European Ploughing Championships set to get underway at Shakelton Barracks in Ballykelly

The European Ploughing Championships will be held at Ballykelly

The European Ploughing Championships get underway at Shakelton Barracks in Ballykelly on Friday (2 September).

This year over 100 competitors are set to compete in seven different categories: World Style Reversible, World Style Conventional, Vintage Class, Horse Class and Horse Style and Appearance Class. 

Northern Ireland ploughmen will test their skills against rivals from France, Denmark, Swirzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, England, Wales, Scotland, the Republic of Ireland and the Isle of Man.

The Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster will also be in attendance as they compete in fencing and soil assessment competitions; alongside a range of entertainment traders, including bouncy castles, slides, and a rodeo bull.

Dai Kennedy will be competing on a MF135 tractor and Ransome TS86 plough

71-year-old Listooder farmer Dai Kennedy will be competing on a MF135 tractor and Ransome TS86 plough.

“Ploughing was always something I did with my father, he was heavily involved in the Listooder and District Ploughing Society. He passed away when I was 13 but his interest and enjoyment of it has always stuck with me,” he said.

“I think I was about 10 years old in the first match I ploughed in, but even then I was only steering the tractor. It really is something you fall in love with and it really stays with you.

“I last took part in the championships in 2019, just before the world was put on hold. It meant I drifted away from it a little bit. It makes me very proud to represent Northern Ireland in any way I can. It gives me a lift, no matter how well it goes. I enjoy it immensely and I’m looking forward to getting back to it after a long three years.”

Mercer Ward will use a Fordson Dexta Tractor and Ransome TS81

Hillsborough man Mercer Ward, 69, will be competing with a Fordson Dexta Tractor & Ransome TS81.

“Ploughing is a difficult task that needs a lot of practice, seeing as I’m not a farmer I try to better my skills by helping my three brothers on their farm with the silage and harvest. I’ll be trying to win, although it will be great to see everyone come to Northern Ireland.”

Mark Taggart ploughs on an International B250 tractor & Ransome RSLD N.12

Cogry based mechanical engineer Mark Taggart, 56, is set to take to the ploughs on an International B250 tractor & Ransome RSLD N.12.

“When I was younger, I would always join my uncle in ploughing matches, vintage ploughing matches in particular, and the atmosphere was always great fun. Experiencing that up-close from such a young age is really what got me interested in taking part myself,” he said.

“My uncle's encouragement, coaching and passing on of his skills has had a big impact on my own ploughing experiences. I’m just looking forward to producing the best plot of the day, keeping the conditions in mind. It’s all about making the best of it.”