Weather continues to change and impact field conditions this time of year. Rain, snow, and ice can complicate a day’s work in the field when soil becomes water logged. Often we are in a hurry and ready to begin field preparations for spring planting whether tillage or spreading manure. Equipment becomes stuck and extraction takes time. With time being a precious commodity on the farm, make sure you ensure safety is a priority when attempting stuck equipment. An extraction can go horribly wrong in a matter of seconds leading to property damage as well as severe or fatal injuries.
Be sure to note field conditions by walking or using an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to monitor prior to entering the field with equipment. Field areas that are prone to poor drainage and have a history of stuck equipment should be recorded. Consider avoiding wet fields or problem areas to reduce the chance of being stuck. Having a plan of attack in dealing with these areas will help avoid the need for an extraction.
Newer tractors will often have wheel slippage monitors to gauge when losing traction. Ballasts should be used to maintain proper traction and wheel slippage. This reduces compaction in the field, which is very important to ensuring a healthy root zone for your crop, and improving drainage. Be sure to maintain your equipment. Checking tire pressures, brakes, and fluid levels is critical to keeping your operation running smoothly. A little amount of preventive maintenance keeps large breakdowns from delaying your work. Tractors have a high center of gravity so proper hitching to the drawbar is critical in preventing a roll-over. Check out our article on tractor stability and maintenance.
In the event of you need to extract stuck equipment, Purdue Extension offers a publication resource titled “Extracting Stuck Equipment Safely: How to Avoid Expensive and Painful Incidents.” This publication provides an in-depth analysis for safe equipment extraction. Some points to highlight are:
- Never assume a routine situation: You don’t know what you don’t know. Make sure you assess the situation and do not panic. Evaluate your options and seek help if needed.
- Select and maintain the right equipment: Extraction tools are specialized. Routine maintenance and upkeep are necessary. Not all chains are equal in tow capacity. In some cases, chains are not recommended, especially grandpa’s trusty logging chain. Your tool is only as good as its weakest link. Be sure to know your equipment’s limitation.
- Select your connection points carefully: Sharp edges can cut a tow strap in two when forces are applied when pulling. Use clevises or other means to protect straps or cables.
- Maintain a zone of safety when extracting: This is to prevent flying debris or potential vehicles from striking bystanders or other equipment. A minimum of 100’ diameter is recommended around the extraction point.
- Inspect equipment: Check your equipment for damage as well as the condition of your extraction tools. Replace damaged extraction tools. If you have a damaged pin or strap, do not use it. Repaired extraction or homemade extraction hitches are unpredictable and often will fail when under the extreme forces during extraction.
For more information on safe equipment extraction see Purdue Extension publication or check out University of Kentucky Extension YouTube video on safe extraction.