With combines rolling into winter barleys and oilseeds in the eastern arable heartlands this week and many other areas poised to start, it’s a busy time for combine service engineers and parts suppliers.

While many have checked pre-harvest stocks of wear parts such as filters, belts, sieves and knives, there’s always the likelihood of a major breakdown.

But suppliers are confident that modern supply chains and logistics can usurp any disaster literally overnight by calling on parts from centrally managed UK and even continental depots for next-day delivery.

The same cannot be said for farm businesses.

Whether the late arrival of SFP monies has stalled cashflow or not, there’s been a noticeable delay in having harvest equipment serviced before combining starts.

Late orders for pre-harvest checks and service parts to be held on farm premises have typified the start of the 2006 season, say dealers.

Thank goodness for the recent dry weather.

Wet crops and damp harvest conditions put more wear on harvest equipment and – it appears – some units could be stretched in these early weeks of harvest.

But there has been some activity on the sales front.

With new combines fitted with GPS, laser guidance, computer monitoring and the alike costing a budget-busting +£100,000 (see Machinery and Equipment), only the larger arable units and contract farming operations have been able to commit to new kit, say traders.

That was predicted. But the mixed farm with 200ha (500 acres) or thereabouts of cereals is still looking to upgrade with used kit, albeit to a more modest budget.

“The cheapest grain drier you’ll ever buy” as one dealer’s slogan ran when highlighting the need for a combine that offered capacity to mop up acres when moisture and quality were at their respective peaks.

With quality parameters for grain having such a major impact on sales revenues it’s hardly surprising most UK farmers are reluctant to relinquish the reliance on farm-owned combines for hired-in or contractors’ kit.

For last-minute advice dealers suggest operators check maintenance schedules are up-to-date, often recommending these be backed up by a pre-harvest inspection by a trained engineer costing as little as £200; small change should a major breakdown occur due to poor servicing.

Ensure on-farm stocks of filters, wear parts and lubricants are adequate to get through harvest unhindered, and that you have to hand the emergency contact numbers for local dealership engineers should the unexpected and untimely breakdown occur.

Don’t forget, Marketplace’s Spares and accessories has contacts for every eventuality from belting to combine breakers.