Measuring Draft Loads
In pursuit of my PhD thesis at the University of Kassel, I aim to measure the output and potential of modern horse-drawn equipment: draft load, output, quality of work done, and economics, as well as heart rate and breathing rate, body temperature, and so forth, of working horses. Exact measurements of draft load and other factors are important for modern horse-drawn equipment, and perhaps even more important for the new generation of teamsters, who are mainly people who did not grow up with horses and don't have much experience. Precise measurements are necessary to help the newcomers and convince the public and, even more difficult, the politicians that the working of horses is useful for many reasons and should be supported.
Another aspect becomes important as a few people start raising their voices more and more loudly, saying we don't have the right to make draft animals work for us. Although I believe they are completely mad, I don't think we can ignore them. We have to convince them and the public that what our horses, oxen, and mules do for us is something they can do without being hurt or damaged in any way. First we must know what we can ask animals to do and how many animals we need for the implements we use.
To help answer these questions and to bring the discussion about the usefulness of working horses from speculation to knowledge, here at the Department of Organic Farming at Kassel University in Germany we have started to scientifically research modern draft-horse technology. Last fall we measured the draft load of different modern horse-drawn tools on a 12-hectare [30-acre] organic farm producing vegetables in southern Germany near Lake Bodensee.
We tested a two-way hydraulic plow from White Horse Machine in Gap, Pennsylvania, a tandem disc harrow from Groffdale Machine in Leona, Pennsylvania, and a spring tooth harrow (three sections, each with eight teeth and a 3' cut) from Pioneer Equipment of Dalton, Ohio. None of these implements need a hitch cart in front, so we didn't use one. We tested them on sandy loam with nearly 30% soil moisture, which is a lot. The average draft loads for these implements were:
If you remember that a well-trained and properly conditioned horse can continuously pull about 15% of its body weight over 8 to 10 hours a day, and if you consider that the more horses your team contains the less effective it becomes, clearly you need:
This will vary, of course, depending on soil conditions, size of the equipment, and training of the horses, but these figures give us a preliminary idea.
This spring we're getting Charlie Pinney's newly developed British-built Pintow Power Cart, which in my opinion is the most professional and usable hitch cart in Europe [for information on previous Pintow models see “British-Built Hitchcart” in the Summer 1998 issue of Rural Heritage. Its 18 HP Kohler engine makes baling possible; for driving the PTO you have the choice of using either ground drive or the engine.
Besides the Power Cart we hope to soon get an 8' double-knife mower and other implements to work the horses in grassland (mowing, tedding, turning, windrowing, baling) and also in vegetables and potatoes (hilling, harrowing, and controlling weeds). Due to lack of money, it looks like we will be happy to get equipment for one or two kinds of work in grassland, certainly mowing and turning the hay.
Until recently no really good hitch cart existed for working row crops. Such a machine, which we call a "tool carrier," makes sense only if the implements are running in front of the driver. Given the small market for horse-drawn machinery, the tool carrier must be able to use common tractor implements. A young organic farmer named Hansjoerg Fischer from Oehningen southern Germany, who worked horses on different farms in the United States for several years, has now developed a machine that I believe comes near to being optimum. It is being manufactured by the Swiss company Burkhalter, which makes a variety of horse-drawn machines that are well known in Europe. It uses the principle of the famous Fendt-Geraetetraeger, or the first tractor on which implements were attached between the front and rear axle. In April we will get the new tool carrier, equipped with tractor implements, from the German distributor Kress. We plan to test it in potatoes and assorted vegetables.
Funding organizations in Germany are, unfortunately, not yet convinced that working horses today constitutes a useful endeavor and that our research should be supported. But we've taken the first steps in the purchase from Charlie of two Ardennes geldings, Alphonse and Piroux, who now enjoy their lives on our research farm and, we hope, give our project a good future. If some American millionaire doesn't know what to do with those extra dollars, we could be of help.
PO Box 2067, Cedar Rapids IA 52406-2067
Phone: 319-362-3027 Fax: 319-362-3046
29 April 2012 last revision