Farming with horses??

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by travlnusa, Mar 8, 2005.

  1. travlnusa

    travlnusa Well-Known Member

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    I saw a post on another board, and really thought it would be better suited here.

    With the price of gas going as it is, does anyone here farm with horses to one degree or another?

    Figure using a tractor for plowing etc, but I know you can buy modern equipment designed to work with a team, mostly hay equipment that I have seen.
     
  2. country friend

    country friend country friend

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    No I do not farm with horses but when the weather is nice my wife and I do use are horse and buggy to enjoy the many country roads and small town .
    I do have a work horse I bought this winter but have not had a chance to do much with her yet but I might try to do some loging and fire wood hauling with her this fall.
    Indiana Country Friend Jack Bunyard
     

  3. affenpinschermom

    affenpinschermom Well-Known Member

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    We log with horses and also use them for doing a little mowing and disking the garden. The logging has worked out really well for us. It is both economical and environmentally friendly. My husband has such a connection and relationship with his horses that you just don't have with a tractor!
     
  4. debitaber

    debitaber Well-Known Member

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    we have horses, and one is trained for farm as well as buggy. I guess we will probably use them .
     
  5. Windy in Kansas

    Windy in Kansas In Remembrance

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    While it would be a blast to have the knowledge and equipment to farm with horses and do just that, I cannot imagine that it would be cheaper than using a tractor.

    How many days a year does a horse eat? Need grain when working hard? Shoes, trimming? Perhaps little cost for grain and hay if you are growing all of it, but do you have enough extra land to do so? Do you have adequate pasture? (edited for spelling--wrote it when tired)

    How many days per year do you have to add fuel to a tractor? Only when it is being used. Very little maintenance on a tractor if you are not using it for more acreage than horses could work.

    Do you have need for a power take off? Haven't see a horse with one yet.

    I hope to see other opinions on the cost of horses versus the cost of using a tractor. I'm assuming that each are already owned so no outlay for either. I've not been around horses so am viewing through speculation only.
     
  6. cashcrop

    cashcrop Well-Known Member

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    Not yet but, would like to!

    Another poster suggested it would be cheaper to own a tractor. Well, maybe and maybe not. One can buy a young draft horse for less than a suitable tractor and unlike the tractor a horse can reproduce itself. I figure that my 36hp tractor costs me about $175 a year just for routine maintenance of the hydraulic system and changing the engine oil.

    cashcrop
     
  7. Wanda

    Wanda Well-Known Member

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    $175 wouldn't provide footcare for a team for 12 months. Using horses because you like them is fine, but cheap they are not. That young horse may have a colt for you after a $2-500 stud fee is paid. Then you have harness to buy and that pesky little task of breaking them to the harness without the benifit of a broke horse to show them the way! Also you don't have to worry about finding the tractor dead in the pasture some morning from lightning strike, colic ,poisonus plant ect.
     
  8. tyusclan

    tyusclan Well-Known Member

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    Whether to farm with horses is a personal choice and the economics can be argued forever. Those who like horses can give many valid reasons to use them, such as reproducing themselves and growing your own fuel as has been stated. Many just like the time with their horses and the slower pace. They can hear the birds singing in the field and all sorts of things you miss when you're on a loud tractor.

    Then those who like tractor power have their own reasons, equally as valid. The wonderful thing is that we live in a time when you have a choice. A hundred and twenty years ago or so, no one had that choice. It was horse power or nothing. Nowadays you can use whichever you want.

    For anyone interested in horse farming and not familiar with it check out www.smallfarmersjournal.com. That's a website for a great magazine on small farming in general and horse farming in particular.
     
  9. Gary in ohio

    Gary in ohio Well-Known Member Supporter

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    My neighbor farms with horses, he has a couple of tractors but like to do a lot of work with horese.


    as for a cheaper alternative to rising fuel cost, I doubt you could make the case for most small farms. While plowing and planting with horses can be done with minimal fuss, Harvesting is much more difficult. How do you bale hay with just horses?

    For the small farmer who doesnt spend much time on tractor then fuel cost would be less than buying and keeping 2-4 draft horses.
     
  10. milkstoolcowboy

    milkstoolcowboy Farmer

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    There were a couple old-timers around here who farmed with horses, but they're gone now. Just the Amish doing it now and some English who like to do a bit of it for show.

    We stopped farming with horses about 50 years ago; just have the saddle horses for checking fence and working the beef cattle some.

