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Motorized Forecarts
Posted by Klaus Karbaumer at 2010-10-18 21:26:06
Because of all the fall farmwork on an organic vegetable, horse-powered farm I haven't had the time to respond right away after I received my last Rural Heritage magazine(great reading!!!).I am a little taken aback , though, when I see all those high-powered forecarts,maybe the report overemphasized them, I don't know. Horse-powered farms in order to be viable do not have to emulate tractorized specialized row-crop farms, in my view, which need a lot of horse(motor)power at some times, just to idle them for a long time throughout the year.Ever since the stone-age humans were impatient to get things done, because rubbing stones together took such a long time.Meanwhile we are a long ways from the necessity to speed things up which is actually stone-age thinking, we are just replacing people all the time, and that's one of the reasons we are in the economic mess we are in.In a finite world the ideology of constant economic growth is bound to collide with reality.I would rather see an improvement in ground-driven implements, also because we in the socalled developed world certainly use more than our share of fossil fuels.Farming smarter with the ways nature works certainly is also a method not to constantly be forced to increase the amount of energy we use for producing food and fiber.I am not against using motors, but we should seek to greatly reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, ethanol is now way out!
Response by Frank Ise at 2010-10-19 07:20:13
Wish I had said that. My feelings exactly...I'm just not that articulate.
Response by Will Beattie at 2010-10-19 08:16:16
I have posted this issue before. It is opinion, but I have never understood why the amish (mostly those who use the high powered forecarts) use them. It seems to me it is not far from using a tractor. I guess part of my deal is the historic use and the quietness of the horse work. I can see using a small engine to power a tedder, but I would prefer a ground drive cart myself. I like doing it all with horsepower. I am a hypocrit in some ways because we do all of our hay work still with a tractor, but that is becuase of financial reasons. I just haven't been able to buy and collect all of the horse drawn implements yet, but want to do so over time.
When you have 35 hp diesel engine on your forecart, what's the point?
But there again, amish can have huge tractors as long as it doesn't leave the barn. They just have rules and they get around them as best they can to get their jobs done I guess. I am not relying on my horses for survival, so maybe if I was I would feel different, but there again why not use a tractor if you are going to go that far?
Response by L. Bockus at 2010-10-19 09:19:59
I built a motorized to operate a baler since labour is simply difficult to find for a loose hay system and to keep extra horses just for a ground drive hay operation also does not make sense. A powercart is another option to enable each person to suitably juggle their requirements. Ideology often has to be compromised in the face of practicality and the dictates of nature.
Response by Jerry Hicks at 2010-10-19 14:52:13
I can not justify the expense of a power cart. Before buying one I would buy an older model tractor which would be cheaper. That being said, I work horses because that is how I want to do it. I am seeing a few things I would think about having a tractor for, but really would probably be as well off with my team and a bob cat. I prefer the horses and loose hay, but will hire a tractor occasionally to put up hay. I can hire the hay made cheaper than owning a tractor and equipment. I have gotten to were I can put hay up slowly by myself with the team. A second hand is always nice but hard to come by. Right now, I use the hay loader, go a piece then spread the load, start again. Drive to the barn and fork it off. I am committed to getting the track in the barn this winter and will then be able to unload it by myself a lot faster. I don't expect to ever get to where I can put up all my hay by my self but seems like more goes up loose every year. I have had Amish neighbors ask about swapping work and having a hay day on each farm. I like the idea of this and I like becoming closer to their community.
I guess in all this rambling I am saying I can't/won't afford a power cart, and find it hard to justify one as anything more than a toy for me.
Response by Frank Ise at 2010-10-19 20:14:08
Speaking of ground driven equipment, is there such a thing as a ground driven brush hog, 4 or 5 foot, that can be pulled by a two horse team... not three or four horses, just two? Any ideas? Thanks.
Response by Will Beattie at 2010-10-19 22:41:06
Yes Frank, look under the archives for amish bush hog. There are not any photos there, but it describes a bush hog that was being put in use by an amish guy in Delano, TN. He was using a team of Percheonrs to pull a ground drive cart and a 5 or 6 foot bush hog (it was good size). If you can't find it, I will try to redescribe it.
Response by Don McAvoy at 2010-10-20 09:19:30
Jerry, if you have the hay loader you can roll the hay off your racks with rope slings. Much faster than pitching it off. Old, low barns often never had a hay carrier; just rolled the hay up into the loft. These loft doors would have been only about 8 feet from the ground. Since I sent the pictures to Jonathan a couple years ago, I found another barn set up the same way. As of 5 years ago I only knew of 1 barn set up that way. It burned down about 40 years ago. Now I know of 2 that are still being used; but not with loose hay anymore.
Response by KC Fox at 2010-10-20 10:10:30
Because theres more expence to a tractor than a power forecart I cant aford to buy one so I'm building one with an old car engine. then I can bale hay with my teams.
Response by Dale Wagner at 2010-10-20 18:19:13
Most of the common farm inplements don't need a whole lot of power. An engine can be mounted on most of them far cheaper than buying a motterized forecart. This engine can be moved from one implement to another rather easy.
The big disadvantage of a forecart is that it won't turn as short as auto steering, truck wheels or a circle wheel. It isn't hard to build a better way to turn short and be able to do a neater and faster way to get around.
Response by L.Bockus at 2010-10-20 19:35:53
I agree than the purchase price of an older tractor can be less than a new powercart,but over a five year period, I have never seen the maintenance , repair cost and purchase price of such a tractor be much less.
Over the years, I have seen many people buy older tractors to farm or market garden and usually within three years they have : 1) done a major overall
2) sold it for a newer unit
3) bought another older tractor, hoping for better luck.
I am not advocating powercarts, but the purchase price of any machine is only part of the total as consideratons should include the cost and frequency of downtime,cost of repairs, availability of parts, expertise at hand to conduct repairs.
Response by Ralph in N.E.Oh at 2010-10-20 21:34:41
I think using a powercart or not is a choice each farmer must make depending upon his situation.

