To Adjust Your Mower-Conditioner Before You Head to the Field

On May 15, 2019

To Adjust Your Mower-Conditioner Before You Head to the Field

As hay producers, our goal is to always put the best quality product into the bale as possible.  Penn State Extension Agronomist Joel Hunter offered this summary of adjustment tips, which appeared in a Hay & Forage Grower article.

The first thing to check is the adjustments to the cutting head. When disc mowers are set to cut too low, crops experience slow regrowth and often an elevated ash content.  Skid shoe alterations change the cutting head height.  Lodged crops require raising the skid shoes to tip the knives forward for a lower cutting height.  Conversely, if fields are rocky, lowering skid shoes to raise cutting height is necessary.  The angle of the cutter bar can be adjusted between 4 and 10 degrees below horizontal.  Set at a 4 degree angle in rough or rocky conditions, a 7 degree angle in normal conditions, and a 10 degree angle for a downed crop.  The head should float or ride over objects.  This is accomplished by using a “milk” spring scale to check the necessary lifting force of each side of the head. The forage specialists recommend a float setting of 35 to 50 pounds for rocky fields and 50 to 70 pounds for normal conditions.

Next check the adjustments to the conditioning rolls. The ultimate goal when cutting hay is achieving adequate conditioning and drying, while minimizing leaf loss.  Underconditioning elevates the risk of rain damage, while overconditioning will increase cutting, raking, and baling losses.  For roll conditioners, focus on roll clearance and roll pressure.  Some key points to keep in mind for properly adjusting roll conditioners are as follows: 

Set the conditioner roll clearance at 1/16 inch, which creates noticeable steam breakage and accelerates stem drying.  At least 90 percent of stems should be broken or crimped every 3 to 4 inches.  Setting roll gap is the most critical adjustment and can be checked with rolls of aluminum foil (12 inches by 12 inches) rolled into 1-inch tubes. Measure the foil thickness after feeding it through the rolls, which can be turned by hand.  For an in-depth description on how to check your conditioner rolls, check out the University of Wisconsin Factsheet: 

Roll pressure needs to be set tight enough to achieve a consistent roll gap.  Tension may need to be loosened with less mature crops to prevent overconditioning.  Watch rolls for excessive wear in the center over time.  Replace worn rolls for more uniform and consistent drying. 

Lay out an even windrow that is as flat and wide as possible, without ridges or clumps of crop.  Wide windrows reduce drying time, resulting in better leaf retention.  For the widest possible windrow, set the “swath board” at its lowest or flattest position.

Impeller or tine conditioners are designed for grasses rather than alfalfa.  Check impeller speed and clearance between the impeller and hood.  Slow rotor speed is desirable to eliminate overconditioning.  Narrow the hood clearance for adequate conditioning but not so close that leaves are shredded. Reducing clearance too much results in machine plugging.

Closely examine stems before making alterations.  If the waxy layer is showing scratches, conditioning is good.  Widening the clearance between the rotating finger and hood will lower conditioning intensity

To Expand Your Horse Knowledge

Horse Basics 101 is a hands-on workshop with sessions designed to help horse owners develop the knowledge and skills to manage and maintain healthy animals. This workshop will include a walk through a pasture to identify various weeds and grasses, dissections of the lower equine limb, and opportunities to practice body condition scoring on a variety of horses at our farm.

This event will be held on Saturday May 18, 2019 from 8:45 AM – 4:30 PM. The workshop will be held at the Old Horse Barn, Park Ave. and Fox Hollow Rd., University Park, Pennsylvania 16802.  The cost is $50. To Register by Phone or for Registration Questions Extension Call Extension Registration Support 1-877-345-0691. For More Information or Questions About the event content contact Extension Equine specialist Danielle Smarsh, at 814-865-7810 or email

To Learn About Intensive Pear Production

Exploring High Density Pear Production will be held May 29, 2019 at Kauffman’s Fruit Farm, 53 South Weavertown Rd., Ronks, Pennsylvania 17572. In this workshop, we will be discussing the feasibility of intensive pear production and how pears can contribute to the diversity of fruit crops offered for sale to local consumers. Pruning techniques, rootstocks, disease resistant varieties, and tree training methods will also be covered.

Pear production in North America is characterized by low-density orchards planted on seedling rootstocks with low early production and low mature yields. Most fruit growers consider pears as a long-term investment and a low profitability crop. Recently, pear rootstocks with improved precocity have become available, while techniques for managing tree growth have been developed in apple, allowing us the opportunity to evaluate high-density pear orchards that could be managed in the same way as high-density apple orchards.

Although fire blight continues to be a critical challenge in pear production, fire blight resistant pears show great promise for revitalizing the Eastern pear industry. If high early production could be achieved, pears would be an attractive alternative fruit crop for fruit growers. The event is free but registration is requested. To register call 1-877-345-0691

Quote Of The Week: “Read no letters, books, or papers in company, but when there is necessity for the doing of it, you must ask leave.” Rule number 18 from George Washington’s Rules of Civility And Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. Washington wrote this book of 110 rules when he was 14 years old.