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Make machinery maintenance a priority

June 2019

Gavin Mathews, Bachelors in
environmental management.
Send an email to gavmat@gmail.com

One of the most vital aspects in our farming operations is the maintenance of our machines. We often forget about it or put it off by finding more important things to do! However, we cannot afford to neglect this job considering how expensive machinery costs, as well as the annual maintenance expenses we incur to keep them in good working order.

The best practice when it comes to maintenance is having a good routine and being diligent about following through in doing it! 

Our farming machines and implements are made up of many different moving and turning parts. All of this moving and turning causes wear and tear and therefore requires routine maintenance in order to keep them operating without a hitch. There is nothing more frustrating than having a hold up in the middle of the busy planting or harvesting time due to neglect by us to look after our stuff. 

This usually costs us a lot more money than if we would have serviced everything before the work started. In the time leading up to planting season we should be disciplined about planning our maintenance schedule. Make a point of identifying your priority machines which do the most intense work and which you rely heavily on. 

Make sure that you service this machine thoroughly, perhaps it’s your planter or a combine harvester. Whichever machine it may be, be sure to get it in perfect working order before the season starts. On each of the machines identify the specific parts that take the most strain such as bearing pullies and belts. Once you have given these important parts extra care it is vital to do one final check before the machine leaves the shed. It is very easy to overlook something small so be sure to look carefully. After your final check is complete you should move it out of your working space into a protected area where it is ready to hook up and go. If there is no covered area try and cover the machine with a large tarpaulin to protect it from the elements. 

Whilst using the equipment, we once again cannot afford to abuse our machines. We need to give them the correct care and attention at all times. Usually the best method with regard to on the job checks is to have a ‘pre-work’ routine. It is also vital that you instil this routine into your labour force. Make it a rule that before any tractor or implement enters a land that you or your staff check the fuel, oil and tyres on the tractors and any other mechanical equipment.

After this is done move on to the drawn equipment and make sure that all bearings are greased, and any other moving parts are checked carefully. Make sure the chains are tight and are moving with no restriction. This should become a basic daily routine which is engrained into your staff. These checks may very possibly save you an unwanted stop, which would more often than not happen at the worst time possible. So, don’t be slack about it, rather be proactive and save time and money in the long run. 

Maintenance is ongoing and needs to be a continuous process of proactive management. We can’t be good about it right through the season and then let it slip once all is planted or harvested! Before you pack all the machinery away for the next season give everything a wash to get rid of all the soil, dirt, oil and grease. 

Clean all cutting discs and shears with a light brushing of old oil to protect from rust. Give all the bearings a pump of grease and make sure that there are none that need replacing. If there are, replace them now. It will be one less thing to do when the new season comes. Don’t let any hydraulic hoses lie exposed in the soil. Rather cover them with a plastic bag and hook them up and out of the way. 

Any seed and fertiliser bins or hoppers need to be cleaned out and washed properly. Be sure to check all chains and make sure they get a good covering of oil so that they do not rust and seize up during the down season. All chemical tanks and spray nozzles must be washed out with clean water before being stored away. Anything small that may have been giving some problems throughout the season needs to be taken care of properly before the equipment is packed away or else you will be starting the new season with problems from the get go.

Breakdowns and hold ups can cause stress as well as poor productivity. This is why it is essential to take your maintenance seriously and be good about following a strict routine to make sure that everything is working one hundred percent. Obviously break downs can never be completely avoided, but if your maintenance management is good then these problems will be less frequent allowing for a smoother operation. 

Publication: June 2019

Section: Pula/Imvula