By Emily Folk
A working farm requires quite a bit of equipment, which, in turn, needs occasional maintenance to keep it in tip-top shape. This type of care is vital to an agricultural business in more ways than one — not only does it keep machines up and running, but regular maintenance can slash repair costs down the line.
As the person charged with coming up with such upkeep, it's up to you to decide what needs to be done to preserve your equipment for as long as you can. Here are four of the most essential maintenance to-dos.
1. Keep It Clean
Think of your farm equipment like the car you drive — your tractor will need many of the same check-ups and refreshers as your vehicle. To that end, your tractor will have come with a manual to tell you how often you need to change its oil and its filters. Are you following the recommended regimen? If not, start your agricultural maintenance here with routine oil changes and fresh filters. Without taking these steps, your equipment will show wear long before it should.
To that end, you should also keep the body of your machinery clean, too. This practice will keep dust and dirt away — and, although there are seals and filters in place to do this job, you can make that task a bit easier by washing down your equipment regularly.
2. Hold Regular Operator Training
It's probably not the type of hands-on maintenance you're thinking of, but operator training is another key to extending the life of your farm equipment. You probably did this when you got the machinery, but how many employees have come and gone since then? New team members might not have the proper training to operate your equipment as it is meant to be.
Once you're used to using your machinery, you can make this job easier on your team. Write up a shortened version of the proper steps for operation so that newbies don't have to read the entire manual. Add any tips or tricks you've picked up along the way to make your work simpler and more efficient. The more everyone knows, the better — and the longer your equipment will last down the line.
3. Remember Specific Machine Maintenance
Of course, every farm will have its wildcard, of sorts, a machine that doesn't quite follow the same maintenance plan as the others. It's up to you to learn how to keep up with those pieces, too, as well as pinpoint any issues that arise when the equipment is in operation.
A dairy farm, for example, might have an air compressor, which can be used to pasteurize air. But leaks can prevent the machinery from functioning as efficiently as it's built to be, so proper maintenance is necessary to keep the farm in working order. Ultimately, a trained acoustic operator will have to listen to the machine to determine if it has a leak. To be able to make this diagnosis is, of course, very specialized knowledge — and, if you have this equipment in your arsenal, then you need to know how to keep it at its best.
4. Keep an Eye Out for Signs of Wear
An eagle eye can help you maintain your farm equipment, too. As previously mentioned, proper operation can help ward off the signs of wear, as can regular cleanings. But, as time goes by, you will notice some changes in the way your machinery operates. You might hear a strange noise or feel a new vibration while using a particular piece of machinery. Plus, with time, some parts will lose their strength — belts often snap, bolts change shape and seals crack open. If you're paying attention, you'll notice these changes, and you'll be able to fix them before they cause major, more expensive problems.
The bottom line: your equipment is the reason why your farm works, and the right maintenance of this equipment can keep things running smoothly. As these four tips prove, it doesn't have to be difficult to do so. Instead, a few preventative steps will ensure you continue to succeed in your agricultural business, and that's ultimately what it's all about — get started today so you're prepared for tomorrow.
About the author: Emily is a sustainability writer and avid gardener. You can read more of her work on her site, Conservation Folks, where she writes about helping tomorrow’s planet today.