How to Set Up and Operate a Mower Conditioner

How to Set Up and Operate a Mower Conditioner

There are many tools for cutting hay but a mower conditioner goes the extra mile. This implement not only cuts the hay but also conditions the hay by running it through a conditioning system that cracks the stalks to promote moisture evaporation, leading to faster drying. This is a great method for cutting hay on larger fields. If this sounds appealing to you, you've come to the right place. Before you get started you must first know how to set up this implement and operate it properly for the best results.


Check out this video from Tips Notebook to view a demonstration on how to set up and operate your mower conditioner.

Get Attached

There are a couple of things you’ll want to do before you get moving. First, locate your Operator’s Manual and look at the instructions for connecting the mower conditioner according to what hitch you have. Before connecting, make sure there are at least 13-20 inches between the top of your drawbar and the ground. Also, make sure the distance from the top of the drawbar to the tractor’s PTO shaft centerline is 6-12 inches. Measure the distance from the end of the tractor's PTO shaft to the drawbar’s pinhole centerline. The distance should be 14 inches for 540 or 16 inches for 1000 rpm. Finally, attach the PTO, secure the safety chain, attach the hydraulic hoses, remove the jack stand, and put it on the MoCo’s tongue. To finish it all off, get back in the tractor cab and set the depth stop on the 3-point control. Doing this will allow you to return the MoCo to the same position every time it is raised using the 3-point hitch.

Set it up

Before you start setting up your Mower Conditioner, adjust the cutting height by adjusting the gauge shoes. Start by releasing the swing lock, then swing the MoCo out into the operating position. Also, make sure the lock cylinders are locked by moving the locking lever to the horizontal position. Now let’s get started.

  1. Adjust the gauge shoes

To do this, remove the locking pins. This will allow you to raise or lower the gauge shoe on one side. Then replace the locking pins to set the gauge shoe at the desired height. Repeat this sequence with the gauge shoe on the other side of the machine.

  1. Adjust the cutterbar tilt

Use your turnbuckle to angle the cutterbar up or down. You typically want a nice, flat cutting angle for your cutterbar. But there may be instances when you might want to set the cutterbar at a different angle.

  1. Adjust the float

This keeps the machine’s weight off the cutterbar and on the float springs, allowing the Mower Conditioner to follow the contour of the field. You can adjust the ground pressure by lengthening or shortening the large float springs on each side of the machine. Aim for a fair amount of pressure. Too much pressure can cause the MoCo to scrape the ground or leave gauge shoe tracks in the field. Too little pressure can cause the machine to bounce up and down resulting in an uneven cut. Keep in mind, the side of the MoCo with the gearbox will be heavier than the other side. So the spring adjustments will need to be slightly different on each side.

Lastly, adjust the distance between the windrow-forming shield by just loosening the two handles, adjusting the shields, and re-tightening the handles. 


Now that you’re all set up and ready to go, let’s get to cutting. When in the field, set up the MoCo to operate off-center from the tractor. This will allow the MoCo to cut the standing hay while the tractor moves over the swath of previously cut hay. Run the tractor along the outermost edge of the hayfield. After completing that pass, move the MoCo to the opposite side of the tractor, on the outside edge of the field, and begin the next pass with the MoCo cutting back swath. With this method, the operator will continue working in a pattern that becomes smaller and smaller with each completed pass until the field is cut. Also, the tractor doesn’t run on top of uncut hay and all the cut hay will lay in the same direction. This makes the baling process a breeze and more efficient.

After cutting a few yards of hay, exit your tractor safely and examine the hay to see if it reaches your desired level of conditioning. To adjust conditioning intensity, turn the conditioning crank clockwise to increase intensity or counterclockwise to decrease intensity. You can follow the adjustment change on the conditioning gauge. When the job is done, let the cut hay lay in the field until the next day, or when it is dry enough to rake and bale.

Now that you know how to operate your mower conditioner like a pro. If you have any further questions or would like any more information on hay equipment, contact us or visit us at Eis Implement. 

For more tips and tricks on how to operate your mower conditioner check out the John Deere Tips Notebook here.