Oxen

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Burt (foreground) and Marvin relaxing

Often people ask do you really farm with oxen? The honest answer is the technology that the farm is organized around is actually electric fence.  Fencing to budget out the forage and evenly spread manure reduces the need for traction power to the point that I can use oxen for day to day tasks and hire contractors for big jobs, which is much more economical than owning tractors or log skidders.  So you see personally I am motivated by the economic benefits of oxen though I value the ecological role of oxen and preservation of oxen driving skills.

The Industrial Engineering principle that makes adapting mechanization to farming tough to do profitably is that when you increase mechanization of a particular task you have to increase the number of hours at that task to make the machine pay for it’s self…which is tough with farming’s seasonal nature.  Also my experience of farming with tractors and mechanization in general, is that one needs to farm 4-10 properties that use to be each a small farm or have a job off the farm to make a living.  Since both of those options are too much work I found an other way.

My farm design adapts traditions that I grew up with to modern materials, technology, and markets.  Those traditions allow one to make a living off of a property that might be 100-300 acres but only has 15-30 acres of high quality crop land.  Many properties like this exist in the Eastern United States that once where farms.  But with discarding of traditional and sustainable ways of using all parts of the landscape and mechanization needing large areas of high quality crop land to use that equipment enough to pay for the capital tied up in it many of these properties today are no longer farmed.

Traditionally such properties where used for forestry and pasture.  Adapting this tradition to today is how I’ve been making a living for most of my adult life.  With constantly improving pasture management, which means using electric fencing more effectively, the tractor was sitting most of the time.  Realization set in that the expense of having an underutilized tractor was more than the value of the work the tractor did each year.  So in 2003 I took up oxen as a serious work animal.

Oxen are used for hay feeding, logging, garden tillage, manuring, and anything needing hauled around the farm.

Contact me anytime with anything that you want to run by me about oxen.  I love to hear about other folk’s team and new ideas!

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