Saturday, February 5, 2011

Why Oxen

I have worked horses, mules and oxen and have come to believe that oxen are the most efficient for a number of reasons. First, the low start-up cost of cattle, a Holstein calf still sells for about $50. Second, a pair of steers can begin earning their keep at about six months old and well cared for they can work for about twenty years. Next, they are extremely easy keepers, thriving on grasses and browse that horses and mules would starve on. With four stomachs, cattle process food much better than horses or mules. The equipment, a wooden yoke with bows costs less than harnesses for horses and mules and it takes a fraction of the time to hitch them up or work. Mine have always been patient, willing workers strong enough for any of the jobs you want a draft animal to do. They train easily and retain their training well. I am impressed by their pure efficiency, there is no wasted motion with nervousness or bickering. The draw back is that they are slow, and most of us walk beside them instead of riding the equipment. However, for sustainable farming I think the ox is the perfect partner.

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