Last Minute Spring Checklist
Roughly two weeks ago, after a drawn out and brutally cold winter, we finally ushered in the first day of spring. Those in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions certainly remember that we welcomed this spring with yet another snow storm, but thankfully that’s a thing of the past. Now is the time to look on the bright side, the sun sets after 7 p.m., the temperature is very slowly starting to rise and our snow storms are transitioning into rain storms. All of these factors mean that crops will be ready for planting and tending soon, livestock can move from their temporary indoor shelter back out into the fields and, believe it or not, hay season is fast approaching. The changing seasons can be a hectic time, especially on the farm. We know that sometimes, you think you’ve thought of everything, only to find out you’ve missed one minor detail after it’s too late. This year, prevent some of those emergency repairs by creating a last minute checklist to prepare you for the busy season ahead.
A lot can happen to a fence over the course of a few months. Walk the perimeter and inspect your fencing, whether you have wood, electric or metal, as there could be issues that need to be addressed prior to sending your livestock back into the fields. Damage may have come from falling trees or tree limbs, animals, such as foxes, deer, bears, etc., prolonged water saturation resulting in rust, rot or a number of other factors. Any areas that are in need of repair should be tended to at this time, before you get a call from the neighbor informing you that your prized cow is over in their front yard. Be sure to check any and all locks, chains and hinges as well. Even a fence that is in excellent condition could fail due to a rusted lock or hinge.
Walk through fields
You certainly can’t assume that everything is exactly how you left it before the snow came and blanketed the ground. Take a quick pass through your livestock fields, as well as your crop fields to look for any changes that may require attention. Be on the lookout for erosion, sink holes, mud, nesting animals and similar problems. In livestock fields, serious erosion or sink holes could prove hazardous as unsuspecting livestock may injure themselves due to a fall in these areas. Mud or animal nests could also prove to be dangerous, as livestock may become entirely stuck in mud or may be attacked if any nesting animals prove to be predators. In the crop fields, it is important to see these issues ahead of time in order to avoid any necessary wear and tear on tractors and equipment. If fields are filled with holes, fill them in with top soil to help reduce the stress on your equipment. If you come across any significant mud holes, search the rest of the field to get an idea of how to proceed. If the majority of the field is mud, consider holding off for a while longer before planting, but if only a small section is muddy, avoid that section on your first planting pass and consider planting a different crop in the smaller section once it has dried.
Look over equipment
You don’t need to be a certified mechanic for this, but if you do not feel comfortable doing this on your own, a quick inspection by a mechanic can help prevent big expenses later on. Some equipment may not have been used in quite awhile, so make sure everything starts up as it should and runs smoothly, at least while idling. Be sure that small things, such as hazard lights, are still in good working order. You can save yourself a lot of trouble by quickly ensuring that the lights are working both in front and back ahead of time, rather than being informed by a police officer. Also check belts and hoses on tractors, bailers, haybines and so on. While belts and hoses may seem fine while the equipment is running, closer inspection could reveal cracks that will result in a major breakdown in the near future. If you are unsure whether or not you should change a hose or belt, get a second opinion from a certified mechanic or friend.
Stockpile equipment repair supplies
For those that are a regular handyman (or handywoman), it is a good idea to keep some small, yet extremely vital supplies on hand for any equipment malfunctions or breakdowns that may occur. The best things to keep on hand are spark plugs, belts, hoses and replacement wheels. Having these replacements on hand makes it a little less stressful if something goes wrong. Without any supplies on hand, a broken belt can mean halting work, taking a trip into town, hoping that the belt you need is available and then spending the time to replace the belt and any other parts that may have been damaged during the break. If you have an extra belt on hand however, a broken belt would only result in stopping for the time being, getting the belt from the garage and replacing it on the spot. The same is true for a busted wheel, a dead spark plug or a number of other small repairs. It is of course impossible to be prepared for everything, but getting some necessary supplies ahead of time can prove very beneficial during a time of need.
Inspect the water trough
With warmer weather approaching, livestock will be congregating around the water trough once again. Before sending your herd out into open pasture, take a look at your water trough. Inspect the trough for any cracks or leaks that may have occurred over the winter and consider giving the trough a thorough cleaning if you have not already. Fill the trough with fresh water and monitor the plumbing for any cracks or damage. If you have a watering system that incorporates filtration, now is a good time to put in a new filter.
Test fans & cooling systems
Many know about the advantages of having ceiling fans running year round. It helps cool the barn with down draft during the summer months, while re-circulating warmer air through updraft during the winter months. If you keep your circulating fans running year-round then there is no need for testing them, but any floor fans or evaporative cooling systems that you may have should be tested. Be sure that fans or cooling systems are working properly by testing them on a mild spring day. Do not freeze your livestock by running these cooling systems in the middle of winter, but be sure to run them for a significant period of time to ensure that they are cooling properly and will keep livestock comfortable during the upcoming summer heat.
These are some of the last minute tasks we recommend in order to get you prepared for another profitable spring season. Do you have any other last minute items to check before the spring season? Let us know what you look for by leaving us a comment below.