How practice can get you to finals

30 July 1999

Its all a matter of course for teacher

AT the final, William Richmond will be performing much the same tasks for which he gets paid for as a machinery instructor at Greenmount College in Northern Ireland.

As an instructor for 18 months, his work includes helping students with machinery driving skills and basic repair and maintenance.

His main courses include BTEC National Diplomas and Certificates in agricultural engineering with occasional involvement with HND students.

When not instructing would-be operators on correct machinery handling, he works on his fathers 68ha (170-acre) dairy farm, near Coleraine.

After graduating from Huddersfield with an HND in mechanical engineering, he started work with Matbro – firstly in production and eventually into sales.

Entrance to the Tractor Driver of the Year competition followed his success in the Northern Ireland ploughing championships.

"I was overjoyed after qualifying for the finals – I thought my chances were small because some of the tasks were not completed," says Mr Richmond.

By coming second in the ploughing championships and qualifying for the finals, success so far seems to be on a roll. It remains to be seen whether this success can be perpetuated at Silsoe.

How practice can get you to finals

EXPERIENCE operating a diversity of machinery is claimed to be farmworker John Rustons secret weapon for the finals.

With the attitude that practice makes perfect, it is the first time he has got through to the finals in four years of entering the competition.

"At last years semi-finals, I came very close to the finals and only missed out by a couple of points," says Mr Ruston.

His particular strength at this years semis, he reckons, was the theory and fertiliser spreader set up with particular attention paid to health and safety.

Clearly, the health and safety knowledge is gained from operating a wide range of machinery on a large estate near Malton, North Yorks.

Using a John Deere 6800 with a trailed Chafer sprayer, one of Mr Rustons major jobs is to spray some 4858ha (12,000 acres) of estate land every season.

When he is not spraying, the summer months are spent in the cab of a Case Axial Flow combine, harvesting about 484ha (1200 acres) of cereals.

Autumn and again he sits behind the wheel of the Deere 6800 with a 6m Accord drill on the back.

During winter, he is based at the farms 1000 strong beef herd unit feeding and mucking out with a JCB 540 telehandler.

Mr Ruston admits to putting a high premium on the right machinery, rather than operating kit just to get the job done.

In the past he has operated New Holland combines, Case and Massey Ferguson tractors and a Caterpillar telehandler.

However, Mr Ruston predicts he might be a bit rusty on ploughing, considering he has been out of the furrow for several years.

"Although ploughing might be a weakness, hopefully my machinery knowledge and experience might win at the end of the day," he says.

Concluding our two-part profile of this years Tractor Driver

of Year competition, we spoke to two finalists – one from

Northern Ireland and the other from North Yorkshire

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