I'm new to oxen and have been doing some beginner's research about them. I have a question I was hoping someone with more experience might be able to answer. In the United States, which modern oxen/cattle breeds come the closest to conforming to classic or traditional ideals for a true draft type oxen? Most modern oxen/cattle seem to be mainly intended for beef or dairy production. So I was wanting to try looking at several breeds that still maintain the true oxen conformation characteristics or qualities the best.
I have enjoyed all of the threads discussing oxen. I used to make a soup called oxtail soup. The Knorr packaging said there were no oxen in the US. That was many years ago. So all this has sparked my curiosity. According to this article "Today, using oxen primarily for farming is uncommon in the United States. The only other oxen I have encountered reside on historical interpretation farms like the Howell Living History Farm or Sturbridge Village."
"There is a farmer in Northern Pennsylvania, Millerton to be exact, who trains and utilizes oxen to make a living farming. He grows over 30 types of vegetables on about 1 acre, about another acre of various grains, and raises pastured chickens, pigs, and grass-fed cattle. He does not have a tractor to work the land. Instead, he has a Holstein team of oxen to plow, spread manure, haul stones, cart, cultivate, harrow, disc, skid logs, and pull you-name-it. He also has me. I am farmer Andy’s apprentice for this year."
"In order to be of any help to Andy, I have to learn to teach or “train” the oxen. According to Andy, oxen are never finished with their schooling. They respond to voice commands and negative reinforcements of the whip that are both built on their prey animal instincts. So if we give the oxen a command, such as, “Come here!” the oxen move forward, because they associate the sound and a crack of the whip on their rumps if they do not move fast enough."
" Maybe I left out a few details about how much time is involved in training a mature team or how feeding milk to your calves at an early age can make all the difference later on. The knowledge and skill required to use oxen will make you become a better farmer."
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I think you'd be best served by picking up one of Drew Conroy's books on oxen, as you're unlikely to have much luck trolling around the Internet for information. Also, Tillers International (in Michigan, I believe) hosts a variety of classes and seminars on using oxen.
Unlike draft horses, cattle were not, to my knowledge, bred specifically for draft purposes. Think of them more as a functional byproduct of dairying. So, I suppose oxen are "traditionally" (if such a thing exists) males from dairy breeds. You can get them young and cheap, as they're much less desirable for other purposes than beef cattle or milk cows. "Traditionally," pick whatever breed is common where you are.
As an aside, "oxtail" is a misnomer, or at least most likely is. Oxtail is just the name of the cut that comes from the tail from an animal slaughtered for beef, and has nothing to do with an ox (unless, of course, the animal slaughtered was a castrated male over 4 years old, which is unlikely).
Story like this gets better after being told a few times. Or maybe it's just a tiny ad: