Draft Animal Power for Farming


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Draft Animal Power for Farming

  1. 1. Draft Animal PowerATTRA for Farming A Publication of ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service • 1-800-346-9140 • www.attra.ncat.orgBy Tracy Mumma Farmers may want to consider using draft horses, mules or oxen as an alternative to tractors for farmNCAT Program work and a means of reducing fuel costs. This publication briefly discusses some of the considerationsSpecialist and potential benefits involved in the use of animal power and offers resources for further information© 2008 NCAT and equipment. Introduction Leather harness creaks and chain jingles as the day’s lastContents wagonload of hay travels fromIntroduction .................... 1 the field to the stack. The pro-Overview of types, duction of this hay was a cho-uses and power rus of soft clicking, clacking,potential ............................ 1 creaking and jingling: it was Horses ............................ 1 cut, raked and loaded under Mules.............................. 1 the power of a team of draft Oxen ............................... 2 horses, with no internal com- Add-a-unit bustion engine involved. This flexibility ....................... 2 is not a memory from a hun- Photo by Tracy Mumma, NCAT Applications ................ 3 dred years ago, but a scene A ground-driven hay loader pulled by a team of Belgians loads loosePotential and benefits .. 4 from the most recent haying hay from the windrow onto a wagon.Considerations ................ 4 season in our own field. With Safety and fuel and equipment costs for farmers rising, primarily for freight hauling rather than suitability ..................... 4 and many farmers operating on small acre- field work. Brabants and other Old World Scarcity of ages, horses and other draft animals can heavy horses are also draft breeds suited to knowledge and equipment .......... 5 offer some farmers a practical and economi- farming, but are less readily available in theEquipment ........................ 5 cal source of farm power. United States. The Norwegian Fjord and theSummary ........................... 6 Haflinger are smaller horses of a draft bodyResources .......................... 7 Overview of types, uses type, suited to somewhat lighter work. and power potential Centuries of selective breeding contributed to calm dispositions among draft breeds that Horses make them comparatively easy to work with. Horses of any size can be trained to drive However, any prospective horse user must and can pull various sorts of equipment. recognize that temperament — and body For steady, day-in and day-out farm work, type — can vary tremendously by individ- though, draft horses or draft ponies are ual. Furthermore, bloodlines are no guar-ATTRA—National SustainableAgriculture Information Service preferable to lighter breeds. Their compact antee of working ability. Many a willingis managed by the National Cen- build and heavier bone structure give them and sturdy horse of no particular breed haster for Appropriate Technology(NCAT) and is funded under a the power and durability needed for field proven itself an outstanding worker.grant from the United StatesDepartment of Agriculture’s Rural work or heavy hauling. In general, AmericanBusiness-Cooperative Service. large breeds with body types most suited to MulesVisit the NCAT Web site (www.ncat.org/sarc_current. farm work include Belgians, Percherons Mules, a first-generation cross betweenphp) for more informa- and Suffolks. The Clydesdales and Shires, a horse and a donkey, are another popu-tion on our sustainableagriculture projects. other familiar draft breeds, were developed lar draft animal. Depending largely on the
  2. 2. Farming draft horse characteristics mouth, oxen in the United States typically wear a yoke that transfers pulling power Common weights 1,400 – 2,100 pounds from their neck region and the driver steers Typical shoe size 5 to 8 them by tapping them on the side, with Desirable temperament Calm and willing voice commands or by using a rope around Desirable bone structure Thick neck, wide chest, sturdy legs the horns. Unless the oxen are very respon- Reaches full adult size and Age 5 sive, it may be difficult to achieve the preci- weight sion directional control needed for applica- tions such as cultivation. Potential working lifespan Approximately 15 years; ages 3-18 A common yoke setup for oxen is generally heritage of their horse parent, mules come far less expensive than harness for horses in all shapes and sizes. Finding mules with and may even be home fabricated. Oxen the bone structure and build for heavy work are most often worked as a team, in part may be a challenge in some parts of the because the presence of another animal country, where riding mules are more pop- tends to have a calming effect. ular than draft mules. Is one horse a horsepower?Related ATTRA Mules are known for their hardiness andPublications strength. They have a strong sense of self- The term “horsepower” is somewhat mislead- preservation that prevents them from over- ing, since an individual horse can actually deliverEntertainment Farm- up to 27 horsepower in short bursts of power working, overeating or foundering, but caning and Agri-Tourism with instant maximum torque. For sustained, make it difficult to convince them to use hour-after-hour work, horsepower output will,Farm Energy Calcula- their strength on your behalf. Apart from of course, be lower. Different farm jobs requiretors: Tools for Saving their