University of Illinois Extension

Forage Harvesting Safety

A common task on many farms is preparing for harvesting forages. "Harvesting forages" can include many different things, such as preparing small square bales, large square bales, large round bales, or silage. The methods of harvesting vary along with the types of material being harvested. For instance, forages are often grown in areas that are too rough or steep for row crops. Also, it is very likely that some time has elapsed since the equipment used for harvesting forages was last used. Factors such as these have implications for safe equipment operation.

As with many farm hazards, those present in forage harvesting situations are usually recognized. However, the risk perceived by the operator is reduced to much below the actual risk simply because of the familiarity of the operation. Invariably, the speed with which the equipment operates and with which incidents can occur are underestimated. The result is that operators overestimate their ability to react. A pto shaft rotating at 540 rpm will pull something into it at the rate of 7 feet per second. A baler traveling at 3 miles per hour will pull crops into it at the rate of over 4 feet per second. Likewise, belts and pulleys needed for operating many pieces of forage harvesting equipment will pull something into them at up to 66 feet per second. These speeds are beyond the human ability to react, not even considering the power that runs the machine and from energy in the machine itself. Here are some safety tips to minimize risk while operating different types of equipment.

Before Harvest

Roadway Transportation


Square Balers

Round Bales

Forage Harvesters