix it just yet. Made it through planting without much trouble.

    My most recent memorable parts breakdown was my fault last fall. Trying to finish a field of beans in order to start fresh the next day we stayed out late. I came up on a grass waterway in the dark and didn’t raise the header enough to clear the ridge on the edge of the waterway. I turned out 35′ cutter bar into a 3′ working piece and 32′ of scrap. Turns out I’m the first one on the farm to break one. Oh well, we have a brand new grain head for this fall and two new bars.

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