mindsets, hoof size and shape and har- different amounts and types of power, depend-Money on the Farm ness fit, the differences between horses and ing on the equipment being used and the soil mules in terms of draft power are slight. conditions. For example, the power needed for Throughout the remainder of this publica- tillage is directly related to soil conditions and tion, “horses” may be taken to mean either implement size and design. How much weight a horse can pull is heavily dependent upon the horses or mules. following conditions: • Is the animal in shape? Oxen Cattle trained as draft animals are called • Is it tired from a day of work? oxen. Theoretically any calf could be trained • Is the load on wheels or being skidded as a draft animal, though draft steers are along the ground? by far the most common. Dairy and mixed- • Does the harness fit properly? use breeds are more often used as oxen • Is the equipment in good working order? than beef breeds, perhaps because male dairy calves are comparatively inexpen- It’s not unusual for a horse in working shape to sive. Calves that will be used as oxen should be able to pull a load equal to its own weight be socialized to people as soon as possible along the ground—but not for a whole day. after birth, and training can begin when the calves are just a few months old. Their Add-a-unit flexibility pulling power is obviously limited until full Draft animals offer a unique flexibility growth is attained. in farm work. If you find you need more A fully grown ox can easily outweigh a draft horsepower to accomplish what you need to horse and can pull more weight. Oxen travel do on a daily basis, it’s comparatively sim- more slowly than horses and may be less ple to add another power unit. Horses may suited to some applications. In contrast to be worked single or in a hitch. Horses are horse harness, in which the animal’s pulling commonly worked as a team, which tends to power comes from the chest region and the create a synergy that lets them accomplish animal is controlled by means of a bit in its more work. By modifying hitch and harnessPage 2 ATTRA Draft Animal Power for Farming
  3. 3. arrangements, it’s fairly easy to add a third means for using many smaller-scale modernor fourth power unit. It’s theoretically pos- farm implements right off the shelf.sible to go on increasing the hitch size nearly Like tractors, draft animals can provideinfinitely, but the power advantage is rapidly the motive power for preparing seed beds,diminished by reduced maneuverability and planting and cultivating row crops. Theycontrol, not to mention cost. Though 50- may also be used for preparing fields, plant-horse hitches were not unheard of in days ing, cultivating and harvesting agronomic orbefore tractors became common in West- field crops. Draft animals can provide powerern wheat-producing regions, today large for cutting, raking and baling or loose-stack-hitches are more of a publicity stunt than a ing hay. They may also be used for pasturepractical power source. A working hitch of seeding and clipping.four horses is common. A hitch of six is lesscommon, but not unusual. Larger working Draft animals are used on many livestockhitches are rare enough to be newsworthy. operations for hauling or distributing feed. They can play an on-farm transportationHorses can be hitched either in teams of role for feed, harvested produce or buildingtwo with one in front of the other — this is supplies. They can provide motive power forreferred to as “up,” as in a four-up or six- mobile poultry coops,up hitch — or side by side, which is called hog pens and sheep“abreast” as in a four-abreast or six-abreast. or calf shelters. Land-An up hitch requires the driver to have a owners with woodlotsset of lines for each team, which rapidly may use draft animalbecomes a confusing tangle of leather in power for movingthe driver’s hands. Alternatively, an abreast firewood or haulinghitch of more than four may be too wide logs for constructionto move through gates and too wide to turn or sale.easily for field work. Some farmers and Photo by Tracy Mumma, NCATA small-scale operation such as a market ranchers have found Forecarts like thesegarden might need just one or two horses that adding draft animals to their operations manufactured by Pio-for the full range of work. A larger row-crop opens a profitable agri-tourism opportunity. neer Equipment can helpor small field-crop operation might use two For example, pairing hayrides with U-pick farmers use many differ-or three horses. Mid-size field crop opera- ent types of implements Halloween pumpkins, flowers, apples or other with draft horse power.tions that use tractor-adapted machinery produce can draw many additional custom- See page 6.may need four or more horses in order to ers. See the ATTRA publication Entertain-perform most jobs. Alternatively, any opera- ment Farming and Agri-Tourism for moretion might consider using just a single team information on the considerations involved infor lighter fieldwork and saving the tractor inviting the public to your farm.for the heaviest work. On some operations, draft animals could provide power for processing operationsApplications such as oilseed, olive or grape crushing,Despite what skeptics may say, draft animals grain separation or other tasks. A piececan perform a full range of farm duties. of equipment called a “horsepower” usesAfter all, draft animals were the primary draft animal power to generate electricity.motive power on most farms for centuries The equipment for powering operationsbefore tractors replaced them. But farm- like these with animals can be difficult toing with animals doesn’t necessarily mean a obtain in the United States. Unless you planreturn to the technologies and working con- to design, build and maintain the special-ditions of centuries ago. Many horse farm- ized equipment yourself, processing anders use cutting-edge technologies and imple- generating probably aren’t the most prac-ments. A forecart, or even a power forecart, tical applications for draft animals. On thepulled by draft animals can provide the other hand, animal-powered processing is awww.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 3
