Q&A: Applicator preparation and troubleshooting – Mark Case and Dwain Ewald, Vita Plus
Mark Case is a Vita Plus dairy specialist in western Michigan and Dwain Ewald is a customer service specialist with Vita Plus Gagetown. Case and Ewald work closely with producers to troubleshoot and maintain their inoculant applicators and also support their other forage needs.
What are the most common applicator challenges?
Mark: The most common problem I see is a bad squeeze tube. These need to be replaced annually, but some people don’t change them that often. Additionally, simple, annual maintenance is not performed on the machines. This leaves inoculant in the system to build-up and plug screens, limit the flow of inoculant, and cause the ball in the flowmeter to stick.
I have also had a few speed controllers go bad and usually replace a few flowmeters because the ball was stuck.
Dwain: Flushing the system is a big problem most producers skip at the end of harvest, but it is very important to prevent all the problems Mark mentioned: flowmeter ball sticking, plugged screens and overall cleanliness. If I come to a farm for an applicator check-up and I smell something funny, I know immediately it is leftover inoculant in the cooler.
Additionally, I see big issues with chopper electrical systems. Many producers are in a hurry to get out in the field and get the crop cut, but you don’t want a bad electrical connection halting all production. Take a couple minutes before heading out and make sure everything is running the way it should be.
What can producers do to fix the typical problems they encounter?
Mark: Proper clean out and overall cleanliness is necessary. Just using water to flush the system will help keep the flowmeter clean and prevent inoculant accumulation. I also recommend installing a new squeeze tube every year.
Also, if they have problems with a speed controller or flowmeter, those parts need to be ordered from the applicator manufacturer. In some instances, the applicator can still be used without these parts, it just won’t be as accurate.
What’s a life span of an applicator?
Dwain: They should only be replaced when severely abused. If you take good care of your applicator, they can work well for 10 to 12 years.
Mark: I don’t think they ever will need to be replaced until we can’t get parts for them. I know, if something needs to be replaced, Dwain can take a pile of parts from a non-functioning applicator and make it look and run almost new with minimal investment of time and money.
What steps should be taken to maintain applicators?
Dwain: I can agree with that, but for me, fall flushing and winterizing properly are the most important ways you can manage your applicator. Use water to flush the remaining inoculant from the system and, when you winterize, use RV antifreeze.
And if all else fails, call me when problems arise.
I can’t stress enough how much money is involved with applicators. I wish everyone would flush their system, it makes everything easier. They are really bulletproof systems, you just need to take care of them or else you are looking at a $1,700 investment in a new applicator.
What applicators and inoculants do you recommend to producers?
Mark: For applicators, I recommend the Dohrmann DE-1008.5. For inoculant, it depends on what they need. If bunk stability is not an issue, Crop-N-Rich 1000, and, if it is an issue, Crop-N-Rich Stage 2.
For Silostop, I mostly sell two-step and I also like gravel bags for sealing the face and the edges of the bunker where the plastic meets the wall.
Dwain: I would have to agree with those recommendations. We have a line of products that can help you successfully reach your end goals. Your Vita Plus team is here to help you work through any challenges and put up the highest quality forages possible.