Farm planning assistance
Farmers thinking about using animal traction probably have considered its advantages already. Of equal importance is an understanding of how animal traction will affect the overall farm operation. This is where an animal traction instructor can be especially helpful.
Instructors should visit the fields which the farmer intends to plant during the forthcoming season, and the fields left fallow. Only after understanding the existing pattern of land and labor use, and how the farmer calculates yearly needs, can an advisor begin to see where and if animal traction can be used to advantage.
Understanding how and why a farmer uses traditional cropping methods takes both time and great effort. This effort is required in order to match plans and needs; quick judgments concerning the use of animal traction easily can lead to failure.
After studying each situation, an instructor can offer advice concerning the purchase of equipment, how much must be produced to cover the cost of expanded operations, whether donkeys would be more efficient than bulls, and how the use of animals would affect the distribution of labor. It is extremely important, for example, to point out that animal traction increases the amount of manual labor needed for land preparation (clearing), planting, and harvesting, and decreases the amount needed for primary tillage and weeding. Other points concerning labor include:
• Traditional fields can be plowed before laborers hoe them into the mounds or ridges where crops will be planted. The labor caved in this operation can be used to plant additional lands plowed with the animals.
• In mid-season, laborers might be busy weeding traditional fields and unable to help weed fields plowed by animal traction. These fields, therefore, could be arranged so the farmer and the draft team can weed them alone. If crops are grown in regularly spaced rows, the animals will be able to walk between them and pull a weeding device. This concept can be demonstrated by laying a weeding yoke across four lines or ridges representing a planted field. The farmers can then see where the animals will walk and where the weeding plow goes. The line tracer, used to mark the rows before seeding, can also be demonstrated.
• Additional lands planted would not exceed the maximum number of hectares the family labor force could effectively harvest.