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As nice as the report about the plow day in Kentucky was today, it is kind of startling to see almost no young faces among the plowmen. Now, I hardly ever go to any far away events and my plow days are right here on the farm, so I may not have the correct impression.
On a different vein, in Jamesport recently when I picked up my overhauled mower I asked the Amish guy who had worked on it why I saw so few draft horses as opposed to the many buggy horses. His laconic answer was: People can't afford them. Sounded kind of strange, since I am pretty sure the Amish are aware of breeding.

NoraWI says 2019-05-20 09:43:15 (CST)

Yes! We ARE a dying breed. In this age of technology when people prefer to text rather than visit in person and every social event is replete with the young and the not-so-young sitting around playing with their i-phones, there is less and no interest in small scale, animal borne agriculture. One of my grand-nephews is even studying "drones" and their applications at university. Dramatically changing times. It won't be long until we humans become compleltely superfluous!

26 days ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Chad says 2019-05-20 22:30:57 (CST)

We are the youngest and last folks in our county using horses on the farm. I believe the shortage of young farmers can be blamed on debt. It would take a good salesmen to persuade someone to go a million dollars in debt to buy a farm with no idea how to make your monthly payments by only farming. We farm and use horses for two reasons. We like to, and the horses draw in customers. I had the cub out cultivating one morning and watched car after car pass without anyone stopping or looking my way. I decided to finish our corn patch with the mules and the riding cultivators. Two hours later, the produce stand was full of people and there was four cars sitting on the side of the road watching. People are quick to judge the younger generation these days. But when was the last time you saw a older person trying to help instead of standing back criticizing everything they did. I'm lucky to have some gooden's around us that have really helped. It took me a while to find out that those who know the least speak the loudest. I wouldn't wish the hard work and low pay of farming on anyone. But, I wouldn't take anything for it. Well, maybe a million dollars!

26 days ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Dusty 4R says 2019-05-21 07:24:07 (CST)

Klaus, you nailed it. The high priced drafts are like the 50000$ pickups, you can’t farm or ranch with those high priced “tools”.

the Inputs are too high, steel, oil, repair at the shops etc.
luckily, I can do everything myself except work on a vehicle year 2000 and up, and that is my definition of farming and ranching is the ability to do it yourself, and still produce a product to sell. Unfortunately that is changing while Ford, John Deere and the rest wont let you work on “ their” machine. Ok, so we need 1.75$ a lb for fat cattle, this is not happening. We continue to use horses as that’s the cheapest for us, and we raise our own , mostly, BUT, we put 6000$ in our loader last winter. Not much profit margin in anything right now that I can see.

What puzzles me here is no one has commented on weaning colts, training yearlings , new horses , breeding, etc.

25 days ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2019-05-21 15:05:48 (CST)

Chad, I admit that there are a lot of cranky old people out here who seem to know everything but do not offer help. But there are others, too. I hope you run into some of them in your neck of the woods.
You are certainly right about the burden placed on new farmers if they want to start big. But nobody forces them to do that; too many farmers actually seem to want to be heavy machine operators. There is nothing wrong with starting small, even staying small. There is also nothing wrong with having another income in addition to the farm as long as that income is not used to habitually support an otherwise unsustainable farming operation.That's the beauty of animal-powered farms as you have experienced yourself: Their operating costs are lower , they attract customers if they have the right products. I would not suggest to run a large row crop operation like that, but those are hardly ever really profitable: Mono-culture farming is in itself for many reasons a losing proposition and has only come so far by the generosity of the government, i.e. the tax-payer.

25 days ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2019-05-22 09:48:34 (CST)

Dusty, if I were younger I certainly would have at least one mare , breed and train her offspring. In Bavaria most farmers that I knew and myself actually hardly ever kept geldings, but instead had mares so breeding and training young horses came naturally. I just was really amazed to hear an Amish say that draft horses were too expensive for many of his people; I always thought they were really practical guys. But maybe that is just a peculiarity for Jamesport, I haven't talked with any Amish from other areas for quite a while.

24 days ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Dan in Illinois says 2019-05-22 10:54:46 (CST)

I’ve been told even some Amish are renting their ground instead of farming it themselves. By the way nice looking miles Chad.

24 days ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

vince mautino says 2019-05-30 08:01:45 (CST)

Here in Colorado, we still see some ranches feeding stock in the winter with a bobsled and a team Mostly youngster driving and dad throwing out the hay

16 days ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Klaus Karbaumer says 2019-05-30 12:42:19 (CST)

Thank you, Vince. That is encouraging. Around here farm boys are primarily interested in big machinery.

