Getting the most from your tedder

WHILE mower conditioner combinations have been the tool of choice for silage making, it seems as though the tedder is making a resurgence. With the help of specialists, James Rickard has compiled a list of useful tedding tips.

With quality silage at a premium for the last couple of seasons, and probably this one too, it is critical that the whole silage making process is the best it can be, which in many cases will include tedding.

While most farmers will have a grasp of good tedding practices, this step-by-step guide is aimed to provide a few helpful hints to get the best out of your tedder including maintenance, set-up and tedding technique. The tips have been compiled with the help of Kuhn specialists Paul Jennings and Simon Heath using a Kuhn GF 8702 tedder, however, the advice is also applicable to several makes of tedders.

Mr Heath says: “Most farmers these days are aware of making good quality silage, especially when it is in short supply as it has been. Getting the most out of your tedder can help to achieve this from simple things such as set-up to operation.”

Time and short weather windows are often the biggest constraint, so being prepared is key, says Mr Jennings. “While demand for wider machines has risen, it is no use if they are not set-up or used properly.”

Maintenance

Good tedding starts with good maintenance – if the machine is not up to the job, then consequently crop quality is going to suffer.

  • Check all pto, universal joints and pivot grease points. Depending on the machine, the pto will need greasing daily while the rest of the machine will most likely be weekly
  • All pivot points along the frame of the tedder need to be free for smooth operation and to ensure the machine follows ground contours
  • Check tyre pressures which need to be even across the full working width of the machine. Too soft and these can seriously affect working height leading to crop contamination and excessive tine wear
  • Ensure all tines are present and their retaining bolts are tight. Eyeball them for excessive wear at the tips and cracks along the coils – replace if necessary. If anti-wrap plates are fitted, make sure these are firmly in place
  • For transport, ensure the locking mechanism is functioning correctly and it holds the tedder securely in position
  • If venturing out on the road, make sure the lighting works as it is susceptible to damage from bouncing and vibration during operation
  • Visually check the structure for any signs of wear or cracking and check all nuts and bolts are tight
  • Finally, run the machine up and have a listen – it should run smooth and free
  • For all service and maintenance information including grease intervals, refer to operators manual

Set-up

Before tedding, correct set-up is key to get the best out of the machine and to produce the best quality silage or hay.

  • Many machines will have the ability to alter working height. In this case, the wheels of the tedder have two different positions which they can be locked in via a pin. Tedding freshly-mown grass requires a high working position which allows the tedder to be pitched forward for an aggressive/steep angle of attack, to really shake up the grass. Position two, is a shallower/flatter angle of attack which is used for turning the grass/hay. The second position will also increase the machines working width as more of each rotor will be in contact with the ground
  • The length of the top link is then critical for the adjustment of tedder angle. In both wheel positions, the leading tines when stationary should be touching/scraping the ground. While this may look aggressive, once the machine is working in the crop, the tines actually flex backwards and will clear the ground. A common mistake is to set the tedder up with too much clearance between the tips of the tines and the ground, resulting in insufficient crop movement
  • To follow undulations, the headstock features a floating hole which should be set-up in a central position to avoid lifting and digging of the tines
  • Some tedders will feature several top link hole options. These are there to adapt to different tractors and their abilities
  • A common optional extra, often recommended for contractors, is tine retainer straps which fasten the tines together in case one breaks off. Generally it is the leading tine which will break which takes most of the strain
  • If looking to buy a tedder, no matter what make of tedder you are looking at, small rotors are able to achieve a more aggressive pitch angle and have more tines in contact with the ground, resulting in more grass movement
  • If in doubt about settings, always consult the operator’s manual

Technique

With the machine set-up and ready for action, it is now down to the operator to get the best results.

  • The two biggest culprits of lumps and knots in the crop are; forward speed is too high or pto speed is too low or worse, both. Always adapt driving styles to crop conditions. The tedded crop should look like an even blanket with no lumps and you should not be able to tell where the original swath was. If forward speed is too high, especially in heavy crops, the tedder will almost put it back into a swath. Similarly, this will happen if a 540rpm pto speed is not maintained
  • Tedding is designed to dry and condition the crop which is why timing is important. Ideally, during the heat of the day is best, but this is not always possible, so at least conditions need to be dry or drying. Tedding should not be done when there are no gains to be had, for example at night or when it is getting wetter
  • While overlapping is inevitable it is not usually a problem and causes minimal damage to the crop. However, it is recommended at headlands, if the type of machine permits, to lift it out of work to avoid over tedding and re-turning the crop. Before lifting though, the outer rotors want lifting slightly to avoid drooping when the whole machine is lifted using the linkage – the machine should be lifted as level as possible. This avoids tines digging in the ground creating excessive wear and crop contamination
  • While mower/conditioners have become popular, more and more are now being abandoned in favour of plain cut mowers as this saves time and diesel, plus the tedder ends up doing the conditioning anyway
  • Several models of tedders feature boarder control these days – useful to keep crop out of the hedge bottom and to reduce losses

 

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