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Re: NFC: Communique from the combat booted one.
Don't know about the rest of you, but I watched my grandfather get dragged kicking and screaming into the modern farming age. He plowed, hauled wood, and pulled up stumps with three mules. My uncle bought a little used tractor, and I've seen first-hand how much quicker a tractor can be over even a well-matched, well-trained team of mules. Even though his odd mule pulled up a stump that little Ford couldn't budge, the tractor simply worked faster, plowed deeper, than those mules (incidently, the match brace sold for more than the used tractor cost!)
The reason he switched completely to raising cattle (as opposed to crop farming) was the dropping cost of produce due to the huge factory farms with huge tractors, plows, etc. Bottom line, while a well-trained team of draft animals is a joy to work and easier on the earth (shallower plowing means less erosion & run-off), they cannot compete economically with modern tractors.
Just my two cents.
>>A little more food for thought:
I have always had an interest/affection for draft
horses, from sleeping with them as a babe to logging
with them and just enjoying them, there is an
excellent mag devoted to them, The Draft Horse Journal
surprising as that might sound(good website). A few
years ago one of the editors had an article done at
Ohio State University on the economics of horse
farming using the NE Ohio Amish and Mennonite farmers
for their study and
nearby conventional dairy farmers to compare with.
The study showed a number of things that were
expected, that more of the Amish farmers participated
in the farm operation, that they had smaller capital
costs, smaller dairy herds and smaller checks. What
wasnt expected was that the Amish farmers were able to
retain a larger percentage of their milk checks, and
most surprising that the Amish farmers had more free
time to do with as they wanted then their neighboring
The media and the rest of us have adopted the image of
drudgery sold by the tractor companys of working with
horses, wheras the truth is that working with horses
promoted a lifestyle that gave more leisure time. In
order to pay for the tractors and other equipment the
'modern' farmers had to farm more land leading to more
debt and more labor to clear it with higher interest
payments taking more of the milk check before they
could realize anything from it.