By John Keast
The air shakes when the tractor starts.
It is the effect of 520 horsepower.
Peter Butterick is in the driver’s seat.
The Wakanui farmer is part of an unusual challenge – and he has the gear for the job.
The New Zealand Ploughing Championships will be held at Wilkinson’s Farm, Wilkinson’s Road, Chertsey, on May 11 and 12.
The competition will feature the country’s best ploughmen and women – and a working display of some of New Zealand’s biggest tractors and ploughs.
That is where Mr Butterick comes in.
He will take out his Canadian-made Versatile 520, the 520 representing its horsepower.
It has dual wheels on each corner, throbs when it runs, and, says Mr Butterick, is very comfortable.
With a 12-furrow conventional plough behind – Mr Butterick will take that, too – he could, if he wanted, turn over five hectares an hour.
That won’t be necessary at Chertsey, with Mr Butterick joining Roger Smith Contracting and May Bros in providing the grunt for a unique challenge – turning a sprayed-off paddock into a sown paddock in one fell swoop.
The whole job from whoa to go will take about an hour, give or take a furrow or two.
Three big ploughs will turn the soil, then it will be cultivated, then sown.
John Hall, a member of the ploughing committee, does not think it has been done before.
The action is timed to start around 2.45pm, and 4ha will be worked and sown each day.
The grass-to-barley challenge will be an added attraction to the ploughing, where local ploughmen will pit their skills against the best in the country.
Local competitors include Jess Cunliffe, of Ashburton and Matt Ridge, of Methven, who will compete in the Young farmer section; John Booth, of Ashburton, who will plough in the horse section; Pearce Watson, of Tinwald, who will compete in the vintage section with Maurice Millar, also of Ashburton.