As for footprint, the powercart uses a much smaller motor in most cases than does a tractor. The powercart only needs to run while the PTO is being used, so to and from the field etc, it is nothing more than a regular forecart.

Ground drive doesn't a;ways work especially now that crops are heavier "yield" wise. I am thinking especially in thick tangled red clover and a #9 mower or corn harvest. I also like the option to unload my manure at the end of the field in a pile when conditions are not good for spreading. I am sure my powercart would also run my brush hog if I wanted it to. It will power any piece of equipment that is currently on my farm. This makes it possible to use my horses for every job.

Cost is also a factor, not only the price of the tractor, but 3 point equipment as well. Small tractor equipment is readily avaliable new or used unlike much of the older equipment depending upon where you live.

Maybe this is like the Ford-vs-Chevy debate. I will juat say that using horses is very much a sustainable way to farm, being a bit progressive isn't for everyone but it works for me and my situation. I am able to use horses more and that is always a good thing.
Response by Tiff at 2010-10-20 23:24:02
I'm going to step on toes here but, if it hurts, so be it. When you get to the point of farming with horses for a living, instead of playing with them, you'll want a powercart or have one already.
Oh it'd be fun living like "Little House On The Prairie". Milk cow, small garden, pair of hogs, couple dozen layers, shock your corn and oats, mow hay with a five foot cutter bar, etc. These things are fine for the "stay at home" moms and/or dads but doesn't cut it when it comes to paying the mortgage.
Response by Tiff at 2010-10-22 10:30:27
Will Beattie,
With horses and a powercart vs. tractor. When using horses I can work them under some applications without driving them. Such as loading bundles or bales. Can't seem to get the tractor to move ahead no matter how hard I shout.
Got done cleaning the gutters in the dairy stable yesterday and sent the horse to the horse barn to be unharnessed by himself as I went the other way up the long lane to the mailbox. As usual the horse stopped at the barn door to be unharnessed and waited for me to get there. Try that with a tractor. My son had just got home from school and shouted to my wife the horses are out. His mom replied, "no that's Kramer. Dad must be done cleaning barn."
Response by Mike in MI at 2010-10-22 14:30:48
Well spoken Klaus. My sentiments exactly.
One of the farmers 'round here asked me why I work with horses. I said I like the sound and smell.
Response by Will Beattie at 2010-10-22 22:13:02
Ok Tiff, I'll buy that last post. The original post didn't offend me by any menss. Having the horsees as a hobby rather than having to rely on them makes it more enjoyable for me. If I don't feel like harnessing up a particular day because I am too tired, or have a headache..no big deal. But when I do have the time, I really look forward to it. I mostly play wiht my horses and honestly if I were going to have to survive on agriculture, I would probably have a tractor before using a power forecart to pair with horses. I know that is taboo to say here, but that is honesty. Mainly because doing things the old way is sustainable. Doing things with a power forecart that takes as much Diesel as a tractor is not. Not to mention the production aspect. You can't make the argument strongly that using a power forecart of the same engine size as a tractor is more cost effective. I run a small utility size Kabota tractor and it doesn't break down often, just needs regualar engine maintenance and keeping everything greased. But I can see the advantages after your last post. Like you said, if you need it on auto-pilot it's hard to get a tractor to do that, except now they have gps controlled tractors that can somewheat do what you are speaking of.
Response by M. Burley at 2010-10-22 22:26:05
Klaus, I like your reasoning. As someone else mentioned, you're also very articulate. We built a ground drive PTO cart this past year. So far,have only used it for running the tedder. Hopefully, if the weather cooperates, we'd like to try the haybine behind 3 or 4 horses. I think the cart is heavy enough.

