Down on the farm, there are a lot of potential problems that can cause a farmer to have a really bad day. Some of these events are out of their control, such as too much foul weather or not enough rain. Commodity prices set by Wall Street traders hundreds of miles away from the farm can have a huge impact on profits. All the farmer can do is ride out those "storms."
Then there are some issues that can put a damper on a farm day that could be totally preventable. That has to do with farm equipment use. Are you pushing your tractors to the limit? Here are some of the mistakes you might be making with your farm equipment.
Just as with your pickup truck, every piece of farm equipment comes with an owner's manual. Although you should keep it in a safe place to refer to, if you don’t, you can probably find it online. Beyond the basics of starting up and operating that equipment, those manuals can also provide guidance with regard to proper use. For instance, you might be using a planter with the wrong depth settings. The same can be true for a thrasher or baler.
Solution: A minor adjustment can make all the difference when it comes to grinding gears. That is a sound you never want to hear out in the field.
Do you know how fast your tractor can ride? Despite what you might think, most farm equipment is not meant for street racing. Every machine has predetermined performance levels. Those aren't just quaint recommendations, but vital guidelines as to how "hot" you can operate that piece of equipment. To go beyond those performance levels is to invite breakdown.
Solution: Slow down while performing your equipment tasks.
Getting a piece of heavy-duty farm machinery serviced is not as easy as rolling up in your car to your trusty mechanic. Too often, farmers will let these maintenance check-ups slide until the machine seizes up or worse.
Solution: Since you use your farm equipment on a regular schedule, it helps to set the same kind of schedule for routine maintenance check-ups. The money you spend on check-ups will come back many times over when you avoid a serious breakdown.
If there is one thing a farmer knows, it is that all things are connected. That applies to conditions for growing, and to keeping farm equipment running efficiently. Just because one thing breaks on a piece of equipment doesn't automatically mean you can replace that single part and the problem is solved.
Solution: Sometimes you need to look at the underlying cause that instigated the malfunction. That might mean replacing a few parts, but it will be money well spent.
The harvest is over. Time to put away the equipment until next year. Clearly, you'll want to secure that piece of farm equipment in a safe, dry place, but just parking it after a season of work might not be enough.
Consider the combine. This is a piece of equipment that could have bits of corn, wheat or other crops caked up in the carriage. That is going to be like a buffet for rodents during the winter. It's not a stretch to imagine those rats chewing through wiring to get at the bits of corn. They might even build a nest in there.
Solution: The better approach would be to thoroughly clean those machines before they get locked up for the winter. Two words: compressed air. If brushes or other cleaning methods aren’t getting your equipment as clean as it needs to be, use a compressor on a low setting and follow basic compressor safety practices.
There may come a time when the clock is running on the harvest and you can't wait for the acres to dry up. You make the call to push your equipment through the rain and mud. That is a call that could come back to haunt you. Those are the exact kinds of conditions that can put a strain on the mightiest of tractors and combines.
Solution: If you can wait a day, then it might make all the difference.
There are many motorists who go into a blind panic at the first appearance of the "check engine" light. That light pops on for a reason. It means something's up. Yes, you can still operate the vehicle, but you'll need to get it to a mechanic ASAP.
That same principle applies to farm equipment. Too often, a farmer will not only ignore those warning signals but also find ways to shut them off. That never fixes the problem. There could be serious mechanical wear and tear going on, which could create a dangerous situation or expensive fix.
Solution: Be preventative. Seek assistance immediately at the first sign of a problem.
All of these suggestions are meant to help make you a smarter farmer. There is always a lot going on between planting and harvesting. By getting into the routine of regular maintenance check-ups, paying attention to the warning signals, and using the equipment as it was designed, you'll be able to focus on the crops and not your machines.
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