Looking after equipment and carrying out basic maintenance checks can save thousands of pounds and avoid breakdowns at the most inconvenient time.
Undertaking simple maintenance checks and carrying out a trial run a few weeks before machinery is needed can help to avoid costly breakdowns.
This might seem like common sense, but David Moore, of Moore Farm Services, near Doncaster, says it is surprising how many people first realise there is something wrong when they connect a fertiliser spreader or mower to the tractor on the day they want to use it.
“The customers who maintain their equipment carefully, we rarely see them again.
In contrast, it is amazing how many people will fill up a fertiliser spreader and drive to a field without even checking it is still working when it has not been used for nine months.
“They will then be contacting us in a panic, hoping we can repair it there and then.
They will have to waste time while they wait for someone to come and fix it and if it cannot be mended, often they may find they need to buy a replacement machine in a rush, meaning they cannot always find what they want, or they end up paying more for it,” Mr Moore adds.
He suggests cleaning a mower or fertiliser spreader before it is put away in the shed for the winter is one of the most important tasks in preventing damage.
He says: “Making sure mowers and fertiliser spreaders are always cleaned thoroughly and moving parts are greased up before they are stored away for the winter is beneficial for three reasons.
“Firstly, it is easier to see any damage or wear when the machine is clean, meaning parts can be ordered or the machine can be repaired.
“Secondly, rodents are less likely to spend time on a clean machine because there will not be any food for them.
We regularly see new fertiliser spreaders where rodents have eaten through wiring or the harness, causing thousands of pounds of damage.
“In one instance, the spreader could not be repaired after mice had chewed through all the wiring.
Do not assume insurance companies will pay out in these instances because some may argue the machine was not properly maintained or protected and so a claim is ineligible.
“Thirdly, grass left on mowers is very bad news, especially as it starts to ferment, because it corrodes the metal.
It is vital to clean the mower carefully and oil up the moving parts, such as the mower bed and check for any cracks.” Guards on mowers and fertiliser spreaders should be checked carefully as they are vital to protect parts of the machinery and also for safety.
If any are looking worn, or are no longer attached securely, they must be replaced, Mr Moore adds.
Mr Moore recommends hitching up fertilisers and spreaders onto the tractor some weeks before they are to be used and doing a ‘trial run’ to check everything is working properly.
For fertiliser spreaders, checking the spreading veins are correctly spaced and set appropriately for the type of fertiliser being used is important, he says.
“Some grassland farmers will be using perhaps three different types of fertiliser during a season and each one may require the spreading vanes to be adjusted differently.
Given the high cost of fertiliser, it is worth spending half-an-hour making sure the spreader is set up properly so it will spread evenly.
“Sometimes some of the vanes will become worn and this can lead to uneven spreading, which wastes fertiliser and is detrimental to overall grass production.” Mr Moore advises that farmers should consider having their spreader tested and calibrated by a specialist firm such as SCS Spreader and Spraying Testing ideally once-a-year.
This will determine the most efficient settings for the combination of machine and product being used and will highlight any issues which could cause striping.
Mr Moore urges farmers to take the time to check blades are all sharp and the fixings on the conditioning tines are all properly attached well before they plan to start mowing.
“Replacing a few worn blades may cost less than £20 but mowing with blunt blades is less fuel efficient and also leads to grass being torn from the ground, resulting in poor re-growth.
“If conditioning tines have become loose, they can come off and end up in the silage clamp, especially if they are plastic so are not detected by the metal detector on the forage wagon.
This can be very dangerous for cows.
“Checking the gearbox for leaks is vital because if leaks go undetected, this can result in a new gearbox being necessary, which can easily cost thousands of pounds,” Mr Moore adds.
Looking carefully at the wearing parts on a mower and replacing them where needed can also save money in the longterm, he says.
“The skid plates underneath a mower can often become worn and if they wear too badly, this can lead to damage to the mower bed underneath.
Whereas a skid plate might cost £30 to replace, a new mower bed will cost £2,000 or more.” Technology is increasingly complex on more advanced machinery and so software updates can cause problems if not done in accordance with the manufacturer’s advice, according to Mr Moore “Most of my time now seems to be spent sorting out software glitches because the update has not been completed, so one piece of equipment is not compatible with the other machine being used.
Speak to the dealer or manufacturer about software updates for the machine some time before it is needed.” Ultimately, carrying out timely checks on machines, especially mowers and fertiliser spreaders, will save time and money, Mr Moore adds.
“Calling out a dealer once in the field is always more expensive and wastes time for everyone.
Just by taking the time to do a few simple checks and repairs means most of the most commonly occurring problems can be prevented altogether and makes it less stressful for everyone.”
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