Oxen Draft Power

Farmer Kevin and his boys.

Our first team, Tex and Joseph, standing proud with Farmer Kevin (and Baby Clyde).

An ox by definition is a mature, castrated male bovine trained to work.  Draft animals are very practical on a small farm compared to, or in conjunction with, a tractor.  They are cheaper to buy; they reproduce themselves, something tractors can't do yet!; we can work wet ground earlier in the spring; and they are powered by energy we produce on the farm or purchase locally.  The accessories for draft implements are much less expensive and easier to maintain.  Plus they are pleasant to work with and if things don't work out, oxen make great beef.  Oxen have been a huge part of our culture and agriculture for centuries and continue to be the most popular draft animal in the world.  They provide a very low impact source of draft power that is totally grass powered.  They are very easy keepers and can manage a lot of work without any fossil fuel or grain inputs.    

Making beds with 2014 apprentice Kevin FrayHeading in from a good day's work with 2015 apprentice Luke Franchook.

Working with 2015 apprentice Emma Wyman

 

In the summer of 2011, we started training our first oxen team.  Tex and Joseph are Holstein x Jersey steers that we bottle raised on goats' milk and have been working closely with since day one.  In their first year, Tex and Jo learned basic commands and how to pull a small load.  At 2 and 3 years, they graduated to help with daily chores, hauling chicken feed and water out to the broilers and layers, as well as hay to our other cattle and sheep.  We also put them to work at our U-pick Pumpkin Patch, hauling customers' pumpkins from the field to our scales.  Now full-grown, Tex and Joseph play an essential role in our market and CSA garden, providing secondary tillage and cultivation, shaping beds, and planting and harvesting potatoes, among other things.  In 2015 we added a 2nd team, two well-matched short horns we named Duke & Earl.  

Hauling pumpkins for U-Pick customers.