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Old 04-02-2010, 11:20 AM
 
Location: Tennessee/Michigan
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"Oh it's been really tough. I mean you got your gas prices. Then gas prices cause the price of fertilizer to go up."

Breitbart.tv » Farmer Saves $70 a Day by Trading Tractor For Mule Power
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Old 04-04-2010, 12:18 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John1960 View Post
"Oh it's been really tough. I mean you got your gas prices. Then gas prices cause the price of fertilizer to go up."

Breitbart.tv » Farmer Saves $70 a Day by Trading Tractor For Mule Power
That "news" is from 2008. Still, the greenest form of farming is with animal power. It is just not the most efficient on the large scale.
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Old 04-04-2010, 05:16 PM
 
Location: St. Louis
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I think you'll see more of this and then the price of mules will go up.
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Old 04-04-2010, 05:45 PM
 
Location: I think my user name clarifies that.
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More power to him!

But keep in mind that (according to the report) he's farming 40 acres. Essentially that's a big garden.
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Old 04-04-2010, 05:51 PM
 
Location: 125 Years Too Late...
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Good idea. Most of us automatically assume that the way we do things is easier, 'better,' and more convenient than the way our great grandparents did it. More and more, I discover that this is not always the case. Not that we don't have better ways of doing some things--we do. But not for EVERYTHING. Sometimes the old way is not THAT hard, less wasteful, more elegant in many cases, and just plain more enjoyable to do, even though it's sometimes more work.

For instance, a couple of years ago, I got an old-style reel push mower. It turns out it's actually faster and easier to mow the lawn with that than it is the gas mower. It's not hard to push. It's not noisy. It doesn't stink. It doesn't cost anything besides my time. Yes, the blades have to be sharpened once in a while, but there is no motor to screw with and keep running, and no wasting expensive gas.

I think the same applies to a lot of things. My grandfather swore by horse-drawn farm implements. He did have a tractor in the shed, but most of the time he didn't even use it; he'd be out in the field behind his team of horses in the fields of wheat and alfalfa. I think we've painted ourselves into a corner in a lot of ways with our high-consumption, high-tech society. There was certainly more of a balance and connect with nature in the past.
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Old 04-04-2010, 05:59 PM
 
Location: 125 Years Too Late...
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Omaha Rocks View Post
More power to him!

But keep in mind that (according to the report) he's farming 40 acres. Essentially that's a big garden.
Only because of our mechanization. In the past, that was a big spread of ground to take care of alone, and it was more than enough for the simple lifestyle that was largely sustenance living. For many, that was the American Dream of the time. I can only imagine how exciting the times of the 'homestead act' must have been. Not everyone made it, of course, but can you imagine the prospect of going out and 'claiming' a plot of land that was yours to keep if you could make it work for you? Two donkeys, a lot of sweat, some luck, and a 'big garden' of 40 acres could go a long way, once upon a time.
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Old 04-04-2010, 06:15 PM
 
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Probably in a thousand years, the price of dirt will go up, too. Then, we'll all just be learning how to grow from sand, and then that will go up, too. Ultimately, we'll all have labs in our home where we grow our groceries in beakers. In to control the costs of glass, down in our deep, dark basements we'll be blowing our own glass at the furnaces.
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Old 04-05-2010, 05:03 AM
 
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I'm not seeing anything to support a "$70/day" savings on a 40 acre farm operation by going to a mule for motive power.

When I look at the tractors that are targeted to this size of acreage, none of them use anywhere near that amount of fuel, or require that much maintenance expense.

In older tractors, a very common one would be a Ford 8N, a $3,000 tractor in very good condition (even less expensive in some areas of the country). We use one for misc chores around our place, such as bush-hogging, or with a box blade to clean out stalls/corrals, or as a pulling tractor for a hay rake. This tractor can run all day under it's designed loads and not use a tank of fuel, typically around 6 gallons of gas if I rake hay for 8 hours. Even at $3.00/gallon, that's only $18.00 worth of fuel. And I usually get somewhere around 25 hours or better per quart of oil consumption.

