I once counted up all the tires in use on equipment around the farm. Even though I knew each machine and how many tires were on it, when I consciously tallied the total number I had to say, “Wow. That’s a lot”. The same was true for the number of engines, large and small, that needed at least annual oil changes and maintenance.
So it seems to me one of the most cost-effective things you can invest in on the farm is a really good workshop where all that maintenance work can be done. And, of course, there are the repair jobs to consider as well. If you added up the standard garage rate of having a shop in town do all that, the workshop starts to look like a pretty shrewd investment.
One of the really nice farm shops I visited a few years ago included a pretty respectable parts department as well. This family also did a lot of custom ensiling, so they stocked a lot of parts for their forage harvester. That kept their equipment downtime to a minimum. Then, of course, there is the travel time running to pick up all those parts in town, not to mention the wasted fuel.
With farms getting larger all the time, an increasing number have a mechanic on staff or an arrangement with someone who is willing to come out and work as required, and that reinforces the need for a good, well-stocked shop that stocks at least common maintenance items.
This week a reader emailed me and asked if I knew of a template for an Excel spreadsheet or any other system that would help him track machinery maintenance work done on his family’s farm.
Keeping a record of service intervals and work done could be a real benefit when it comes time to trade in or sell a machine. Proving its use and service history might justify asking a little bit more when it comes time to deciding on the selling price of a premium machine. And if you want to really dissect annual farm expenses, you could dig down and see exactly what each machine costs you to keep around. With that kind of data on hand it’s easy to get into rent-or-buy considerations or any other cost analysis involving machinery. It would even be helpful to pencil out the value in hiring one of those free lance mechanics, if you operate on that scale.
On our farm, we still have service records for a tractor one of my ancestors used when he ran the place decades ago. That was so long ago, in fact, I never even met him. Those records, though, are still here. They consist of the date and engine hour numbers at each oil change. They are simply written in pencil on the wall in an old garage in the farmyard where the tractor was stored—and apparently worked on. Although those numbers are now getting pretty hard to read. They were originally recorded 60 or 70 years ago, so they’ve probably lasted longer than the tractor they refer to.
Since then, though, current maintenance records have been a little harder to find around here (especially since it’s been my responsibility to track them). Needless to say, pencilling numbers on the garage wall no longer qualifies as a viable option anymore.
At Grainews we’re always eager to pass on best practices to our readers. So if you have an efficient maintenance tracking plan that’s been working on your farm, let me know. Email me at [email protected] and we’ll share it.