    You can farm with horses, but unless you had very small acreage, you'd need probably 4 well-matched teams to farm much more than an 80. We always had at least 8 or 9 on our 150 acres, and my Dad worked on a farm out west where they had more than 40 mules. Plowing and discing is hard work for horses, and pulling the binder when it's close to 100 degrees can sap a team as well. Horse is just like a man -- if you're going to work all day, you gotta be in shape, get enough food to maintain your strength and be well-rested. Some of these big monsters who just stand around day after day would die if you tried to work them all day.

    By the time you bought your work horses, harness broke them and had them matched in teams, raised and/or bought their feed every day, bought all your tack and then acquired all the machinery you'd need (Keep in mind you'd be bidding for plows and dump rakes against those guys who want to paint them and put them in their yards), you'd have tidy sum invested.

    As for haying, even with tractors and modern equipment, haying is hard work. There aren't too many places hotter than up in the mow when you are peaking the hay and you're right up next to that tin roof when it's 90+ degrees.

    Not advocating it, but there are a couple different ways you can bale hay with horses. Obviously, you can have a team pulling a sickle mower, and then either use a dump rake or a side rake drawn by a team. Pull the hayloader and wagon with a team and pitch the loose hay off into a stack or drive-in mow or have another team on the hay fork. You could bring the loose hay up to a stationary baler run with an engine or build an old hay press out of planks, rope and a windlass and have a team walk round to draw up one end of the press until the hay was sufficiently compressed. Then you got a bale by wrapping wire around the compressed hay. There were also horse-drawn balers that had an engine on them that could be used in the field, but you typically had to fork the hay into these as well.

    Even when you farmed with horses, you still used stationary engines to power the threshing machine, the silage cutter, sawmill.
     
  11. Phantomfyre

    Phantomfyre Black Cat Farm Supporter

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    "Do you have need for a power take off? Haven't see a horse with one yet."

    What, you've never seen a seriously spooked horse take off? I'd say that's a power take off! :haha: (Sorry, I couldn't help myself...)

    Probably the economics of keeping horses on a small farm instead of a tractor doesn't make a lot of sense. BUT - gas prices ARE going up, and will continue to do so. Also, factor in the cost of the pollution (air, noise, possibly soil - where does the used oil and hydraulic fluid go after you change it?) and, if you enjoy horses, add in the pleasure of keeping them around even when they're not being obviously useful, and you may have an equation that adds up for you.

    If you have an Amish community in the area, you will be more likely to find horse-powered implements and necessary supplies, and might be able to get them used for a reasonable cost. May also be able to pick up the horses themselves from the Amish, possibly already trained to work/pull. Or, if not, you might be able to work out a deal with someone who will do the training for you at a reasonable cost or in trade.

    Me, I'm a horse person who has 2 of them on the property for no other reason than I enjoy them. The $ cost is worth it to me for the emotional benefit to me. I keep the costs in check by trimming their hooves myself (saves money and I think I do a better job because I'm willing to spend a little extra time on it, don't have to wait on the farrier, can keep their hooves in better condition more consistently (I trim every 3-4 weeks vs. 6-8 weeks between farrier visits)), doing some work in exchange for hay, good pasture maintenance, etc. They relieve stress and provide entertainment. The mare has arthritis, so her ridability is limited to "good days," and the gelding is trained to harness (small cart and some pulling) but he is 28 years old, so even if I had a little cart, we wouldn't go far. But at the end of a long day, to watch them peacefully grazing, or to spend time playing with them (both are trick-trained, which is pretty much totally useless, but REALLY FUN :p ), their presence here is invaluable.

    If the benefits to you include non-dollar figures, it might be worth it. If actual dollar cost is the primary concern, the tractor probably wins, and it won't require feed twice a day, every day.

    Just my $.02,
    Diana
     
  12. tyusclan

    tyusclan Well-Known Member

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    There are companies coming out with new horse-drawn equipment all the time. Horse Progres Days happens every year around July 4th week and showcases all kinds of new stuff. There's even one company that converts pto hay balers to ground-drive. They have the gear reduction down to the point that by the time the horses have taken the second step the baler is turning at pto speed. It's pretty amazing.
     