We've got a neighbor with a newer asian import tractor, a 3-cylinder 25 horsepower diesel, and it's AWD. A very nice improvement on our old 8N, and I've borrowed it a number of times to do post-hole digging because it's got a three point with positive downforce. I've run this tractor for hours and went to fill it up once for my neighbor before driving it back to his place ... I was trying to put 5 gallons of diesel fuel into it, and splashed a bunch over the top because the fuel tank is less than 5 gallons. I'd driven it from his place, dug post holes for several hours, and used about a 1/2 tank ... only a couple of gallons of fuel, less than $6.00 worth. I brought the tractor back completely full of fuel, and it's a three mile drive back to his place.

We also use a International Super A tractor for our manure spreader (and hay raking). Again, this is an antique tractor, very commonly available for minimal dollars, in the 26 HP range. I can run this all day for even less fuel than the 8N.

When I need to use a larger tractor, out comes my JD 4020Diesel. Even on those days when I'm cutting hay, or baling, or towing the hay stackwagon around ... I generally don't use more than 2/3 of a tank, about 20 gallons of fuel. Even at $3.00/gallon, that's still only $60/day ... and I have a lot of days where I don't use that much fuel.

Given that we don't use the tractors every day, there's a lot of days when the tractors use no fuel whatsoever. The sit in their sheds and cost nothing for fuel that day.

In comparison, every head of livestock I own must be fed, watered, and attended to every day. Periodically, I must clean out their corrals or stalls, load up the manure spreader, and head out to the pastures to spread the manure and waste hay or bedding. None of this happens for free, and it happens whether or not the livestock is put to work on a given day. My horses are just as consumptive on the days I don't ride or work them as the days I do work them. Easily 1/2 bale of alfalfa/grass every day for each of them, plus supplements, and routine well-care.

I'm not buying any "$70/day" savings here ... and we've not even begun to visit the issues of productivity. When I need to cut hay, I can get a field (mine are all divided into 40's) cut in a day at a rate of about 3-4 acres/hour. I can rake it in a matter of hours, and a second raking, if needed, in the same time frame. Baling takes a day if I've got a decent cutting, and hay bale removal/stacking takes only a couple of hours. When you're talking quality irrigated hay production, time is of essence ... you cannot take days to cut a field and have it all cure at your leisure. You must get it cut, raked, baled, and removed so that you can resume irrigation, or you've damaged the plants and the recovery for the next cutting. We are in a Western area where hay is an irrigated crop, not a dry land crop such as the riparian areas at low altitudes in the Eastern USA.

I'd bet that somebody using a team couldn't cut more than an acre or so per hour, so they'd need days just to cut a 40 acre field. They can't go any faster for the raking, and baling would be slow, too, with a powered baler towed by a team. Of course, hay bale removal would be by hand using a flatbed trailer pulled by the team ... which might be "fun", but only for the first load or so. And you're going to need a couple of people to do this, one to drive the team and then folks to load/unload the hay. Manpower isn't inexpensive ....

Last edited by sunsprit; 04-05-2010 at 05:11 AM..
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Old 04-05-2010, 06:10 AM
 
Location: I think my user name clarifies that.
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^ I'm loving that post, and for all the right reasons! 8N Ford. Mmmmm... We still have the one my grandfather bought new in the fall of 1947 - as well as all the implements. Super A. 4020. Yup - I can see them, hear them and smell them. Love it! Good memories of growing up on the farm.

You're also right about efficiency, especially with modern tractors. One of my dad's biggest and newest tractors is a Case-IH 7140. He can easily burn $70 worth of diesel through that in a day. But when you consider that he field cultivated 150 acres that same day, it puts it into perspective.


Farming with mule & horse power is kind of nice, for nostalgic and sentimental reasons. But for anything bigger than a hobby farm, it's just not going to work.
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Old 04-05-2010, 06:50 AM
 
Location: 125 Years Too Late...
10,871 posts, read 10,569,444 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunsprit View Post
Of course, hay bale removal would be by hand using a flatbed trailer pulled by the team ... which might be "fun", but only for the first load or so. And you're going to need a couple of people to do this, one to drive the team and then folks to load/unload the hay. Manpower isn't inexpensive ....
No, it wasn't fun even for the first load--especially when it was 100 degrees in the field. Manpower may not be inexpensive, but 'kiddiepower' is/was. Well, then again, maybe not: there's that little matter of room and board for eighteen years--sorta like the horse... only you can't feed the child hay.
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