The author is a partner in Orrson Custom Farming Ltd., Apple Creek, Ohio. He currently serves as president of the U.S.

Custom Harvesters Inc. As this is written, silage harvest season is quickly winding down. Once the choppers shut off, cleaning up all the different equipment correctly can take longer than you would think. I am amazed how often this very important part of the season is skimped on or totally skipped. Proper cleaning of machines takes less time than fixing them.

On trucks, we start by opening up the cowling and removing the inner door panels. If window seals are not perfect, the door might be half full of gunk. We then move to the cab and clean out the heater core and try to coax all the silage out of the dash and vents with compressed air. We follow up with an extensive pressure washing, including washing from underneath.

We finally found a soap that will loosen up the corn starch scum and that has proven extremely helpful. Take notes on where you find oil residue while you are cleaning so you can take care of these problems over the winter.

Tractors are the easiest to wash, but cleaning up after pushing silage is different than after tanking manure or doing tillage. Pay extra attention to the buildup of material under the cab and around the exhaust. Silage particles pose a fire risk until cleaned.


Now let’s dive into the choppers and start by stripping off any shield that can be removed. This does not mean take them off and leave them off. We expect to spend two days with three people per chopper. Areas we find that get missed a lot are the inside of the spout and accelerator, center V of the engine, top of the fuel tank below the shield, and the space in front of the transition just below the spout rotation.

We also remove the front wheels as part of the entire process, which really allows for great access to the area behind the cutter head. Be sure to separate the feed roll housing off the machine so you have access to the cutter head. We repeat the same process on the corn head and the processor. Once everything is clean, the final rinse is completed and shields are replaced. Run the chopper long enough to allow the greaser to complete a few cycles.

The debris that comes off or out of the chopper accounts for more than a skid loader bucketful. I often wish the engineers would have to wash a machine a few times before it gets to a production model. A few little tweaks here and there sure would make the job easier.

Although nobody is ever pumped up about cleanup time, it is more important in my eyes than changing the oil. A clean fleet will reward you with reliability next year.

Happy cleaning!

This article appeared in the January 2016 issue of Hay & Forage Grower on page 24.

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