With the harvest season wrapped up and colder weather settling in, the time is perfect to revisit the farming equipment that was so vital during the past year.
The winter months provide an ideal opportunity to not only clean, repair and mend equipment, it gives landowners a chance to prepare for the upcoming planting season.
“Right now, it’s important to check all the different parts of each of the systems,” said Leon Schumacher, Agricultural Systems Management program chair at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. “There are a lot of little things to consider and each one is important for the functioning of your equipment.”
While maintaining and caring for equipment is done year-round, the winter months allow landowners to be more thorough since there is not the pressure to get the equipment back into the field.
Each piece of equipment is different and requires certain care. For example, Schumacher said a planter has a set of bearings on each disc, with two discs per row. The number of rows depends on the machine. The equipment owner needs to check each of those bearings, as one bad bearing can throw off the entire system.
“If you’ve run a lot of acres, you need to check to see if replacements need to be made,” Schumacher said. “One little equipment malfunction can slow your entire operation.”
A lot of equipment systems have electronics built in as well. Those systems need to be reviewed and software updated if possible.
“Tractors have a lot of electronics these days,” Schumacher said. “Sometimes your tractor rattles against something you didn’t anticipate and a wire comes loose. You need to check all of those wires to make sure they’re connected properly.”
Cleaning out tanks is an important part of the process, too. Tanks are cleaned throughout the year so weed and chemical residues do not spread. The winter can provide the chance to do a deep clean, though.
“You really want to keep on top of cleaning all year, mainly because you don’t want that transfer from one field to another,” Schumacher said. “The focus is to neutralize any chemicals you have in there. A lot of the tanks are stainless and those are pretty benign to most chemicals. At the same time, you have to check them.”
There are numerous other systems and parts to be checked. Belts, hoses and valves are just a few of the items that need to be looked at in-depth.
“Now is the time to check for wear on spray nozzles and replace any that are worn,” said Jim Crawford, Superintendent of the Graves-Chapple Research Center near Rock Port, Missouri. “The same goes for hoses and belts. A few minutes to lubricate a planter now will not only let you prepare it for spring, but also gives a chance to look for parts that may need replaced.”
Schumacher said the goal is to have all equipment ready to roll for the planting season, which generally begins in March.
The winter months are also a good time to think about strategies – and review data and subsequent plans – for the upcoming year.
“Not only does the winter provide time to care for equipment, the winter gives you time to sit down and reflect on the past year,” Schumacher said. “You may have had a lot of good ideas while sitting in the cab and now you can plan and build on those ideas.”