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For draft work, what are the advantages and disadvantages of horses, mules, donkeys, and tractors?

 
Scott Fike
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Greetings,

      As a beginning farmer, recently I have been reading about draft animals. Right now, I’m trying to learn about draft oxen. Before that I was learning about horses, mules and donkeys.

      But, before that, I started out reading about classic tractors (“classic” by my definition meaning anything made before about 1960), because I don’t need or want anything big as I intend on starting small.

      This got me to thinking about the various different roles each of these plays on the crop farm.
Since I’m wanting to start no-till field crop farming, I was wondering which role each animal and tractor is good at, and which might be best suited to my overall purpose as a whole if I decide to go with just one.

     I primarily want something to pull a small crimper-roller for flatening cover crops, a small planter or seed-drill and also a small harvester.

    I also would need animal or tractor capable of taking me to town if I should ever give up my drivers license (which might come sooner rather than later).

    Recently I’ve been strongly leaning towards oxen, but I don’t think they would do well going into town as they tend to be slow. I also had donkeys on my second place list. But, really, mules and horses are just as good as well. Horses might be more acceptable going into town (similar to the way the Amish do). So this is where I could use some guidance and suggestions.

Thank you
 
Su Ba
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Since tractor quickly replaced draft animals on the farm, it's obvious to me that small farmers definitely saw that mobile tractor to be superior to draft animals. Since I wasn't living during that time period, I'm not sure of all the reasons for the switch over. But I've heard statements such as...
...you don't have to feed an idle tractor during the winter
...a tarp for the tractor is cheaper than a barn for horses
...a tractor is less apt to die than a horse
...tractors don't bite, kick, or runaway as often as a horse
...it's cheaper to run a tractor than a team of horses

Can't say that I've had enough experience to compare tractors to draft teams. But I have worked a draft pony, but not too seriously. Just moving firewood around. I can say that it would have been a lot easier to have used an ATV and a cart, but the pony had a big "fun factor". I enjoyed having a pony around. I enjoyed gazing out the kitchen window to watch the pony graze. It was pleasurable grooming her, smelling the musky pony aroma. By comparison, I get zero pleasure washing my ATV.
 
Burra Maluca
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How far is the trip to town?  How fast do you need to go?  How much stuff to carry or pull?  How smooth/steep is the road?  All these things are likely to influence the decision.
 
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