Properly maintaining a mixer wagon is vital to produce quality rations, on a daily basis. Richard Bradley speaks to Kuhn Farm Machinery to find out what should be done to keep your machine mixing fresh.
Correct maintenance is key to mixer efficiency
Often working for months on end throughout winter, or year-round for higher yielding units, a mixer wagon is a critical piece of equipment which has to produce consistent and accurate rations, day in, day out. And, to do this, the machine has to be maintained correctly.
Katie Calcutt, Kuhn Farm Machinery’s feeding and bedding product specialist says: “Not only can regular checks and proper maintenance increase the efficiency of the machine, therefore reducing mixing times and fuel usage, but it can also extend the mixer’s working life.”
To find out what farmers should be checking for on a daily basis and what requires maintaining to keep a vertical auger mixer running smoothly, we headed to a dairy farm, where a well maintained 20cu.m Kuhn Euromix I has been responsible for feeding 750 cows and followers for eight years.
While we used a Kuhn mixer as an example, the same points can be applied to almost all vertical auger diet feeders. However, users should check the operator’s manual for servicing intervals and specific maintenance requirements.
When carrying out any work on the machine, the operator should make sure it is safe to do so by removing the keys from the tractor.
As part of the daily walk round, you should make sure all guards for pto shafts and drivelines are in a good condition, all handrails, ladders and platforms, where fitted, should also be safe to use.
For road travel, all lights must be in good working order, with a number plate fitted.
Starting from the front, the pto must be the correct length to suit the tractor. If the pto is too short it is likely to slide out or buckle. Guards must be fitted, in a good condition and chained at both ends.
All grease points on the pto shaft and drivelines should be greased every 50-100 hours. For the machine in question, which works for about five hours a day, greasing every two weeks is sufficient.
While universal joints welcome a good dollop of grease, Miss Calcutt points out over greasing bearings can be a problem, as O-rings and seals can be damaged or pushed out.
Part of the routine daily walk round, all gearboxes, including the reduction ’box at the front and those which drive the augers, should be inspected for leaks. Oil levels also require checking. However, if sight glasses are not fitted this can be more time consuming. In this case, levels should be checked when greasing.
Kuhn says gearbox oil in its mixers should be changed every 1,500 hours, which roughly equates to every 10 months when working five hours per day.
While Les Taylor, one of the operators of this Kuhn mixer was well on top of maintaining the machine, he says the local dealer looks after gearbox oil changes, as it can prove to be an awkward task.
Making sure all knives are intact and not excessively worn is one of the most important checks on any mixer wagon. Worn blades result in more time and power required to chop the forage effectively, increasing mixing time and fuel use.
Mr Taylor says: “While worn knives may take longer to chop and mix feed, it is the loss in quality of the ration fed out which is a greater loss.” To stay on top of the problem, he says knives are changed every 12-18 months.
Along with the knives, wear to the auger can have an effect on mixing quality. If knives are in good condition but you notice increased mixing times, augers can be replaced or reflighted. The manufacturer says while it should not become a problem for a number of years, mixer bodies can be re-lined if things wear a little thin.
Miss Calcutt says: “The scraper plate on the bottom of the auger, which keeps the bottom of the mixer clean and prevents a build-up of material, is often overlooked, and should be adjusted to ensure it is working effectively. It can also be replaced if worn excessively.”
Control boxes and weigh cells are responsible for the accurate measuring of rations and are complicated pieces of technology. For this reason, users should think twice before changing and adjusting settings or calibrations.
Miss Calcutt says if you feel as though your mixer is not weighing correctly, your local dealer should be able to re-calibrate the machine for you on-farm.
Operators must check all door runners are clear so they can move freely and close fully.
Where fitted, conveyors and elevators condition should be monitored. Tensioners should be checked and adjusted to keep the belt working effectively and prevent slippage.
All hydraulic pipes should be visually inspected for any damage. If any damage is suspected the pipes should be replaced immediately, as a blown pipe can quickly cause a lot of livestock to go hungry.
While many mixers may never travel further than from the silage clamp to the cow shed, the chassis, axles, tyres and brakes should be checked daily.
It is important the chassis, axles and suspension, where fitted, are kept in good working order, with no major damage. Wheel nuts should be checked daily. Nut indicators can be fitted to provide a quick visual inspection of tightness.
Brakes should also be regularly maintained. If the mixer is to travel down the road, its brakes must provide at least 25 per cent braking efficiency and a handbrake must be fitted, which is capable of locking two wheels to hold the mixer.
Tyres should be inspected in daily walk rounds, as they should be in a good condition with the correct pressure. As various tyre options are available for mixers, you should check the operator’s manual for the suitable pressure. A simple problem, such as a puncture, can really put a spanner in the works, especially on a Sunday morning.
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