  4. 4. unique niche that’s almost sure to draw a piece of machinery can do. However, even crowd’s attention to your operation. an enthusiast does well to consider that breeding and training animals are entirely Potential and benefits different propositions from working with already trained stock. Draft animals can offer farmers the advan- tage of a low initial investment in farm The chief benefit of working with draft ani- motive power compared to the purchase of mals may be their sheer appeal. Some farm- even a relatively small tractor. A prospec- ers find it especially fulfilling to work daily tive horse farmer can spend a great deal with a human-scale, living and breathing of money on registered stock, harness and partner rather than a machine. And draft equipment. But it’s also possible to obtain animals at work have a traffic-stopping perfectly serviceable trained animals, used appeal for the public that can build farm harness and functional equipment at reason- brand recognition and consumer loyalty able prices. If saving money by using draft more effectively than any paid advertising. animals is your motivation, you may be able to do so. Just don’t cut corners on safety Considerations in the interest of cutting cost. For a novice operator, a well-trained animal is well worth Safety and suitability the cost. Sturdy, complete harness is vital. Not every steer is suited by temperament One advantage of using draft animals as to be an ox and not every horse is suited to farm power is that their fuel can all be gen- work in harness. Similarly, not every farm erated on-farm. Opinions vary on whether worker is suited by temperament to be a working horses should be fed grass or alfalfa teamster. If either the animal or the han- hay and supplemented with oats or corn. dler is forced into the job, the potential for The point is that all of these feeds can be accident and injury to both increases expo- produced locally, if not on the farm itself. nentially. The best results are achieved Unlike a tractor, draft animals fit in to the by teamsters who are using draft animals nutrient cycle of a farm, utilizing local inputs because they want to, not because they feel and providing an output of power with a fer- they have to. And the best production is tilizer byproduct. achieved by animals that are willing to work and not spending more energy fighting the Draft animals can be exceptionally flexible handler than doing the job. in application. For example, the same team of horses can plow and plant in spring, cul- Some people who use draft animals joke tivate in summer, haul in the fall harvest of that their motivation is that “they start crops and firewood and feed livestock and every time, unlike my tractor.” It’s true offer sleighrides in winter. Once the team is that draft animals perform well even in cold in harness, it’s as efficient to use them for a weather, when machinery is hard to start. little task as a big one since they’re not burn- But it’s vital to remember that an animal, ing any more fuel. Maneuverable horses can turn within their own length and they’re a power unit that easily moves from one task to another and one place to another. In the long view, some draft animals are even capable of producing their own replace- ments in the form of offspring, something no Working horses require hoof care every eight weeks on average and may need shoes depending on the type of work and the terrain. Finding professionals accustomed to serving the health needs of draft ani- mals can be unexpectedly challenging. Photo by Tracy Mumma, NCATPage 4 ATTRA Draft Animal Power for Farming
  5. 5. unlike a machine, has maintenance needs power needs spread throughout the growingeven when it’s not being used. Though the season — or better yet, throughout the yearinputs required may be comparatively low in — draft animals may fit in well.cost, draft animals will need to be fed andwatered all year long. It comes as a surprise Scarcity of knowledge andto some people that a working draft horseconsumes considerably more feed than a equipmentpastured riding horse. Furthermore, horses One of the challenges farmers face in put-and other working animals need regular foot ting draft animals to work today is a lack ofcare, veterinary care and properly fitted general knowledge about farming with ani-harness. And, like any high-performance mals and a lack of equipment designed forathlete, draft animals need conditioning if use with animal power. In most communi-they’re going to provide peak output for any ties in the United States there is a knowl-length of time. edge gap of generations. Few people have direct experience in farming with horsesUnlike a tractor, a draft animal may not and if you run into difficulties you can’t callcome out of its winter “storage” in the same the dealer for advice or take your team in tocondition you put it away. It may need some the nearest