  13. Lrose

    Lrose Well-Known Member

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    Greetings from Nova Scotia!
    My husband turned 60 yrs today and has farmed all his life with horses. he started out on a dairy farm. Later his dad got tractors but Bill still prfered the horses. We have been married 27 yrs this year and have always had a horse to work with . The same horse gave buggy and horseback rides. In 27 yrs. we only had four. The first was half Shetland pony and half quarter horse. We bought him when he was four and a half and he died at 29yr. I paid $200 for him.
    The second horse we made a trade for. She was Arabian. We bred her to a small Belgum. Paid for that breeding by trading vegetables. The colt grew up but was too fast for a work horse so we sold him for $1700.
    Then we bought a work horse; part Clydesdale for $700. which we have now.
    We never have bought horse feed. We grow our own hay, grow mangels and keep our pastures up in shape. All our horse equipment was recycled old machienery no one wanted. Bill rebuilt it. The harnesses were other people's cast aways that he cut down and and remade with rivets for fasteners.
    We do our own vet work, feet trimming. Shoes are only used when the horse has to travell to the woods five miles away. New shoes were $3 a piece and $4 to have them welded to build them up to suit the horse.

    We did pay $250 for a manure spreader a few years ago as it was part of someones antique collection. We figure in the past 27 yrs. we spent about $ 1700 on horses and ,care and equipment. That is as much as we sold the one horse for. I forgot we also sold the mare for $400.

    My father-in-law spent $400 for his first tractor, $1500 for the second and $25000. for the third!! They had to have repair which he did' but he still had to have fuel and replace tires,. When he sold his farm the government charged him alot of tax on the tractor because it was tax exempt when he was farming with it.Also the equipment for the tractor was very expensive.

    Ofcourse everyone has their own preference but Bill says work is alot more pleasant with the horse. Atleast he can talk to the horse! Have a nice day Linda
     
  14. tooltime

    tooltime Border Ruffian

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    Not to be splitting hairs, but saw mills and threshing machines were running off of steam power over 130 years ago, and they had steam powered tractors, but they weren't very practical.

    There's lots of new horse-drawn equipment, a lot of it using hitch carts. Some of this suff is not practical unless you have a dozen or more draft horses you can harness at once and some of these implements have engines mounted on them.

    A lot of old tractors are still used regularly on farms around here. 9Ns, H and Ms that are 65 years old, F20s on rubber that are almost 70 years old. Talk to old-timers, some guys farmed a lot of land with 8Ns.

    I guess it depends on the size of your operation and what you have available, but I think the shift is more likely toward more adoption of minimum tillage.
     
  15. sidepasser

    sidepasser Well-Known Member

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    HI,

    I log with Molly, my belgian draft. On my acreage it is much easier to pull logs with her than try to manuever a tractor up and down the hillsides and besides that, it often gets stuck even with mud tires. Molly never gets stuck, she's reliable and knows her job and I can pull with her once from the woods to the wood shed and she remembers and will just go on her own. The tractor won't do that.

    Her shoes are expensive at 125 per set as I live where there is only one farrier who does drafts and her shoes have to be ordered. If she throws her shoes she can't really do much hard work as her feet get bad very quickly. This year I intend to keep her shod so she will do a lot more clearing than last year. She also pulls the stone boat and can pull the harrow for disking.

    I do have a tractor and if I know I will only need to use either the horse for ten minutes or the tractor, I use the tractor. But if it's logging or something that will take two hours or more, I use the horse. She also gives great rides to the grandkids and is pleasant and not noisy.

    It's a personal thing and I just prefer to use the horse over the tractor most of the time. I also get a lot more exercise using the horse than the tractor as I walk beside or behind the horse and just sit on the tractor.

    The guy I bought Molly from converts new John Deere equipment from tractor to horse drawn. He manages 250 acres with teams of belgians and percherons and his place looks great. He baled hay, sowed grass seed, and all that with just the horses even though he had a nice John Deere tractor sitting under his shed. He said he just preferred using the horses over the loud tractor. His horses were worked but he had enough teams that no single team was overworked. Of course even his studs were harnessed and worked with geldings and all were very well trained. His work horses cost a lot more than saddle horses but were worth it as they are voice trained and none were slackers. A team ran in the $4000 range and that is mostly what he sold. Molly pulled a lot of different equipment and she's used to haying and whatnot, I'd rather have one that is well trained for a first time draft as I don't know enough about how to train them to work. Drafts are harder on pastures than saddle horses due to their big old dinner plate hooves, but then again, the tractor can make ruts in the new ground as well.

