Oxen

Left to right: Marvin, Burt, and Andy

Often people ask do you really farm with oxen? The honest answer is that the farming here is done with electric fence.

My farm design adapts traditions I grew up with to modern materials, technology, and markets.  I have worked with livestock since I was four plus trained hunting and guarding dogs since I was 15 which has given me a leg up with animal training.   With constantly improving pasture management 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.

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.  The Industrial Engineering principle that makes adapting mechanization to farming tough to do profitably is that when you increase mechanization 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.

I enjoy introducing folks to oxen in winter from 12/15 to 4/10.  I find that teaching ox driving is not really possible in the growing season as time is too short.  All the people who took a day to introduced me to oxen did not charge me so I do the same for folks with one day visits.

  • Source of power: only oxen no tractor, 2-3 teams at anyone time.
  • Oxen are used for: hay feeding, logging, tillage, manuring, and anything needing to be hauled around the farm.
  • Acreage: 255; 1.5 in intensive high yielding garden, 72 acres in pasture, 180 woodlot.
  • Free and friendly help with oxen questions: Call or email me with anything that you might want to run by me or share with me about oxen.  I love to hear about other folks’ teams and new ideas!
  • Skills offered in:  I teach oxen training and driving as if they are the same skill, which I believe they are. I look at understanding association time, applying and releasing pressure, and flight zone in the context of ox driving that understands the animal’s social needs and meets them as the reward in the training process.  The skills the student needs to learn emotional intelligence, observation skills, and good timing with any action while driving.  Various tasks and equipment used for ox driving.  Feeding out cattle to make good oxen.  How to buy calves.  Care of oxen.  What present day farming situations really fit well with oxen and what training the animal needs in those situation.
  • Students of oxen: must write a letter of introduction that shows a willingness to engage and be comfortable interacting when communicating with the farmIntroduce yourself, say why you are interested in oxen, what you would like to learn about oxen and if you are interested in a FREE one day visit, the FREE Exploring Oxen Workshop, or 2 or more days of paid lessons.  With lessons I am more willing to take on individuals who have an economic motivation to learn about oxen.  I see value in the ecological role of oxen and preservation of the use of oxen but I personally am motivated by the economic benefits of oxen and relate better to those who have a similar motive.
  • FREE Visits: For free individuals can visit for the day and get an introduction to oxen.  See what oxen can do and what driving is like.  If coming some distance visitors can stay the night though they will need to clean up after themselves and help with any meal/dishes so forth in winter from 12/15 till 4/10.
  • Lessons-For those wanting in depth knowledge about oxen.  2 or more days of instruction at $75/day scheduled between 12/15 and 4/10 consisting of instruction for at least 1 hour/day and 2-5 hours of doing a task with the oxen to practice what is covered in the lesson.  What will be covered discussed before the individual comes.
  • Accommodations: room in my home, meals consisting of food from the farm Also individual will take responsibility for routine tasks that are easy to show a person who is here for a short stay, about an hour’s work/day.
  • FREE Oxen Club: Not every year, Kids up to 18 years old can do a free program where they come every week and take part in Ox Club  practicing driving.  Then we at the end of summer go to a Heritage Festival with a pair of young calves at the Troy Farmer’s Museum. The kids then instruct individuals from the public to take a turn at driving the calves.  With my oxen up close and personal with kids all summer at ox club meetings and then up to 1500 people at the events they are so well socialized that they can hang out in any crowd with excellent manners. It’s been a real pleasure to pursue such excellence in ox driving, which I could not do without the kids and The Troy Farming Museum.  Call or email me if you have a young person who is interested.
  • 1866 Days School Program: Also at the same Museum I do a program in the spring for school kids from 6-10 different school districts and home schoolers.    80 or more demonstrators show things that are written about in the book Farmer Boy.  I take my mature team to this, showing the kids how I can ride them, control them by voice, and let the kids pet them (40-70 kids at one time) and touch their horns as well as ask a million questions like kids do.