One of the most important measures of any business is its efficiency. How well it is run and how well the owners can transform time, effort, and money into results. Much of the efficiency of a farm depends on the proper use of implements and equipment by the farmer and his or her farmhands. A farm with the right equipment can cut costs and improve productivity, and that combination translates directly into improved efficiency at every level. Farm equipment has come a very long way since the introduction of agriculture all those millennia ago, and those improvements have made a direct impact on both productivity and efficiency. One of the quickest ways to fall behind in efficiency and productivity is for a farmer to simply keep doing the same things he or she has always done in exactly the same way. Even though farmers may think they are maintaining efficiency, they are most likely falling behind in comparison to their competitors who are taking advantage of the latest improvements in efficiency.
History of Farm Implements and Equipment
The first farm implements to be used, some 10 000 years ago, were little more than sharpened sticks. It is not surprising that modern farmers have far more at their disposal than their ancient ancestors. Even the earliest ploughs were little more than larger sticks, mounted on a frame so that they could be drawn by draught animals. They were better than trying to break ground by hand, but they were not so good as to keep their owners satisfied. There was a constant pressure to improve farm efficiency and yields, as the greater the yield, the fewer people were needed to feed a society and the more powerful it could become.
The Evolution of Farm Equipment
Even farm equipment, as opposed to handheld implements goes back a long way in the history of agriculture, and that is without counting the plough. The first reaping machine in recorded history dates back to Rome, with one being mentioned by Pliny in approximately 50 AD. This design has been recreated from surviving drawings, and proved to be fully operational. Despite such early advancements, most of what is now known as farm equipment did not really start to enter the picture until later. Agriculture took a huge step forward with increased productivity during the agricultural revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries, and the majority of modern farm equipment can trace its way back to developments of the 18th century.
The ancestry of the modern farm tractor can be traced back to 1868, when the first steam tractors were introduced. These were much larger than modern tractors, some weighing in at upwards of five tonnes, but they paved the way for what was to follow. Most of these earlier tractors were used for haulage, especially on roads where they proved invaluable for hauling timber. Still, the size and weight of steam-powered tractors limited their use.
John Froelich and the Petrol Tractor
The first petrol-engined tractor was built by John Froelich in 1892. He took an existing small steam chassis and put a single-cylinder petrol engine on it. He also included both forward and reverse gearing as well as a power take-off to drive a thresher. This was a modern tractor in everything except name. It was self-propelled and could both transport and power farming implements. Modern farming would likely not exist without the tractor, as it has proven invaluable, replacing the horse almost completely.
The Tractor Revolution
Although invented much earlier, and popular on many large farms, tractors did not really come into their own until after the Second World War. Prior to that point, horses were able to provide competition, but with the increased industrial production after the war, prices were able to come down significantly and tractors' popularity spread until they were in almost every farm. More powerful and flexible than horses, they also had the advantage of not eating, which produced a net increase in productivity in addition to the overall increase. In fact, productivity skyrocketed, to the point that the post-war era was seen by some as a second agricultural revolution.
What makes the tractor so important to the efficiency of the modern farm is its flexibility. Not only can the tractor go almost anywhere on a farm, it brings more power than a team of horses. The big advantage of this power is that it can do much more than just move the tractor. It can both pull and supply power to attachments such as ploughs and harvesters, turning a single piece of equipment into a whole range of implements.
Efficiency and Knowledge
The key to improving efficiency is knowledge. One of the first steps to improving efficiency lies in measuring it. A farmer needs to be able to determine where their operation is least efficient and why, before they can figure out how to improve that efficiency. They also have to understand the way their cost structure works, as a modest increase in productivity can be overwhelmed by an increase in costs if the farmer has not taken the time and effort to determine the trade-offs involved. Farmers should also be aware that there are two areas of efficiency to consider, costs and productivity.
Efficiency in Productivity
The place where upgrading implements and equipment can prove most beneficial to any given farmer is in productivity. Newer equipment often enables greater productivity, which then covers the cost of the equipment. This kind of efficiency then trickles down to every aspect of the farm, accelerating as the equipment is paid off. The only issue with this approach is that there are always ways to improve production efficiency, and if a farmer tries to upgrade too fast they may find themselves buried in costs.
The second area of efficiency involves costs. Everything a farmer does costs money, from the moment they start the tractor onward. A farmer who can control their costs, and spend money more efficiently, has greater flexibility when it comes to maintaining and upgrading their implements and equipment. Part of cost efficiency lies in buying equipment based as much on its operating cost as its purchase price. A tractor with better fuel economy pays for itself in those costs alone over enough time. Another area is balancing costs of repair and maintenance against those of a new purchase. Farmers who best balance those costs put themselves in the greatest position to succeed.
Where To Start
The best place to start with improving efficiency is by taking an inventory of all the equipment and implements on the farm. The next step is to determine how efficient they are regarding both their costs of operation and their overall production efficiency. This knowledge provides a baseline from which the farmer can make subsequent decisions. As a general rule, the first implement or piece of equipment to replace is the one with the worst combination of production and cost efficiency. It is always worth looking at the tractor, though, as its efficiency effects that of every piece of equipment attached to it, so the combined increase may be worth it even if another piece of equipment is a greater culprit overall.
Buying Farm Implements or Equipment on eBay
Whether you are looking for a plough, harrow, tractor, or even a spade, eBay is an excellent place to find any piece of farm equipment you might need. All you need to do is describe your needs in the search box, there is one on every page, and let the results come up. Once you have your results on-screen, you can use the filters in the sidebar to narrow them down to just the ones that meet your requirements. You can filter by price, condition, even make or seller location. Then once you have limited your results to those best suited to your needs, you can use the sort function to arrange them so those that are most attractive to you appear at the top of the screen.
After you have a good idea of which implements to buy, your next step is to check out the sellers, and the best place to do that is their profile page. You can see everything from their feedback to location in one spot. Some sellers also have specific policies about bundling multiple purchases or letting local buyers pick things up in person.
Every farmer is concerned about the efficiency of their farm. Inefficiency costs them money whether in lost productivity or in increased costs, and no business owner is in a position to waste money like that. One of the most important areas of concern for a farmer seeking to improve the efficiency of a farm is the equipment they use. Farmers use different pieces of equipment and different implements every day, and using them efficiently and appropriately is the key to modern farming. Perhaps the single most important piece of equipment is the tractor, as so many other implements depend on it. The more efficiently a farmer is able to employ their tractor, whether in terms of increasing production or lowering costs, the better off their farm is. As with anything else, efficiency starts with knowledge. A farmer has to know which implements provide the greatest returns in productivity, and which equipment costs the least to run. By combining this knowledge, and choosing appropriately, any farmer can run a more efficient farm.