mechanicre-training, or at least a refresher in obey- for a tune up. Fortu-ing the driver’s commands. An animal that nately for beginners,has been pastured for months will need to there are courses onease in to a work routine to tone muscles driving draft animalsbefore it’s ready for a full day of field work. — some specific toWorking animals regularly throughout the farm applications —year helps minimize these potential prob- offered in many partslems. Ideally draft animals will have some of the country. Somekind of work to do year-round, rather than of these are listed in Photo by Tracy Mumma, NCATjust seasonally, to keep them mentally and the Resources section A team of Belgians pullphysically fit. of this publication. It’s well worth learning a restored antique sickleIn any day of working with animals, it’s tricks of the trade from someone with expe- bar mower.important to recognize that they’re not rience, whether in a formal course or with amachines. Animals need to warm up in the personal mentor. Inexperienced animals andmorning or after a long break to avoid injury an inexperienced driver can be a dangerouswhen they tackle a hard job. They need rest combination, particularly when farm equip-breaks when they’re doing a hard job and ment is involved.breaks for feed and water. And animals can Even more-experienced farmers frequentlybe unpredictable. There are days when even face challenges finding and using appropri-the best-trained animal feels cranky and is a ate animals and equipment. Some of thechallenge to work with. resources listed at the end of the publica- tion are invaluable when local knowledge orDraft animals can be extremely versatile and help is unavailable.they can accomplish a great deal of work.But they are slower than large farm equip-ment. If you’re used to working at a high Equipmentspeed with power equipment, working with After obtaining the animals, the next chal-animals will require a different mindset. If lenge the prospective draft animal farmeryou have a large-scale or single-crop oper- faces is finding equipment. Both leatheration with a critical short time window for harness and various synthetic options forplanting, cultivating or harvesting, draft ani- horses and mules are readily available bymal power may not be a good match for mail order nationwide. Periodicals in theyour needs. If, on the other hand, you have Resources section below list and advertisea small-scale or very diverse operation with numerous suppliers. Used harness is alsowww.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 5
  6. 6. frequently available. However, used harness isn’t always a bargain and may pose a very real safety risk if the leather has been weak- ened by poor maintenance or decades of storage in marginal conditions. Many wrecks and runaways have been caused by inade- quate harness that failed at an inopportune moment and could have been avoided by testing strap strength, maintaining leather and replacing worn hardware. Photo by Tracy Mumma, NCAT People who want to farm with animals have Belgians four abreast pull a power forecart and mod- three options when it comes to finding farm ern tractor-adapted mower. equipment: pins. Some major equipment manufacturers • Restored or preserved antiques are listed in the Resources section below. • New innovations for draft animal farming Resourceful teamsters have also found suc- • Adaptations of tractor-based equipment cess in adapting equipment designed for Finding workable antique horsedrawn tractors for use with animals. Forecarts offer equipment from an ever-shrinking pool is the teamster a place to ride and provide a increasingly challenging everywhere and hitch for three-point or drawbar imple- a special challenge in locations without a ments. Power forecarts, also called power- recent horse-farming history. Once antique carts, have an engine used to power imple- equipment is obtained, there’s usually ments that would ordinarily be powered by another challenge in restoring it to work- a tractor’s power take-off. With a forecart, ing order. Fortunately owner’s manuals for many tractor-designed implements will work many pieces of equipment are available, with animal motive power. A few consider- either as reprints from specialty publish- ations are key: ers, online from collectors or in some cases • The scale of the implement relative to from the archives of the original manufac- the number of animals that will pull it turer. Surprisingly, some manufacturers and the land area to be covered. still offer replacement parts for horsedrawn farm implements they haven’t manufactured • The point of balance when the imple- for decades. There are also businesses that ment is under load. Does it excessively specialize in either used or newly manufac- weigh down the animal’s neck? tured replacement parts for popular models • The minimum operating speed required of horsedrawn equipment. for the implement. Animals can move In recent years the growing scarcity of quickly, but they do tire and their speedA team of Percheron antique horsedrawn equipment has led a may not be as steady as the speed ofhorses pulls a working few companies into the manufacture of new machinery over uneven terrain or whileantique grain binder in a farm equipment designed specifically for cornering.field of oats. use with animal power. While this new equip- Summary ment has a higher up- A farmer with patience, flexibility and inge- front cost than derelict nuity may find that draft animals fit well into — or even working-order the farming operation and offer the means — antique equipment, it to save on some fuel and equipment costs often offers design fea- and to meet farm power needs with on-farm tures that improve safety inputs. Working with horses or oxen as farm and performance, such motive power offers unique rewards along Photo by Tracy Mumma, NCAT as disc brakes or shear with particular challenges.Page 6 ATTRA Draft Animal Power for Farming
