Forage harvesters spend half their life romping up and down fields, swallowing grass, wholecrop and maize.
While a keen interest on maintenance is seen when the machines are running, often they are just parked at the back of the yard and left for the winter.
Rob Jackson, of Malpas Tractors, says the maintenance of a forager should start as soon as the last kernel of maize has been processed. He showed us around one of the earliest New Holland FR9060 and advised what to do and look-out for before putting any make or model to bed for winter.
To wash, or not to wash?
There are several schools of thought when it comes to washing any seasonally-operated machine, be it combine, baler or forager.
Mr Jackson says there is no issue in washing a forager before its winter rest, providing it is done in a timely manner, with the process after washing more important to the well-being of the machine.
Starting at the front of the machine, he advocates removing the feeder housing and chopper unit, a fairly simple job on the NH, which takes about 20 minutes.
From here, all detritus from under the cab can be easily removed, and the chopper assembly can be thoroughly inspected and washed.
Removing as much of the crop as possible is vital, as the corrosive nature of silage will eat away at the steel work.
While the chopper unit is out he advises stripping it down, checking knives still have plenty of edge left and giving bearings a good going over.
At the same time, removing the crop processor from the machine and giving that a once over while washing is a good idea too.
Suspect parts need not be replaced at this stage, but should be noted down, ready for the pre-season service in spring. The same is true for all oils, filters and wearing parts.
When washing the machine, take care to avoid blasting any electronic components, particularly the engine ECU, which is nearly always exposed on the side of the engine. Washing the radiator out is also to be avoided as a very hard layer of dirt can form, blocking air flow into the radiator.
After washing the machine and reassembling it should be fully greased at all points. It is worth manually greasing the master blocks, which can be found around the machine, checking that auto-grease pipes are securely connected and in good working order.
The forager should then be struck up and left to run, getting all moving parts up to temperature. This will help expel any water and ensure grease is moving around the entirety of the machine.
Alternatively, Mr Jackson says the machine can be blown off, but if this is the case it always needs to be stored inside, as there will still be material left on that will compost over winter if left to get wet, creating a mess and rusting significant proportions of the machine.
Due to modern fuel tanks being made of plastic, the issue of condensation is not a problem, says Mr Jackson.
Just enough fuel to move the forage harvester should be left in the tank over winter as the fuel will inevitably deteriorate over the storage period. Conversely, AdBlue tanks should be left full to stop it crystallising over the period.
The most important tank to prepare for the winter period is the additive/inoculant tanks. It is vital no liquid is left in these as it will fester over winter, potentially blocking pipes.
All liquid should be drained out of the tank, with fresh water being flushed through the whole system.
Leave all belts correctly tensioned and tyres at normal pressure, as periodically throughout winter the forager should be started and left to get up temperature, so that AdBlue starts to be used.
Moving the machine forwards slightly will stop any formation of flat spots in the tyres. Because the machine is not going to be sat for as long as a combine will, or weigh as much, dropping the machine onto blocks is not necessary.
As with all machinery that is sat for a while, Mr Jackson says it is imperative to check the handbrake has been disengaged when trying to move the forage about.
He says it can have a tendency to stick on when left and can become quite serious if run for a long time with it stuck on.
He also advises isolating the battery when stood for a long period to stop power leaking from the battery, which can also be an issue.
One of the most infuriating discoveries on-farm is when a mouse picnic has occurred in wiring looms.
Although there is no hard and fast way of ensuring the critters do not get to the wires, Mr Jackson says parking away from grain stores and bins is preferable, and strategically baiting the machine is the only way to offer some protection against the menaces.
Giving the same attention to header attachments will also keep them looking and performing well the next season.
After washing headers, a spray of diesel will keep the steelwork shiny, making it easier going into work the next year.