A farm is a tough but essential job site where there is always work to be done. From subsistence farming to advanced commercial farms, farming is a multi-layered process that comes with many challenges and hard work.
While some focus on agricultural activities for stress relief, dedicated farmers look for opportunities to expand, and simplify difficult tasks. In search of productivity and excellence, the size and significance of the agriculture industry have exploded with the widespread use of advanced farming equipment.
From the humble yet groundbreaking invention of the plough several thousand years ago to automatable heavy equipment machinery, farming has come a long way. Today, the majority of work output on farms is performed by advanced machines. In this guide, we, with the help of experts at Frontu, will provide a basic protocol for farm equipment maintenance. Here you can find maintenance tips that will bring value to most farms, including ones with mostly manual tools.
Farming equipment categories
For a better understanding of equipment servicing needs, it is easier to split maintenance procedures for different equipment categories. Here we split them into manual tools and heavy equipment machinery
Manual tools vs heavy equipment machinery
Manual farming tools are rarely encountered in big farms and are more used for personal gardening or livestock farming. Because the structure of shovels, hoes, ploughs, and other manual tools is much more primitive than tractors and other special equipment, their maintenance needs are much smaller. A simple maintenance calendar should cover all tasks that clean, sharpen, and lubricate manual tools to extend the equipment’s lifespan.
Heavy equipment machinery is a lot more complicated and requires service records that track all maintenance activities. With electric components and interconnected moving parts, planned maintenance tasks also follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to service the machine properly. Finding signs of wear in equipment with many internal components is much harder, and one damaged part. Combines, tractors, cultivators and other motorised machines need a comprehensive list of specific maintenance tasks and certified technicians to keep them in optimal condition.
Why is farm equipment maintenance important?
Farm equipment maintenance is detrimental to optimising and executing time-sensitive tasks. In cases where equipment breaks, the consequences can be disastrous, especially for mid-level farms that rely on singular units of farming equipment, where manual labour is not enough to compensate for lost work.
Especially in situations like the harvest season, losing muscle can lead to great financial losses. That is why, modern farmers invest extra resources for the maintenance of agricultural equipment. Farmers who follow regular maintenance practices inspect their machines every day and have their documents organised for tracking equipment failure. Then they can be ready to replace damaged components ahead of time and avoid unplanned downtime.
What is the useful life of farm equipment?
The useful life of farming equipment also depends on its type. Manual tools are less predictable, as their lifespan can range from a year to multiple decades in the hands of a careful and thoughtful farmer. Heavy equipment machines stay operational for 10 to 15 years depending on the tool.
While the estimates in the owner’s manuals are just that – estimates, they offer a good time interval to strive for. If maintenance tasks are not performed regularly, farm machinery will break down a lot faster. On the contrary, if the equipment needs are met, and operators prioritise maintenance work before and after every shift, the machine can very likely outlive its equipment lifespan.
What is the basic maintenance of farm equipment?
The basic farm equipment maintenance tasks focus on servicing and storing equipment in the proper environment to keep it in good condition for as long as possible. Here are the key tips that will help you understand what are the factors to consider when maintaining farm tools and equipment.
Train your operators
Proper maintenance of tractors, combines, fertiliser spreaders and other machines begins with skilled operation. A farmer who follows the owner’s manual and understands the key risks in its operation will not misuse the machine or cause it extra damage.
Track maintenance tasks
A thorough and linear maintenance plan ensures that equipment is regularly serviced and all steps can be traced back in documents. Tools like farm equipment or facility management software simplify these procedures by providing real-time warnings and errors on agricultural equipment and its components.
Follow a maintenance schedule
With a clear plan of action, equipment managers determine appropriate time intervals for regular maintenance. The frequency of servicing is often suggested in the owner’s manual, but weather conditions, local climate, and other factors can cause the buildup of excess dirt and more damage to specific machines. When maintenance tasks and the state of components are tracked, the manager can adjust a maintenance schedule to service and protect the most vulnerable parts faster.
Fluid servicing and lubrication
Machines that perform heavy mechanical work have a lot of friction damaging their components. Find the pivots, joints, bearings, and other moving parts and keep them lubricated. Other fluid servicing tasks include tracking oil changes, replenishment and replacement.
