When it comes to inoculant application equipment, nothing is more frustrating than facing the first day of chopping in the spring with hay down and, when you try the applicator, all it does is make a puddle on the ground. Now you’re scrambling to find parts or to cobble something together that will work until the parts arrive. After all, when the hay is ready, you have to go no matter what.
In most cases, those last-minute repairs can be avoided by doing a good job of winterizing application equipment in the fall. Generally, we’re talking about two types of applicators here: ultra-low volume applicators, like the DE-1000 and newer DE-1008.5, and pressure-type systems, such as the DE-8, DE-25, etc.
It’s already getting a bit late, but here are a few things to consider.
For short-term protection, before putting the unit away for winter, you can add a little RV anti-freeze to the flush bottle on ultra-low volume systems and then run the system for a minute or two to make sure the RV anti-freeze circulates through the pump mechanism, the flow meter and all hoses. Flush this out with water before using again. DO NOT use automotive anti-freeze as it has toxins in it that will affect bacteria later. You can do the same with pressure-type systems by running some RV anti-freeze through the units until all hoses and nozzles are flushed.
The key is to get the units clean and dry before putting them away for winter. Warm water with a small amount of dish soap will help clean the equipment. Rinse thoroughly and drain all remaining water. Don’t forget about the filter housings where water can accumulate and freeze. It’s also a good idea to disconnect all hoses, nozzles and the pump tube to allow water to escape. Very low compressed air pressure can also help purge the system of water, but be careful not to damage sensitive parts like pump diaphragms on pressurized systems. It’s also important to clean the tanks on these systems, otherwise, when the systems are first run in the spring, all kinds of crud will find its way into hoses, filters and nozzles. For the best results, remove the equipment from the machine and store it in a heated shop.
Take a few minutes this fall to properly clean your equipment and it could save you hours in the spring.
This article originally appeared in the November edition of Vita Plus Forage Foundations. Click here for more seasonal forage management tips.
About the author: Jon Urness is the Vita Plus national forage specialist. He grew up on his family’s five-generation homestead dairy near Black Earth, Wis. and still lives there today. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism. Since 1992, Urness has provided on-farm dairy nutrition consulting in southwest Wisconsin as a Vita Plus employee owner. He has also taken on the forage marketing responsibilities outside of the traditional Vita Plus market.