24 July 1998

Homework plus research may make big difference to result

IN farming, few would argue against the fact that you are either a stock man or a machinery man.

Despite being a member of a family farming a 160ha (400-acre) mainly grass unit supporting 150 dairy cows and 100 pedigree Suffolk ewes, 23-year-old Russell Morgan considers himself to be a "machinery" man.

And it is a view which is hard to dismiss as he prepares to compete with some of the best tractor operators in the UK at the Siloe final of the Tractor Driver of the Year.

"I first entered this competition four years ago," he explains. "It was a good experience and one which encouraged me to have another go last year. Getting into the final this time is something I have worked for."

One could question just how Mr Morgan has attained such a degree of machinery skill. That is, until it is known he spent a year in Australia harvesting grain using some of the largest Case and John Deere combines.

Experience also comes from being responsible for the cultivation of the farms forage maize area which extends to 28ha (70 acres), a duty which involves ploughing and preparing the land ready for contractors to drill and eventually harvest the crop.

Two Case tractors – an 844 and a 4230 – form the backbone of the tractor fleet while a JCB telehandler sees daily use both around the yards and in the fields.

When not farming, Mr Morgan is an enthusiastic member of Usk Young Farmers Club, which he has attended for the past 10 years.

Clearly, the impending final is not being taken lightly. "Homework and research into machinery operation could make a big difference to the result," he says. And, on a more pensive note he adds: "Being involved in competitions such as the Tractor Driver of the Year does affect the way you handle machinery at home. Am I doing this correctly? – is a question I often ask myself when working with machinery."

Well, he clearly was at the semi-final stage – time will tell for the final. &#42

Stockman or machinery man? Russell Morgan unquestionably puts himself in the latter camp.