16 days ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

So. Oh. Bill says 2019-05-30 21:00:23 (CST)

Last fall I had the pleasure to go to the auction at Mt Hope, Oh. Every weanling stud or gelding colt sold to the meat buyers at $ 3500. + and most of those were less than eight months old. I think that there are some Amish that are starting to breed more mares to take advantage of that market . That alone will raise the price of draft breeding stock. For me it was sad to see all of those good looking colts go to the meat market. All of those colts went to Canada and then to Europe and Asia after they became mature size.

16 days ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

BrianL says 2019-05-31 13:55:18 (CST)

I think in some ways, we are a dying breed. I attribute this to numerous causes.

Many of us our the last generation to have been witness to, or at least personally have known someone, for whom drafts were an integral part of their daily lives. With each generation passing, while the animals still remain good and strong, society's view shifts from drafts being practical and integral, to simply being a near-forgotten novelty. My grandfather was a butcher and delivered his wares with his trusted horse pulling the wagon. (And according to family stories, his horse knew the route without any help.) While he stopped using horses around WW2 long before I was born, the fact I knew my grandfather means there's a tangible connection greater than had I only seen a picture of a horse-drawn wagon in a magazine.

Culture has shaped things too. The younger generations have been inured with the sense, via TV and now the internet, that "technology" and "innovation" are wonders and they are the only way forward to the future. The working draft world exists counter to this. Even those inclined to farming are inundated with adverts selling shiny, powerful machines, and marketing can be insidious. In their minds the logic is, if the tractor replaced the horse, it is therefore better than the horse. Version 2.0.

The relationship to animals has changed. While most people can relate to living with a cat or dog or a precocious goldfish, horse ownership in general is down precipitously. (And of that, working drafts are a specialized sub-niche.) I'd speculate of these current horse owners, a vast majority board their animals at a distant stable and see him or her maybe once a week. Nothing brings me (and I suspect many of you) greater joy than seeing my equines first thing in the morning, spending the last remaining light of day in their company, and every point in between. Yet when I've described this to many non-farming folks, they scrunch up their noses and say, "that sounds like a lot of work."

As for farming, one important difference I see is, to younger generations, they see farming as a "business" and not a way of life. Our capitalist society has instilled in many that unless an activity is a substantial income generator, it lacks merit compared to other, greater income earning ventures. Even among small, mechanized farmers I've known, to them it's either farm full time and earn 100% of their income from growing vegetables, or I quit this farming thing all together and get a “real" job. When this collides with the reality that farming is, and never has been, lucrative, the tragedy plays out. Despite the fact the the vast majority of farmers now and always have had some sort of ancillary (off farm) income is alien to many young farmers. Perhaps this is a generalization, but I'd actually conjecture this aversion to having a day job to "keep farming" is greater among small scale organic growers than it is among the corn and bean farmers that live in my area.

As has been touched on, land ownership plays a big part. My farm is my home and I'll make my stand to keep it and all my animals safe, healthy and strong, doing whatever I must. If the only option to dabble in farming is renting a couple acres with only a season to season commitment, there's less investment, and by this I mean emotional, in a place. And unless one is married to the land, separation is all but inevitable.

Finally, working with animals is a serious commitment. And there are less and less people willing to commit to it, or to anything, long term. Such is the way of our ever-mobile, semi-disposable society.

This being said, somewhere out there are young folks who will fill our work boots someday. Think of this as you are out on a beautiful summer morning, just you and your team, as a car drives by with a family from the city on the way to see the grandparents. In the backseat a seven year old looks out in amazement as these massive but gentle equines effortlessly pull a plow through the soil. Somewhere in his head a seed has been planted, and it may not germinate for decades. But one day it will. And one autumn morning, he will turn to his wife and say, "Let's buy a farm... and I want it to have draft horses."

15 days ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Ralph in N.E.Oh says 2019-06-08 09:38:29 (CST)

This is a great thread. Klaus and BrianL , I really liked your responses. I think Brian nailed it when he talks about a seed getting planted in the mind of a young child. I try very hard to reach out. So far this year I had a graduating pre-school class of 25 children here for a farm tour, a homeschool group and just yesterday we did a sort of "pod-cast" for an on-line school. According to the stats, we were able to interact with 117 kids in the 6, 7 and 8th grades. I am hopeful that at least one child was touched.
We as the "old dogs" must continue to nurture, teach and share. I can say from experience that the look in a child's eyes, the first time "he gets it" is a beautiful thing!
Hard work, debt and worry is all part of a farmer's life....but isn't that part of life in general?
The lifestyle that we as small farmers enjoy is priceless to me. Last night as my grandchildren devoured fresh strawberries from the raised bed garden, it made my heart full. They stayed to put the draft horses out to pasture and close the gate. Hand in hand we walked, heart to heart we bonded and idea to idea we shared. There is hope in our future...we just have to help share the burden of being that hope.

7 days ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

K.C. Fox says 2019-06-09 21:18:10 (CST)

I always believe there will be a small group of people who work horses, mules and oxen because they want to do it the old way.

6 days ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

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