Hydraulic system maintenance
The hydraulic system is responsible for the mechanical work performed by heavy equipment machines. To take proper care of its components, workers inspect the cylinders, pistons, and other parts for damages, and leaks, and make sure that all parts are greased properly. While its components are all internal, certified technicians need to examine and test the system on a regular basis because big damages will lead to equipment downtime. Just like our muscles need blood and oxygen, farm equipment needs pressurised fluid to perform invaluable feats of strength.
Equipment cleaning is essential for preventing more abrasion and damage to farm equipment and its parts. Clean your machinery to remove accumulated dirt, replace air filters, and oil filters, and perform regular oil changes to get rid of any contaminants. Certain machines may work slower or burn a lot more fuel when internal components are constantly affected by contaminants.
To prevent unnecessary environmental damage, farmers store equipment in garages of equipment barns. Most regular maintenance procedures are performed before the machine leaves its shelter for work. By keeping it in a clean area, you remove additional tangibles that cause more damage to farm equipment.
New machines vs old equipment
If you are in the market for new farming equipment, a modern machine has great additional features for better control, machine maintenance and workplace workplace management. Because precision is not a very important factor in farming, some tools can be automated and work with peak efficiency with very little overhead.
Old machinery is easier to maintain, but identifying damages ahead of time is much more difficult. New tractors, combines, and other machines have sensors and other electrical components that can interact with management systems and minimise the need for repairs. The main downside of new machines is the extra maintenance requirement that cannot be resolved without special technical support.
Farm equipment maintenance software
Modern farming tools can be grouped and connected under one umbrella – farm equipment maintenance software. It helps equipment managers track any changes to machines and see which tools are at the brink of failure. Then, a team of mechanics can intervene and perform emergency repairs, and other machines get redistributed to ensure continuous work for top-priority tasks.
What are some common signs that equipment requires maintenance?
The most common signs that a farming machine needs servicing are clear damages to its exterior, strange noises, and warnings on the control panel. Still, sensors are not always right, and their accuracy can get skewed by an accumulation of dust or dirt. In those cases, a regular maintenance calendar ensures that all machine components receive attention at appropriate time intervals.
Unplanned maintenance tasks
Unplanned or reactive maintenance focuses on salvaging the situation when important machine components are severely damaged and destroyed. Big farms that constantly work their machines sometimes have technicians on standby for emergency repairs.
Predictive maintenance tasks
Predictive maintenance strategy studies the wear and tear of farming equipment to avoid unpleasant surprises. This involves including documentation into farm equipment servicing procedures and monitoring how long a specific component survives on average. Predictive maintenance strategies focus on moving parts and keeping documents organised to make sure spare parts await repairs ahead of time
The recommended farm equipment maintenance framework
To keep your farming machines in optimal condition, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and build a strict maintenance schedule. Here is an example of a basic and adjustable maintenance framework that should cover the main needs of most farming equipment.
Daily servicing begins with a visual inspection of a specific tool. The operator or a designated technician checks the machine for clear signs of damage and loose components. Next comes fluid servicing and lubrication: check the engine oil, hydraulic fluid and greasing on each piece of equipment. Last, but certainly not least: clean the machine before every shift.
Weekly maintenance procedures focus on deeper cleaning, filter replacement, hydraulic system inspection, tire pressure levels or track tension for track-based vehicles. The operator examines the electrical system for signs of damage or malfunction and informs electricians if there is a need for special assistance.
Seasonal servicing includes extra cleaning, and fluid servicing during winter months or other periods where environmental conditions may cause extra damage to farm equipment. Every few months, certified technicians replace filters and run thorough tests on the machine’s fuel consumption, handling, and safety.
Annual maintenance procedures encompass all prior servicing tasks, and schedule component replacements and repairs. Every year, mechanics perform a thorough engine inspection and comprehensive testing of the hydraulic system. All changes, repair predictions, and unexpected behaviour are documented. If the farm is using farm equipment software, IT specialists inspect the sensors, install updates, and troubleshoot any other issues.
Farming is a very challenging practice that has greatly improved by heavy equipment. With the help of powerful machines, farms have grown exponentially over the last century. Farming tools are expensive, but with a proper maintenance strategy, experienced farmers use same tractors, combines, and other machines for many years and operate them with incredible efficiency.