NORTHERN Ireland competitor Thomas Cochrane is hoping ploughing will be one of the tasks at this years Tractor Driver of the Year final.
And that confidence in his ploughing ability is certainly justified. The Co Londonderry farmer/contractor started match ploughing 18 years ago, at the age of 11, and has represented his country at the world ploughing championships on four occasions – in the Netherlands (1991), Norway (1992), Sweden (1993) and New Zealand (1994).
This experience of competition in front of an audience will be invaluable when it comes to the Silsoe Research Institute final, says Mr Cochrane.
"It is very different to working at home on the farm. There are extra stresses and pressure involved."
When not match ploughing Mr Cochrane works with his father, William, on the 90ha (220-acre) family farm near Coleraine, where they run a 200-ewe flock. But main income is from a small contracting business which carries out double-chop forage harvesting with a Kidd flail harvester, round baling with a Welger fixed chamber machine and cultivation work. The tractor fleet comprises two 80hp Case IH models – a 1494 and 895 – and a 100hp Zetor 10145.
Because the farms arable land is rented out, Mr Cochrane has little experience of crop spraying. He says this could be a problem should spraying be one of the tasks at the Tractor Driver final.
"It means I will have to do a bit more homework on spraying before the final. But then reading up on the theory is important for all aspects of the competition, particularly for the legal and safety questions."
To help with his pre-final preparation Mr Cochrane is fortunate to have an experienced ally. Fellow countryman and neighbouring farmer Alan Pattison is a seasoned Tractor Driver of the Year campaigner and was a runner-up in 1992. He encouraged Mr Cochrane to enter this years event and has offered advice along the way to the final.
"It all started with a chat over a drink. I certainly never expected to reach the final. But now that I have I am looking forward to it," Mr Cochrane says.