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Equipment maintenance mistakes to avoid

DFP Staff corn harvesting equipment
Make sure your machines are ready when harvest begins.
Equipment service manager shares best ways to avoid issues that will postpone harvest.

With harvest season looming, now is the time to make sure your harvest equipment is functioning properly. After a cool, wet spring that in many cases delayed planting and crop development, no one wants to run into issues that will postpone harvest. 

We spoke with Justin Baker, regional service manager with Tennessee Tractor about mistakes to avoid with equipment maintenance to ensure a successful harvest.  

Don’t wait too late.  

Growers have a lot to worry about and little time to get it all done. Unfortunately, equipment maintenance is often put on the back burner until the day it goes to the field. 

“It seems in west Tennessee that everyone starts shelling corn on the same day,” said Baker, who recalled a harvest season when he received more than 170 phone calls on equipment service in one day. “Harvest season had started, but the machines weren’t ready for it, and with that kind of call volume, it’s very difficult to get everyone taken care of in a timely manner.” 

Baker’s advice is to start checking equipment weeks in advance. Cleanliness should be a priority. Check your combine and picker for any residue or rodent nests. Check tire pressure. Inspect for any missing or damaged parts. 

Starting early may be especially important this year with parts being so hard to source. 

“We’ve been fortunate and have been able to service parts, but we have seen a slow down,” Baker said. “So, it’s very important to check equipment early so if there are shipping delays, they will not affect harvest.” 

Update software now.  

Just like your computer, farming software systems need to be updated on a regular basis. Before starting harvest, make sure all your software is up to date and running properly. 

“Also, if the customer is keeping up with yield data, they should make sure they have enough available space. Many producers will transfer the display and receiver from the planter to the combine during harvest season. But the receiver may be so overloaded with planter data that we have problems. So, clear data where you can to make sure you don’t miss anything during harvest,” Baker said. 

“If you’re not recording yields every time in every field, then your yield data is not accurate. Any year you miss data is detrimental, so be sure your software is running properly beforehand and there is enough storage for this harvest’s data,” he added. 

Correct the machine settings   

Another common equipment prep mistake is going to the field and not having the machine set correctly for the crop that is being harvested. 

“One of my big pet peeves is seeing fields littered with sprouts of corn coming up after corn has been shelled. I would say 90% of that could be attributed to some type of wear on the machine or some setting issue with the combine,” Baker said. 

“That’s an easy fix. By just taking a little time at the first part of the season, growers can put a lot more grain in the grain bin,” he adds. Machine settings should be adjusted for each crop. 

Don’t scrimp on grease and wrap 

Spindle grease is expensive, but according to Baker roughly 90% of service calls involving picker header issues involve customers using the wrong grease.  

“Don’t cut costs on spindle grease,” he advises. “Same for the belts. We’ve seen a lot of after-market belts and they end up causing more downtime than anything. Also, don’t scrimp on cotton bale wrap. In my experience, growers who try to economize with bale wrap spend more time with it getting hung up in the picker or losing cotton in the field. As you lose time picking cotton, it makes you realize why you pay that premium.” 

TAGS: Harvest
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