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Horses & Oxen More Than Pull Their Worth (VIDEO)

Horses & Oxen More Than Pull Their Worth (VIDEO)

Living in a digital age, it’s good to know that sometimes we still need to do things the way our forebears did. Fred is a Belgian draft horse called into action to help line crews in East Burke, Vermont, attach a fiber optic cable to a utility pole on June 24. Fred and his owner, Claude Desmarais, had been hired by Fairpoint Communications to pull the fiber optic cable through challenging terrain to provide Vermont with high-speed internet by 2013. You can see Fred at work at Boing Boing.

Fred also does considerably less harm to the environment than heavy construction equipment, just as Larson and Lucas, two Brown Swiss steer that Rich Ciotola, a farmer in Sheffield, Massachusetts uses to plow his fields. Ciotola, Larson and Lucas were part of a New York Times piece in May about how a small number of farmers are again using “beasts of burden” to till their fields:

Now, as diesel prices skyrocket, some farmers who have rejected many of the past century’s advances in agriculture have found a renewed logic in draft power. Partisans argue that animals can be cheaper to board and feed than any tractor. They also run on the ultimate renewable resource: grass.

“Ox don’t need spare parts, and they don’t run on fossil fuels,” Mr. Ciotola said.

Animals are literally lighter on the land than machines.

“A tractor would have left ruts a foot deep in this road,” Mr. Ciotola noted.

In contrast, oxen or horses aerate the soil with their hooves as they go, preserving its fertile microbial layers. And as an added benefit, animals leave behind free fertilizer.

David Fisher, who runs the Natural Roots Community Supported Agriculture program in Conway, Mass., and sells vegetables grown solely with horsepower, says he’s had “record numbers” of applicants:

“There’s an incredible hunger for this kind of education,” he said.

“Using animals is just really appealing to the senses,” he said, adding that he found it philosophically appealing as well. “There’s a deep environmental crisis right now, and live power is also about creating an alternative to petroleum. Grass is a solar powered resource — and you don’t need manufacturing plants or an engineering degree to make a horse go.”

In this video, Training Oxen Fisher and Tim Hupper describe just that.

Sounds like he, and Ciotola and Desmarais, are onto something not new, but old know-how that it’s high time we learned about again.

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27 comments

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3:37AM PDT on Jul 28, 2011

Agree with Grace A.

1:01PM PDT on Jul 21, 2011

While I think its great taking an environmental approach (ie grass renewable), why do we subject animals to slavery? This isn't right

5:24AM PDT on Jul 8, 2011

ok then. let us go back to human slavery. go over and catch who ever 'we' are fighting with and use them as beasts of burden. I'm sure a lot of Americans would rather see Taliban people be put to good use than shot dead.

there are drugs and surgery to keep them under controll.

"leave the mules alone, use people"

is this what you want to see?

or just "pay Mexicans better" and have them till the fields. they can run on cash, rice and snack cakes.

that is not racist at all. as long as it lets an ox be free.

3:23AM PDT on Jul 7, 2011

For field work oxen and horses make sense. Draft animal working for humans is a viable ecological niche. Working animals are often treated better than pets. If a human mistreats an animal, the animal is not able to work as well as a well-treated animal would. Most people who actually work with animals realize this and treat the working animals decently.

9:03AM PDT on Jul 6, 2011

I don't know if I like these animals being worked like this. These animals are usually worked to death and as a reward for all they did, they are slaughtered.

6:25PM PDT on Jul 5, 2011

Deborah K is right - greed overrides compassion.
Use the animals instead of the machines to save money, then what are the future cost saving measures? Save money by not providing appropriate veterinary care, not feeding them a proper diet, working them to hard. "Ox don't need spare parts" - spoken like a true red neck. I'm sure he thinks Ox don't need a lot of things especially if it costs him money. The animals are just a different type of machine to him, it's pathetic and they deserve far better.

10:55AM PDT on Jul 5, 2011

The animal rights nuts need to get a hold of yourselves. They are not abusing them and they probably get more breaks and taken care of better then you think.

5:05PM PDT on Jul 4, 2011

I am supportive of responsible and humane work for livestock, but more often than not, as we all know, greed overrides compassion -

1:24AM PDT on Jul 4, 2011

“Ox don’t need spare parts, and they don’t run on fossil fuels,”
Um yeah, but they produce them...

I also think everyone here needs to take a deep breath, a nice cup of camomile tea and CALM DOWN. If you actually watch the video you'll see that it teaches responsible training and handling of oxen. It very much streeses the point that they are disciplined (just like how children need to be), but there is concern for their welfare and wellbeing-they are in no way abused.

Animal rights activists PLEASE do not lose your heads on this article, when there are soo many others that are more appropriate to vent steam on.

11:40PM PDT on Jul 3, 2011

We should be going from darkness towards light, and NOT THE REVERSE as these people here are doing, and so pleased with themselves! My God! DO NOT ABUSE ANIMALS BY KEEPING THEM TIED IN CONSTRUCTIONS THEY CANNOT MOVE!!!!! POOR CALVES! POOR CALVES! POOR POOR ANIMALS THAT HAVE GOT THIS HORRIBLE MONSTER TO RULE OVER TORTURE THEM IN ALL THE WAYS THEY JUST CAN IMAGINE. AND THERE ARE NO LIMITS TO HUMAN IMAGINATION. DISGUSTING VODEO!

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