As far as a power forecart, I have friends who use them daily. For people with large fields it makes a lot of sense to use them. They also use a lot less fuel than a tractor.
Response by Wes Lupher at 2010-10-23 11:18:41
Will, I think you're missing one point. The cart is usually less h.p. than a tractor that'd be running it. A good case is the old Wisconsin motors we used to run square balers with. It ran on little fuel and was considerably less horse power than a tractor would take to run it.
Having to cover enough ground in a day would be hard to do with just pure ground drive. I'm thinking if I had to do it, it would be power cart for me. What I'm thinking of is running a 7' mower with a small motor vs. a 6' or 5' ground drive. I'm sure you could double your work in a day that way. When you more acres to cover and heavy, fertilized grass hay it would make a huge difference and not use a whole lot of fuel.
Having said that, I'm not sure what to think about the 100 h.p. carts. Wow. When you get that big it does seem like you might as well fire up the John Deere.
Response by Ralph in N.E.Ohio at 2010-10-24 07:29:52
Wes Lupher is right on and taking that a step further. If you have a 100hp cart you will need many horses to pull whatever would require that much motor horsepower, chopping corn or whatever ..so now add the cost of 8 or 10 more horses, collars and harness, rope and pully hitch etc and the $$$$ add up fast. Surely surpassing the cost of a tractor of that size BUT keep in mind some farmers don't have the option to use tractors in that capacity so a large powercart might be thier only option once all the kids and farmhands are gone.

I saw a saying once that said "Don't critize a man for what he's done until you know why he did it." Makes real good sense to me.

My powercart is 30 some horsepower. It provides the same power as my 50 hp tractor BUT it only runs to drive the PTO...the rest of the time it is not burning fuel...much less carbon footprint than even a small kubota tractor.

You can read about my powercart in the current issue of RH or right here on this site by clicking on the Reading Room tab. It works very well for the amount of farming I do now and will meet my needs for the additional farming I will do in the near future.

Lastly, I will repeat that using one or not is a personal choice based upon your situation. I see a team of horses and a powercart as a very good option for a sustainable small farm where profit equals survival.
Response by Dris Abraham at 2010-10-24 19:51:21
Quite simply folks ground driven works and works VERY well. We use I&J GD heavy cart and pull 9ft I&J mower, 9ft tedder, 9ft Pequa sweep rake. Two big belgian mares pull it and we let our clinic students use same set up. Don't give up on GD until you try it!
Response by Bret4207 at 2010-10-25 07:40:37
Mixed power works better than just one or the other. At least economically it does. Time is money and saving time is saving money.
Response by Dale Wagner at 2010-10-26 10:28:59
Wes, you can mount a little Honda motor on a mower that has truck wheels (to help reduce side draft) and run a 7 foot bar or maybe even a 9 foot. It only takes a V belt to the flywheel
Response by Jerry Hicks at 2010-10-26 19:43:52
I would say a lot of this has to do with an individual, what they want out of life and how they want to farm. I prefer to only use horses and ground drive. I can hire the occasional tractor work done cheaper than I can own a tractor. I farm full time and my only source of income is the farm. I don't make much but I make the farm payment and am satisfied with what I make. I have no desire to sit on a tractor seat listening to the racket and breathing the fumes all day. It just doesn't suit my mind set. I think a person can make a living with out a tractor or power cart, you just have to be more creative.
Response by Wes Lupher at 2010-10-28 14:06:58
Dale you are right. I have two or three New Holland mowers that are in running shape or close to it. No one is using them anymore. Problem is they are 3 point machines. There are quite a few John Deere trail mowers around here too (#5's and #9's I think) that could be made to work that way.
Dris, I've been very interested in the I&J ground drive carts. That could work for a lot of things. I've wanted to talk to some folks who are using them to get their impressions. Do you think the smaller cart would work the 9' mower as well as the heavy duty cart?
Response by Bret4207 at 2010-10-29 07:33:01
Maybe I'm the exception here. I'm pretty much a one man show. I do all the farm work, the wood cutting, the shearing, the landscaping and grading, the mechanical work on EVERYTHING plus some for neighbors, all the welding, the rock moving, the rebuilds, roofing, foundation work, ditch digging, hoof trimming, horse training, chicken plucking, hog moving, manure spreading....you get the picture. The only thing we hire is appliance repair, some car repair I simply can't do. I also do the laundry, supper and baby sit the grandkid.

With that in mind, if I had to depend only on horse and human power, sheesh! Nothing would get done. I need mixed power or help. There's simply no way I can hire help for what a used tractor costs. I need 3-4 boys or 2-3 men to get stuff done. Can't do it.
Response by J Fox at 2010-10-29 17:50:20
Yes I love the "historical" part of doing it with real horse power but, that dont get the job done. We have managed to slow things down to a good fast walk. Life is still going full throttle. Finding help to hire to do it all the old way is impossible. We have 3500 ac and 375 of it is hay ground. Now how many teams a day is it going to take to cover that much ground, in a reasonable amount of time. The time frame that we have is 4 weeks. I have to use power carts or tractors. But I agree with you I dont like to use power carts, it is just the lesser of two evils for me. It is also a lot cheaper then a tractor.

I will say this much, if you can get by without a power cart then I am going to say that you are the lucky one.

Response by Corky Green at 2015-04-29 14:18:25
I have never farmed with horses, although I have worked on ranches and feedlots all my adult life and have broke almost all my saddle horses to pull a wagon. I have a seven acre farm in northwest Texas that I would like to put in a market garden, but I'me afraid it is too dry there without putting in an irrigation system. Are the ground drive carts harder on the horses with pto equipment rather than the motorized carts, given the starting and stopping? I have lots of questions!

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