24 July 1998

Contests make safer operator

IT is a case of so near yet so far for Alun Sing, who, for the second time in three years, finds himself in the final of the Tractor Driver of the Year competition.

"I felt I had done enough to clinch it in 1996," he says. "It must have been very close."

Mr Sing farms in conjunction with his father and brother on a 360ha (900-acre) farm at South Molton, North Devon. Main stock enterprises include 1100 breeding ewes, 60 suckler cows and 200 head of fattening cattle.

With so many mouths to feed it is no surprise that grass conservation is an essential operation and Mr Sing plays a key part in such operations as mowing and grass haulage.

But it is on the farms 100ha (250-acre) arable area which he applies his tractor driving skills to the full. Responsible for the vast majority of the cultivation work, he also drills the farms winter wheat, winter barley, oils seed rape and spring barley acreages.

Harvest sees him baling straw with a conventional baler – "There is a market for such bales to local stables," he points out – and for the first time this year, he has been designated night operator of the Class 86 combine.

"It will be a new experience for me," he says. "But if it helps get the harvest in on time then it will be time well spent."

Other key equipment extends to a Same 100 tractor – bought due to its ability to operate front-mounted machinery – a 2500-litre capacity Hardi trailed sprayer and a 3m Maschio/Accord combination drill complete with front press and bag lifter.

"At first sight, it might appear that we are over-tackled," says Mr Sing. "But the time we need to spend on the stock side means the time available for dedicated arable work can be limited."

So, what for the competition itself? Mr Sing feels confident that the experience has gained in earlier competitions – both through the Tractor Driver of the Year and his Young Farmer activities – should stand him in good stead for success in the final.

He concedes that although the £1000 prize money would be welcome, the real value of such events is in making tractor drivers aware of the correct and safe way of operating farm machinery.

"Tractor driving competitions have certainly made me a safer operator," he says. "It is something the all farmers and workers should consider entering."

Ploughing, cultivating, drilling, baling – whatever the operation Alun Sing is responsible for it.