Tuesday, 09 April 2024 13:55

Practice, practice, practice as NZ Champs near

Written by  Adam Fricker
Waikato ploughmen Paul Houghton (left) and his son Derek Houghton preparing for the NZ National Ploughing Championships, set for April 13-14 Waikato ploughmen Paul Houghton (left) and his son Derek Houghton preparing for the NZ National Ploughing Championships, set for April 13-14

The mood is relaxed as father and son ploughmen Paul and Derek Houghton get some practice in, but when the national championship starts this Saturday it will be a different story.

The Power Farming New Zealand Ploughing Championships are being hosted by the Waikato ploughing club on April 13 and 14, and the scene at the Houghton’s property, near Gordonton, will be repeated all around the country this week as ploughing competitors get their eye in, and dial in their ploughs – whether they be competing in the conventional, reversible, vintage or horse categories.

Paul has got a head-start on son Derek: he’s already ploughed a few acres by the time Derek gets his newly-painted 2-furrow Kverneland conventional match plough in the ground for the first time. Paul uses a very similar plough and the Houghton’s have a mill and lathe on which they do their own modifications and fabrication.

The modifications are based on a design common with competition ploughs, allowing for quick and accurate adjustment of the mouldboard settings – and allowing for greater control over the furrow. In a competition, time is short so the less time spent getting off and on the tractor to adjust your settings, the better.

Judges will be looking for accuracy. Rows have to be dead straight and parallel, depths at the required minimum, width of both furrows equal, and across the whole plot, the width must be a consistent all the way along. Judge Linda Guy – wife of Waikato club stalwart John Guy – was present when Rural News visited, offering some advice, and promising to be “hard but fair” on competition day.

As Paul says, practice is going to be crucial. There are two official practice days as part of the competition, but the more hours on the tractor, the better. “You get one chance in a match. So you’ve got to get your settings spot on beforehand.”

He’s had plenty of experience, winning four national champs in the Vintage class – most recently in 2022 at Marlborough – and a few seconds and thirds. When he competed in the 2016 World Championship in England, he was lucky enough to be there for a month prior to the event, practicing every day with a borrowed tractor and mounted vintage plough. In a global field of 24 competitors, he finished 7th overall and 6th in class.

Derek Houghton FBTW

Derek Houghton on a Power Major gets his modified conventional plough in the ground for the first time, a week prior to the NZ Ploughing Championships.

This year, Paul and Derek will both be competing against each other in a field of 13 in the Conventional class – Paul pulling his Kverneland with a David Brown 995 and Derek using a restored Power Major. The basic technology of a conventional plough is similar to that of a vintage plough, says Paul, but it is more adjustable, and has a few differences such as skimmers, which leave a clean edge on the furrow, burying any trash. “If you can master a vintage plough, in some ways the conventional is easier to get a good result with. You get your workmanship dialled in.”

It is common in competitive ploughing for the love of the sport to pass down the generations within families. Derek Houghton followed in his father’s footsteps, starting in the vintage class, and has competed in the conventional class for the last four years, this being his second national championship.

“I’d been involved in contracting and farm work for a number of years, and was always interested in the machinery, so decided to give the ploughing a go.”

He’s now on the organising committee as a member of the host club for the national event, which is run by the NZ Ploughing Association. He says they’ve done all the groundwork for the event, putting in place a health & safety plan and sorting out the traffic management requirements, to name just a couple of the items on the ‘to do’ list.

Derek says while there is definitely a rivalry between the ploughers once the competition proper begins, they all still want to help each other improve. 

“It’s a nice community to be part of. We all see each other at the various events. It’s a relatively small sport in NZ, but we’re all trying to help new people get started – it’s good for the sport.

“The Waikato ploughing club welcomes new members and has a conventional match plough available for those who want to give it a go and to help newcomers get started.”

 

2024 NZ PLOUGHING CHAMPIONSHIPS

DATES & DETAILS

Saturday April 13 and 14

Gates open 9am – 4pm

264 Crawford Road, Horotiu

$15 per person

Children under 14 years free

Food trucks and trade sites

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