How to Reduce Equipment Downtime during Harvest Season

In some fields, farmers have a month or two to get in their year’s yield. In others, that time is reduced to a couple weeks. No matter what harvest timeframe farmers fall victim to, the fact remains that the sooner they can bring in the harvest, the sooner they can see the profits of their endeavors. Every setback during harvest season is significant indeed.

The most common cause of forced downtime is machinery malfunction, which can leave a famer’s crop blowing in the wind for days on end. Therefore, the easiest way to make the most of harvest season is to ensure one’s equipment is in peak condition. Here are six solutions to help farmers properly maintain their machinery so they can truly reap what they sew.

1. Read Operator’s Manual
Most farmers grow up knowing how to work heavy machinery. Driving the old family tractor feels just as natural as walking for most folk. However, eventually that old equipment breaks down, and new machinery never runs exactly the same.

Farm equipment is much more finicky than the average four-wheeler, but most manufacturers publish instructions in the Operator’s Manual to help farmers properly run and maintain their machinery. Unfortunately, pride prevents most farmers from bothering to read this material before attempting to take their new equipment in the field. As a result, the machinery misbehaves, and most farmers wait to harvest until a mechanic can tell them what has gone wrong.

The Operator’s Manual is full of important tidbits that cannot be ignored, including maintenance schedules, settings instructions, and troubleshooting tips. Farmers who consult their manuals will see more uptime during harvest season.

2. Keep Machinery Safe
Farmers have barns for their livestock, silos for their grain, cellars for their roots, and even houses for their dogs, but most farmers are happy to let their expensive, heavy-duty machinery rust out in the open. Having a garage, shed, or barn to keep equipment safe from the elements will extend the longevity of essential farm tools and make harvest season go faster with fewer malfunctions. Additionally, farmers should clean their equipment after harvest season (or before any long period of inactivity), as debris from the fields could attract rodents that will nest in and around the machinery, wreaking havoc on vital wires and hoses.

3. Use High-Quality Parts and Fluids
Following a rigorous maintenance schedule ― ideally the one suggested by the Operator’s Manual ― should normalize the rate at which farmers replace parts and refill fluids. However, these tasks are still mandatory for well-functioning machines, and they add a significant cost to the ownership of farm equipment. Some farmers will skimp on parts and fluids, opting to lower the quality to save on expense, only to find their machinery failing more frequently than usual.

High-quality parts and fluids may require a slightly larger budget, but they will drastically reduce a heavy-duty machine’s downtime. Farmers may even want to look into specialty fluids shown to improve longevity and functionality of their machines if high performance is important to them ― which it should be.

4. Be Aware of Warning Signs
Farmers know the ins and outs of their farms better than anyone else ― and the same should be true of machinery they have had for a few years. Every machine is different, so only a regular operator knows precisely what sounds and motions are normal for a particular tractor or harvester. Farmers should strive to notice any changes to the look, feel, and sound of their equipment, as such differences often are the first symptoms of potential malfunction.

5. Train All Potential Hands
Most people wouldn’t let their 14-year-old drive the car to town without instruction and supervision, but plenty of farmers allow laborers to pilot their machinery without any training whatsoever. As stressed before, most equipment has unique quirks, which means even experienced farmhands might not have the skill to operate a particular machine without causing damage. Before farmers allow anyone inside their heavy-duty machinery, they must run through the machine’s functions and proffer a copy of the Operator’s Manual to help the newbie learn. Additionally, hiring only hands that boast certificates from trustworthy operator training programs should cut back on basic but costly mistakes.

6. Check Equipment before Harvest Season
After the harvest is done, many farmers put away their machinery and forget about it until the calendar returns to harvest season once more. Then, after a year or so of idleness, farmers are surprised to see their equipment in poor condition, and they waste days or weeks attempting to get their machines running to bring in their crops.

Pre-season check-ups and maintenance will ensure all farm equipment is ready for the big haul. Farmers can take their machinery to their trusted dealerships, or they can perform thorough inspections themselves (if they have the know-how). Then, when the harvest comes in earnest, they know for certain that their gear will be ready ― and their profits plenty.

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