22 September 2016

Draft horse gear

Found at Modern Farmer.  Those interested should read Harness the Power of Draft Horses.
Cheaper than tractors, draft horses will toil for 30 to 40 hours a week on a simple diet of grass and hay, then export fertile manure—instead of guzzling fossil fuels and belching diesel exhaust...

In other words, horse-powered farming requires serious patience. Draft horses may be on the verge of a hipster renaissance, but dilettantes may find their romantic fantasies bumping up against the challenges of managing one-ton beasts. “Horses are not tractors with tails,” Volz cautions. “They need constant attention.” Instead of turning a key and pressing a gas pedal, Stephen Leslie of Cedar Mountain Farm in Hartland, Vermont, devotes about 45 minutes to readying his Fjords each morning: feeding and grooming; shoveling manure; plucking stones from hooves; getting the gang harnessed and hitched to a plow...

Expect to pay at least $2,000 for a trained horse, and count on a team of two animals for every two acres in intensive cultivation—up to 14 acres total (anything larger, and equine-fueled agriculture becomes impractical)...
Much more at the link.


  1. I'm curious. My family on both sides farmed "square 40's" for cotton by plowing mules. As far as I know, they only had two mules. This article suggests two animals for every two acres? I don't see how that is correct unless mules were seriously, seriously over-worked back in the day.

  2. I was raised on a farm. We did not use draft animals. However, I have a detailed sense of what farming is and the variety of issues, variables and factors involved from soil type (sandy, loam, clay each different and different to plow). All plows are not the same. A harrow plow is larger and easy to pull, a moldboard cuts deep and turns the soil over each plow requires different power requirements and covers different areas. No 'square 40' farmer would till and plant 40 acres of cotton year after year. Crops must be rotated, land must rest and be restored. Anyone trying to generalize all plowing and tilling just does not have any experience with farming. Just Google 'how many acres can a mule, horse ect plow and find many answers based on different locals, soil type, crop grown ect.
    From Farm Collector:

    In plowing that 40-acre field with a 12-inch walking plow (the standard size for two horses), our sturdy farmer (not to mention his faithful team of horses, mules or oxen) would have to walk 330 miles, and that doesn't include getting to and returning from the field. http://www.farmcollector.com/farm-life/miles-per-acre

    1. I'm not sure if they planted cotton every year, but I'm about 80% sure that they did. I also know that they only had two mules to work the land. So, ignorant or not, that's what they did in the early 1900's up to the 1950's or so around here.

  3. Oh lordie, and please don't buy two draft horses and their tack without any clue at all about horses, draft or otherwise. Go hang out with some teamsters for 6 months, first. Yes, even if you had horses when you were a kid, even if you rode more than you walked. Draft teams and pulling is a whole different paradigm.

  4. I'm reminded of the manure crisis of 1894: http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofBritain/Great-Horse-Manure-Crisis-of-1894/

  5. The Amish (Pennsylvania Dutch) are still farming in this manner. It ain't easy. I now have six horses. None are Drafts, but I can share that size does not matter. The smallest horses I have are the hardest to handle and will knock you on your butt, given the chance. I believe that now the allure is sustainable; not relying on fossil fuels to get your farming done.


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