  7. 7. Resources demonstrations, exhibits, educational seminars and other related activities.Publications, organizations and Northeast Animal-Power Field Daysannual events www.animalpowerfielddays.org This comparatively young annual event held in Ver-Rural Heritage mont each fall offers training opportunities, presenta-P.O. Box 2067 tions and demonstrations, as well as a trade fair.Cedar Rapids, IA 52406www.ruralheritage.com Oxen: a Teamsters Guide Rural Heritage publishes a bimonthly journal in By Drew Conroy support of small farmers and loggers who use draft Storey Publishing, LLC horse, mule and ox power. Back issues are indexed ISBN: 978-1580176927 online, with the current issue and numerous other A well-respected, revised edition of the classic ox- resources also available online. training manual.Small Farmer’s Journal The ReachP.O. Box 1627 P.O. Box 932Sisters, OR 97759-1627 Kendallville, IN 467551-800-876-2893 (260) 347-8223(541) 549-2064 An annual directory of driving horse resource infor-www.smallfarmersjournal.com mation, including breed associations, show events This publishing company offers Small Farmer’s and equipment suppliers. Single copies are $7. Journal, a quarterly publication on all aspects of The Draft Horse Primer: A Guide to the Care small, independent farming. In addition, they pub- and Use of Work Horses and Mules lish several books by Lynn Miller on training and By Maurice Telleen using workhorses for farming, with titles such as The Rodale Press, 1977 Workhorse Handbook; Training Horses, Training ISBN O-87857-161-2, 397 p. Teamsters; Haying with Horses; Horsedrawn Plows www.fastonline.org/CD3WD_40/JF/417/06-240.pdf and Plowing; and Horsedrawn Tillage Tools. For [20.5M] the past several years, Small Farmer’s Journal has This well-known classic in the field of draft horses is sponsored an auction and swap meet of horsedrawn available online as a PDF. equipment and animals, held in April in Sisters, Ore. Harnessing and Implements for Animal Trac-Tillers International tion: An animal traction resource book for10515 East OP Avenue AfricaScotts, MI 49088 www.cd3wd.com/cd3wd_40/lstock/001/dap/1-800-498-2700 hness-impls.pdf(269) 626-0223 This 180-page online resource published in 1989www.tillersinternational.org contains in-depth explanations of the principles of Tillers International seeks to preserve, study and animal power and gives examples of many different exchange low-capital technologies that increase the types of harness for cattle and donkeys. Low-tech sustainability and productivity of people in rural tillage implements used in Africa are also illustrated communities worldwide. They offer courses, publi- and described. cations and equipment for using animal power and technologies, including both horses and oxen. Permanent Farming Systems Based on Animal Traction: Farmers HandbookHorse Progress Days www.cd3wd.com/cd3wd_40/lstock/001/dap/www.horseprogressdays.com antractionhandbook/index.htm Horse Progress Days is the annual showcase event This 183-page guide was published in 1995 and for newly manufactured and modified horsedrawn serves as a reference for people involved in agricul- equipment. The annual multi-day event is held in a ture in West Africa. It contains sections on draft cat- different location each year and usually features field tle and donkeys, as well as draft animal implementswww.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 7
  8. 8. and how they are used in an agricultural system. Harness Each chapter is online as a separate document. You may be fortunate enough to have a local harness maker or at least a harness dealer in your area. It’sSelected modern equipment worth checking your local phone book. A convenientlymanufacturers located harness maker is often a teamster’s best friendPioneer Equipment Inc. for a quick repair when breakdowns occur or modi-16875 Jericho Road fications are needed to accommodate a new piece ofDalton, OH 44618 machinery or a new animal. If you can’t find a local(330) 857-6340 source of harness, there are companies that serve a(330) 857-0296 FAX national market by mail order, including: Manufactures a broad line of horsedrawn wagons, Midwest Leather Co. forecarts, PTO carts, harrows, plows and eveners. 81202 Highway 70 Available from a network of local dealers or from the Beckwourth, CA 96129 manufacturer. 1-888-211-3047I & J Manufacturing Bowman Harness5302 Amish Road 6928 County Road 77Gap, PA 17527 Millersburg, OH 44654(717) 442-9451 (330) 763-5108(717) 442-8305 FAXwww.farmingwithhorses.com/threepointattachments.html Brodhead Collar Manufactures forecarts, including power and ground- Bloomfield, IA drive models. Also offers horsedrawn plows and a (641) 722-5222 range of three-point attachments for carts, such as www.brodheadcollar.com harrow, rototiller and mower. Draft Animal Power for Farming By Tracy Mumma NCAT Program Specialist © 2008 NCAT Holly Michels, Editor Robyn Metzger, Production This publication is available on the Web at: www.attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/draft_animal.html or www.attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/PDF/draft_animal.pdf IP335 Slot 332 Version 121608Page 8 ATTRA