Hay season is underway around East Texas. Safety around hay equipment is important, as farming can be a dangerous job. Round balers have made producing hay more efficient. However, they can lead to serious injury or even death to farmers due to the increase for wrap, pinch and shear hazards associated with round baling.

Round balers have become a popular piece of hay equipment for many farm and ranch operations. Some still use the small 40- to 65-pound square bales but on a large scale, round bales help to save time and labor when putting up hay for the winter months. In many situations today, one person can cut, bale, transport, stack and feed hay without too much additional labor.

It is important to inspect the baler before the first use to make sure all parts, guards, belts and more are in proper working order. It may be necessary to inspect the field to make sure all tools, fencing materials, limbs and debris are free from the field to keep the equipment in proper working order. Many balers today come with fire extinguishers mounted on the side as well.

When baling, know what to look for to make sure the baler is working properly. If hay or debris clogs up the baler, shut down the power take-off to remove the debris or clogged hay. Leaving the power take-off engaged can cause serious injury to the operator. When a bale is formed, be sure to know where the bale will end up once discharged from the baler. On slopes or steep areas, rolling bales can cause property damage.

Ground speed is another important factor when baling hay. Ground speed should be adjusted to the crop conditions, to the terrain, and the size of the windrow. When starting a bale, drive slowly until it is obvious the bale has started forming. Keep an eye on the pickup reel to make sure the teeth are not being damaged by ground contact as the bale is formed.

Another potential area for injury is loading and unloading hay. Be sure to have the proper size tractor to move the bales of hay. When using forks or hay spear, transport hay with the loader down low to avoid the tractor turning over, especially in sloped areas.

Avoid sharp turns or inclines when transporting hay. When transporting hay it may be necessary to check with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles to seek a permit, depending on how wide your load is. The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles can be reached by calling 800-299-1700.

Tractors today are equip-ped with rollover protection structures called ROPS. While in place, ROPS can prevent injury to the operator in the event that a bale rolls down the loader arm or in case the tractor turns over due to a heavy load. It is important to also have the proper size trailer for the size bales you are hauling. Loading the bales properly to evenly distribute the weight on the trailer is important.

Many farmers and ranchers today make their own hay or contract with people to make hay for them. Round balers have made hay baling more efficient. Follow all safety guidelines and be careful in the hay field to avoid serious injury.

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