Prevention is better than cure

How many times do we have a piece of gear on the farm wrecked or broken, because we failed to maintain that item sufficiently well? If you think of the old steam engines in the early days, there was one man walking around with an oil can, keeping everything oiled. This kept the metal apart, so that it didn't contact, bind and destroy the engine in the train.

It is the same on the farm. Do you do month by month maintenance? Or do you just wait until something breaks down, grumble about the poor quality, and then have to pay a lot of money to get it fixed? Or maybe you just throw it away, and buy a new one. Well, you can do that with toasters and televisions perhaps, but it is madness to think that farm machinery, being as expensive as it is could be treated the same way.

Some farmers fail to maintain their gear, at their own peril, and end up paying for expensive repairs and maintenance. As some people say, "as long as there is clean oil and water in any motor, it will keep running". On a farm, your tractor is one of your biggest machinery investments, so it makes good financial sense to check and service it regularly, even if you have to get someone to do it for you.

If you fix things before they break, i.e. replace parts before they wear out, change the oil and filters at least annually, clean the radiator and add anti-freeze to lubricate the water pump, the cost is minor compared with the expense and inconvenience of a major repair.

Talking about radiators and anti-freeze, with the modern tractors, or car for that matter it is crucial to have clean water, and is just as important as having clean oil. It is interesting that with older tractors, one of which I own, we often forget to have the radiator cleaned out. Eventually the radiator blocks up, the tractor overheats, and we are in for a big bill.

A client of mine had a 100hp tractor, which was valued at about $100,000. He had the tractor connected to an effluent pump, and was pumping out his effluent pond. He went away and left it running. After some hours he noticed that it had all gone quiet, and when he went over to check, he found that the tractor had run out of oil and seized. The cost to fix the diesel motor was $20,000, and that was cheap.

The other issue to consider, is modern machinery is expensive, and motors are set to much finer tolerances, so dirt, poor tuning and rough use will substantially increase the wear and tear. It is important to inspect moving parts, and take action immediately any problems are identified.

You could make an arrangement with the local garage or tractor dealer to change the oil and filters in your tractor, service the radiator and carry out standard maintenance on brakes and other wearing parts on a diarised basis. Ensure that this happens at least annually and more often if the hours warrant it. In my case, I have an older ex-farmer/machinery sales person, who changes the oil and looks after all my gear. He also keeps notes of these changes in his diary.

When you have finished using gear/machinery for the season, repair it, clean it, service it, spray the moving parts and bare metal with CRC, so that it will be ready for use next season. Getting a well-used piece of machinery out at the start of the next season, only to find that is needs repairing immediately, is not a lot of fun.

Keep all unused plant in a shed, or under cover. This protects it's life, and extends it's use. If you do not have shedding for all your implements, go and buy some cheap PVC covers to at least cover the motor, gear box and moving parts.

A local hire company in Katikati, has identified the benefit of building covers for all the motors which sit outside in the rain. When people go and hire these items, they find that they always start, and they always run better.

Other areas of preventative maintenance could include:

  • Cleaning out troughs, and checking ball valves at least annually. Mark under the fence line where underground pipes run, so you are able to locate leaks and make repairs in the future.
  • Clean out culverts and areas in front of the culverts, so water can get away easily, and not cause ponding or scouring.
  • Grade your races and roadways regularly, particularly over the summer period, and remove anything that could bruise the hooves of the cows.
  • In the cowshed. Grease the rollers in the rotary. Ensure there is adequate clean oil in the vacuum pump etc. A little bit of oil can go a long way.

While this all may sound simplistic, how many times do we forget to carry out preventative maintenance, or put into action a proper maintenance program?

Unserviced plant and poor maintenance on your farm can cost you dearly in terms of repair bills, not to mention inconvenience.

Under OSH requirements, you are required to ensure that your tractor and gear runs effectively. If you do not have a proper check system in place, and someone gets hurt, then you could find yourself writing out some big cheques.


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