Binding oats in July, 1999, with a horsedrawn grain binder at a friends farm in rural Iowa. In these pictures 3 abreast American Belgians are pulling a grain binder with a 6 foot cutting bar. Lots of nice shots here for folks to see what horsepower is really all about. It isn't all quaint parades and standing around in petting zoos as most city folks may be more accustomed to. Horses have real uses which compliment their strengths and abilities. The barn in the background is home to about a dozen Percherons. Equipment is repaired in the workshops nearby.
We feed roughly 1-1/2 gallons of oats and/or corn per day for draft horses at light or no work. Slightly more in winter. This equates to about 6 or 7 pounds of grain per day. If we can average 40 bushels of oats per acre at about 60 pounds per bushel, then we can feed all the grain a horse needs in a year including heavier feed rations during periods of heavy work, with roughly one and a half acres worth under grain production. In a bad year during which yields are low, it might require 2 acres for grain production. And another 3 to 5 acres of hay to store for winter. The horses can be used to raise and harvest all of their own feed.
At left is the view from behind the driver. The canvas wall on the back of the grain cutter catches the grain stalks and allows the stalks to fall down onto the conveyor on the floor. The grain travels up the conveyor behind the driver where it finally arrives to collect as a bundle and is then tied up and dropped to the ground or onto a bundle carrier or conveyor.
Grain such as oats is a normal part of regular crop rotation. No land is taken out of use for other types of farming just to raise the grain the horses need, as all this crop would normally have been turned under with a plow by a tractor farmer during this part of normal crop rotation. Thus a farmer looses no production as a result of feeding his horses.
For those interested in caring for their farm and its fertility, controlling the types of crops used and waste management, horsepower becomes an attractive resource for building a profitable and environmentally friendly sustainable farming operation. Raising feeds on farm also allows the farmer to guarantee the quality and source of feed stuffs and handling as the GMO problem worsens.
At left is the binder at work nearby a busy interstate highway.
Horse power is quiet and peaceful and pollution free. On a hot day the stink of tractor exhaust and the constant shaking and vibration inside the cab can make for a long uncomfortable day, meanwhile the fuel bills keep going up. The horse is a quite and friendly companion who wants no more than a good hay and feed locally raised and a nice field to run in at the end of the day. A very effective answer to the Arabs and their price gouging. The horses' waste is actually one of the most popular forms of garden fertilizer!
At left are the horses at work pulling the binder. The inside horse of course gets to nibble along the way.
New harness can be bought off-the-shelf or custom made. Draft horses tend to be uniform in size so most draft harness can be adjusted to fit just about any draft horse. We buy both new and used. New harness can be mail order or bought on a visit to a harness shop or carriage shop. Used harness can be found at draft horse auctions or farm auctions where draft horses were kept. Only good harness is used. No antique harness is used! Antique harness creates extreme danger of wrecks and injury both to driver and animals. All harness is inspected regularly and worn or defective parts are replaced to reduce risk of wrecks.
These tools and machines are no longer in production and many of the machines must be repaired for horse use today. Since these machines are so old, parts are becoming scarce and farmers depend on a certain amount of skill and mechanical ingenuity to repair them or make new parts. The grain binder in these photos is probably over 75 years old. The old machines were very dependable though and once repaired they tend to give years of troublefree service.
At left is the owner and friend setting up the binder for use. Good mechanical aptitude is necessary to keep this machinery running.
Latest update July 24, 2005.
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This page assembled January 1st, 2001.