Ox question

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by headintodawoods, Nov 4, 2004.

  1. headintodawoods

    headintodawoods Well-Known Member

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    My family and I are currently looking into buying about 40 acres in NW Arkansas for our homestead. We would like to live as close to a pioneer life style as possible. We have been considering using draft animals rather than tractors. Does anyone here have experience with oxes on there farm? Which do you think woul be better, an ox or a draft horse?
     
  2. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

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    I am currently training up a yoke of heifers for working our small holding.

    There are a lot of variables when it comes to which type of power is the best for the small holder.

    Which to you have the most: money or time?
    Cattle are going to move slower and cost less money. If one uses cows for draft there is the daily milk and yearly calf to defray the cost of up-keep.

    Tractors cost a fair amount. Apparati for the tractor cost a bit. Fuel and parts must be imported to the croft.

    Each type of power can do one thing or another that the unique to its self.

    No one can tell another person which is best for them. Just look a bit, think about it, and go with which ever makes you happiest.

    I'm training my yoke of heifers, but I bought an old tractor too.
     

  3. headintodawoods

    headintodawoods Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Haggis. Where would I look for equipment?
     
  4. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

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    Rural Heritage magazine lists some stuff; they offer a web site as well.

    Farm actions sometimes offer horse drawn equipment which can be refurbished if you're handy; and if you're going to take up homesteading you'd better be handy or rich.

    With cattle all one really needs is a well fitted yoke and a length of chain for most pulling work, and a wooden pole for sleds or carts. There are specialty items but they are just that. Keep is as simple as you can and the smiles come easier.

    You would be surprised hwo much in the way of horse drawn equipment can still be had if one just spends some time looking, and if a horse coud work with it, most likely it will work well with cattle.

    I'm no expert on this stuff and am just beginning myself, but I have spent a night or two at a Holiday Inn.
     
  5. Carol K

    Carol K Well-Known Member

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  6. uncle Will in In.

    uncle Will in In. Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The Amish Community in northern Ind. have several auctions every year where several hundreds of pieces of horse drawn machinery are sold. Also over a thousand head of draft horses twice a year. No oxen however, but they sold a couple wooden yokes last time I went. Draft horses already trained to work are plentiful, but oxen may be your own project.
     
  7. spring77

    spring77 Well-Known Member

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    I am a big fan of oxen verses horses and think they are a better fit for what you want to do if you really want a draft animal. Oxen are more practical in a "pioneer" setting than horses. For a variety of reasons.

    Yokes are easy to construct on you own. Harness is an expensive item that must be purchased.

    Oxen are easy to feed. Actually the problem is to keep them from getting to fat.
    Horses have much fussier diets.

    Oxen and cattle in general are much healthier, just thinking about the thousand and one ways a horse can founder makes me cringe.

    Oxen are easy to train if you start with a pair of calves. Get a copy of "oxen, a teamsters guide" by Drew Conroy and a copy of "the Pride and Joy of Working Cattle" by Ray Ludwig (you'll have to look in Rural Heritage Magazine to find that second one). Horses are pretty much trained by professionals who you then have to pay.

    On the other hand.

    Horses are stronger and faster than oxen and will do much more work in a day. In a pioneer setting this isn't as big of an advantage.

    Horses live much longer than oxen and need to be replaced less frequently.

    Horses are pretty.
     
  8. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

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    I don't want to start a war here but I think that history shows the switch from cattle for draft to horses for draft was more a matter of financial status than anything else; much as the switch from horse to tractor.

    Horses cost more at every stage of the game: time, money, feed, housing, harness, shoes, and when they die most folks won't eat them so one has to dig a hole to put them in.

    Poor folks used cattle, folks with a bit of money had horses.

    Once again I say cattle because one would have been more likely to find a cow in the yoke than an oxen for some of the same reasons mentioned for horses.

    An ox produces draft and beef when they get old, but eat more while they are alive, and they take up more space in the barn or the pasture.