    Guess it is all in what you prefer.
    Sidepasser
     
  16. Suzanne

    Suzanne Well-Known Member

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    We have had both, and my husband prefers the horses! Sold the horses due to not enough time to work with them, and they were older logging horses and were bored that we did not work them enough. They could rake hay much faster then the tractor, my husband really missed them last summer. They were a Mother/Daughter dapple Percheron team, and our daughters would spend days out in the pasture with them, much safer then a regular pony or horse. We will get another team later, busy with our teenagers at the moment! We learned to trim their feet ourselves, quite easy. Don't need shoes unless your on the roads!! Did not have a new fancy harness, but would suggest going with bio, as it is alot lighter!!!! We just had one of our tractors repaired and it cost alittle over $700.00, with acouple new small tires also......we wouldn't spend that much on the 2 Percherons we had!! We do our own hay, and with some oats your good to go. Then wormers, vaccines, and teeth floating for older teams{a very good idea for your first team} Versus gas, oil, hydraulic oils, occasional engine and upkeep on tractors.......
    And if you can go to a Horse Progress Days, what a wonderful way to see all the equipment they have now days for all horse power farms. We have riding horses for our kids, but we all sure miss the "Team"
     
  17. stanb999

    stanb999 Well-Known Member

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    I think the draft animal v/s tractor question is a practical one.

    The requirements of commercial farms are such that farming is a high speed/ high volume operation. Draft animals just can't do the volume. Above they all mentioned hay harvesting. The hay bales on a hay ranch are the size of a house. In the Dakota's they measure yield in millions of tons :eek:. This just could not be done with animals.

    As for draft animals on a homestead, This is a totally different question.

    I feel that horses are at least expensive as a tractor doing the same work. However, a team of Oxen can do all the pulling required on a homestead for less. A pony does no pulling untill it's 2 years and then it is really light, until it's about 4. A steer can start pulling at 6 mos. at 2 it's pulling hard. Feed is much cheaper for the steer (Just good hay). Oxen can have shoe's but it's not generally required. Harnesses are much less complicated and cheaper (yes you can purchase them). A good quality pony can cost $1000.00 or more. Great steer's come from milking stock they can be had at the auction ring for $80.00 :). Lastly when they have grown to old for work you can send them out for hamburger. Finally it is said that horses are faster, But tractors are faster too. For economy on smaller acreage, Oxen can be the way to go if you have patients and a willingness to work at natures pace.
     
  18. Cygnet

    Cygnet Well-Known Member Supporter

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    One thing to consider with horses too is the SAFETY aspect.

    I've been around horses quite a bit, including some fairly rough stock. I don't care how dead-quiet and been-there done-that a horse is. Sooner or later, the horse will do something to hurt you. Worst injury I've ever had was from a 13'2" pony who had been a child's hunter-jumper on a national level before being retired to the lesson ring. This pony would pack four year old kids over little jumps without EVER refusing and yet I managed to fall off of her and end up in the emergency room ... It's just a fact of life around horses -- you WILL get hurt.

    There's an older gentleman, gen-u-ine cowboy, who lives up the road from me part of the year. Spends summers in Wyoming, still cowboy-ing Lives the life most of us only dream about -- probably one of the last "old cowboys" who remember the old ways because he's lived 'em ... Been riding since he was a toddler. He trains rope horses in the winter. One of the best riders I've ever seen. He broke four ribs last year, because he'd roped a calf just as the horse bucked, he got a leg over the rope, and got flipped off the horse and stepped on.

    And that's someone who knows what he's doing ...

    With tractors, you're in control. With horses, you're putting your trust in a rather large dumb animal. If you're talking draft horses, you're putting your trust in a couple thousand pounds of very powerful dumb animal. I've seen some pretty spectacular wrecks with teams ...

    Also, if a tractor breaks, you can fix it when you've got the money. If a horse gets sick, vet bills are generally immediate, and no guarantee that you'll fix the horse.

    Leva
     
  19. MullersLaneFarm

    MullersLaneFarm Well-Known Member

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    Don't forget rural heritage and farming with other animal power!! www.ruralheritage.com

    SFJ is great, but Lynn can get a bit political ....

    We use a JD 14T baler on a forecart. the baler does have a gas engine.

    We don't need to shoe our drafts for field work and Paul trims them.

    Which is why I prefer a smarter draft MULE! :)

    You're not a teamster until you've had a run-away!

    Actually, Paul is the teamster. We have a few horse-drawn implements that we use. I'll drive the drafts every now and again. Paul is often heard saying, "You know why farmers switched from horses to tractors??? Because they're better!" That said, he won't quit farming with his drafts, but does have an old Farmall M as back up
     
  20. tooltime

    tooltime Border Ruffian

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    Well, I know you can get horse drawn plows, discs, cultivators and planters, sickle mowers, rakes, etc., but I really don't understand why someone would pay $7800 for a power cart that could be pulled by horses. For $7800, I could get a diesel tractor of comparable or greater horsepower, and still have money left over. You're still using fossil fuel either way. I just don't see the economics of that one: "Hey, I took a PTO-driven baler, rigged it to run off a power cart or stationary engine, and I'm pulling the whole thing with horses."