Aside from going through the performance aspects of winter feeding equipment, it’s also very important to consider the safety features of your machinery. A safety check can take as little as 10 minutes.
According to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), tractors and machinery have accounted for a combined total of 51% of deaths in agriculture and forestry over the past decade.
To help you identify what to check ahead of the upcoming busy winter feeding period, we have outlined some important areas to check over on two important pieces of kit on many farms, a diet feeder and a loader.
Starting off, farmers should take a walk around the machine and ensure that all lights are functional.
Lighting difficulties can often be caused by small issues such as a corroded seven-pin plug. All hydraulic hoses and couplings should be also be checked – make sure they are intact and not leaking. The handbrake and breakaway cable should be tested to make sure that it is working. When the breakaway cable is pulled, the wheels should lock up.
Tyre condition and tyre pressure should be assessed. The tyre pressure should be set in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. While checking the tyres, the torque on the bolts on the rim should be assessed and given a quick tighten if necessary.
Checking underneath, diet feeders with a single axle usually sit on a static axle that’s pretty maintenance-free. The torque on the U-bolts should be checked. If it has a tandem axle, it will need a little more time to be assessed. Bogie axles have much more moving parts. It’s important that the tension of the springs is checked.
When it comes to safety, especially with diet feeders that travel on public roads, brakes play a huge role. To check the adjustment of the brakes, two people are needed. The ram should be closed when there is no force being applied. When force is applied, there should be approximately 3in to 4in of travel on the ram. If there is any more, the slack adjusters should be tightened.
The condition of the towing eye should be inspected for wear. The last thing anyone wants is a diet feeder accidently becoming detached from a tractor. Many diet feeders will have a split drawbar, with a series of bolts keeping it intact.
If the towing eye needs to be replaced, you have two options – cut off the eye and weld on a new one, or bolt a new section of drawbar on. Either way, it’s important that the torque of the bolts on the drawbar should be inspected. It is essential that all PTO covers and guards are fully functional.
As wheel loaders and telehandlers are often at their busiest over the winter period, it is worth ensuring they are geared up for months ahead.
A visual inspection should be carried out as routine, ensuring mirrors, glassware and lights are all present, clean and functional. This is as important when working in the yard as travelling on the road. It is essential you see others and others see you while manoeuvring around the farmyard, in and out of sheds, loading diet feeders, etc. The cab should be clean and free of clutter, rubbish or tools which may have the potential to obstruct brake pedals and cause an accident.
Even though feed equipment such as tractors and loaders may only be running for short periods daily over the winter, they should still be greased and maintained correctly, especially pivoting areas such as the main articulation point on loaders. Farmers should inspect the loader’s headstock. It is vital that the locking mechanism holding the front attachment in place is working correctly. Tyres should be correctly inflated and free from cuts or any damage that may lead to an unexpected blowout.
The handbrake should be working and not seized. If non-functional, this could catch an unfamiliar user out, resulting in the machine rolling causing injury or damage. Ensure the handbrake is in good working order and never take chances when entering potential trap zones. Steps should be both damage- and wear-free to prevent the risk of falling when embarking or disembarking the machine. A fire extinguisher is worth having in the cab given the vital role it will have in the unlikely event of an electrical fire. A small 1kg fire extinguisher can be purchased for €20 to €30.
It is worth ensuring all engines are have sufficient levels of antifreeze or coolant. Older cooling systems generally take a mixture of water and antifreeze, whereas newer cooling systems take coolant only which is not mixed with water and is not recommended to be mixed with any other fluid.