    Cows produce: beef when they get old, a yearly calf for sale or replacement, daily milk, and draft.
     
  9. uncle Will in In.

    uncle Will in In. Well-Known Member Supporter

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    My stepfather was born in 1884. The road past their house which now is a state highway went through a low wet area just east of their house. The county who had it back when he was young decided to put logs in the low place, and make a corduroy road there. They hired to local farmers to skid the logs from a woods about a quarter mile away to the hoad. One farmer had a team on little horses, and the other had a yoke of oxen. The man with the horses go 75 cents a day, and the man with the oxen only got 50 cents because the horses would make three trips while the oxen made two. Granted the oxen could have most likely pulled a much heavier load, but the logs were on uniform size.

    Off the subject a bit, but corduroy roads through wet holes were common here in the 1800s. About 20 miles south oh here is the inspiration for the song "On The Banks of The Wabash." The Indiana song has a line about "Through the sycamores the candle light is gleaming. From the meadow comes the smell of new mown hay."

    Those sycamores grew up from the ends of logs used in a corduroy road about a half mile long. Most of the trees are still there, but they had to put a bypass around them because they made the road to narrow for modern highway traffic.
     
  10. spring77

    spring77 Well-Known Member

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    One more thing about oxen. Its really a good idea to have a yard for them and only allow them to graze for short periods each day or keep them on hay year round. It is pretty hard in these modern times to work oxen enough to keep them skinny so you need to keep them off the grass or they'll get fat and won't be able to work. A fat ox overheats and will quit on you. He'll also stand a good chance of dying of heat stroke. A skinny ox, I mean with ribs showing, is a much better work animal and will last you a lot longer. A fat ox will get too heavy for his feet and joints and go lame and be hamburger. My last team weighed in around 1300 a peice and had no fat on them. They each got about 2/3 of a bale of dry hay (pretty much pure orchardgrass) and about a pound of grain a day. They spent the day and night in a small yard they kept grazed to the ground when they weren't working. Its a good idea to stall them to feed them so the dominant ox can't steal from the other. It also means you handle them every day twice a day so they stay used to you.

    As far as finding equipment, a good source can be your local pennysaver/thrifty nickel advertiser paper. I put an ad in for a walking plow and got a pretty good response. There are still a lot of peices of equipment sitting in hedgerows and junkpiles or stashed in old barns. I recommend a McCormick Deering Big Six mower for oxen rather than the more modern John Deere #4 or the McD #7 or #9. The modern ones are geared to high for oxen to get the blade moving fast enough and an ox team will have a lot of blade clogging on thick stands of hay. The Big 6 has a better ratio for ox speed.
     
  11. headintodawoods

    headintodawoods Well-Known Member

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    Thank you all for your comments. Any extra knowledge I gain is alwsya helpful. I love hearing the storues of those who lived during the pioneer days. I can't wait to have my children experience that kind of hard but rewarding life. Believe it or not my children seem to be looking forward to it.

    Any additional items about pioneer life that you would like to contribute will be greatly appreciated.

    PS I did find a few websites with plans on how to buid my own yoke.
     
  12. MullersLaneFarm

    MullersLaneFarm Well-Known Member

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    We have a team of Belgians and for a short while had a single ox (Milking Devon). The ox was great when we had time, but for hay cutting and raking we rather use the horses. When we're in a big hurry (usually due to weather) we use the old Farmall "M".

    We haven't given up on oxen and still desire to train up a team.
     
  13. Bigshrimp

    Bigshrimp Member

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  14. Ken in Minn

    Ken in Minn Well-Known Member

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    Hi All
    I just made a new friend this summer. He trains oxen. It was very interesting to talk to him. He just called me back this afternoon to tell me that he is ready to start training oxen for other people. I called him about 2 weeks ago about the matter, and he just now got back to me. He is an older gentleman, has a nice team of oxen. Showed me many pic. that he had taken while he was training them. He does not have a computer, so I am trying to help him. If any interest, let me know.

    Ken in Minn