|Better Farming Series 14 - Farming with Animal Power (FAO - INADES, 1977, 57 p.)|
Oxen can be very useful if they are well trained.
When oxen are very well trained, one man alone can drive them and hold the plough.
If the oxen are not well trained, three people are needed: one in front to lead; one at the side, to make the oxen go forward; one behind, to hold the plough.
It takes time to train oxen well, but this time is not wasted. Afterwards, only one man will be needed to drive the oxen and hold the plough.
Once oxen are trained, they should be harnessed fairly often.
Never leave them too long without harnessing them. If you do not harness your oxen for 6 months, they will lose their good habits. In the dry season when there is no ploughing or cultivating to do, harness your oxen for transport. Then they will not lose their good habits.
A yoke is a piece of wood placed on the heads or necks of oxen which is used for pulling farm implements.
The yoke must be made of strong wood; it must not be too heavy; it should weigh 6 to 9 kilogrammes.
· The neck yoke
There are neck yokes for harnessing a single ox, and yokes for harnessing two oxen together.
The yoke is placed on the neck of the animals.
When the oxen pull, the yoke settles down in the right place.
Farmers can easily make such a yoke, or the village blacksmith or carpenter can do it.
It is used mainly for zebu oxen which have a longer and weaker neck than some other oxen.
With the neck yoke you cannot make the animals walk backward because the yoke is not fastened to them.
With the neck yoke the animals have more freedom but they more easily spoil the crops during cultivation.
Double neck yoke for two oxen
· The head yoke
The head yoke is placed behind the horns and is tied to them with rope or thongs of leather.
In order not to injure the animal put a pad of straw or kapok wrapped in cloth between the yoke and the head.
Hook for a fixing chain
A yoke with its chains costs between 1 500 and 2 000 CFA francs.
The head yoke
· The single yoke
The single yoke is used to harness one animal.
A chain is fixed to either side of the single yoke.
Single neck yoke
It can also be used as a collar, in the same way as for donkeys (see page 37).
Ox with collar
How long should the yoke be?
The yoke should be rather short. The oxen should be quite close to each other. But there should be 20 to 25 centimetres between the two oxen so that the chain that pulls the tool does not bother them.
So the yoke should be 1.10 to 1.30 metres long. If the animals have large horns, make the yoke a little longer.
For certain work, like ridging or cultivating between rows of crops, longer yokes are sometimes used, so that there are two rows of crops between the two animals.
So you must have two yokes, a short yoke and a long yoke.
Two oxen harnessed with a long yoke for cultivating
You have chosen two oxen of the same age, the same size and the same strength.
· Men and oxen must get used to each other
Before beginning to train your oxen, you must get them used to being with men.
Putting the animals in a modern pasture is itself enough to make the animals used to the presence of men.
If a man is unkind to his oxen, if he hits them, the oxen will be afraid of the man and become vicious.
If a man looks after his oxen well, they become quieter.
The man and the animals must become friends.
· Teaching oxen to wear the yoke
Two days before beginning the training, tie the oxen for a few hours to a tree. The animals will get used to being tied, and will be quieter.
Always put the same ox on the same side of the yoke.
The left- hand ox must always be on the left, and the right- hand ox must always be on the right.
To get young oxen used to the yoke, you can put the ox which is to be trained along with an ox already trained. Be sure to put the left- hand ox always on the left, and the right- hand ox on the right.
When tie the oxen to be trained to the same yoke for 2 or 3 days. Let them go free for 2 or 3 hours, but keep an eye on them. To prevent them moving too much, tie a rope to a foreleg and loop it round the animal's back.
On the fifth day, get the oxen to walk in a straight line.
Do not hit them.
You need a lot of patience.
It is better to drive the oxen from behind; then the trainer disturbs them less.
When the animals are used to wearing the yoke and to walking side by side, tie a chain or a rope to the middle of the yoke, and to the other end of the chain or rope fix a piece of wood weighing about 40 kilogrammes.
When the oxen are used to wearing the yoke, and to walking while dragging something, you must teach them to walk straight ahead, to stop, to turn to the left, to turn to the right.
You can get oxen to obey at the words:
The driver's voice should be the chief means of driving the oxen.
You have to do the same movements over and over again.
The oxen learn to obey by this means. To get them to obey better, you can give each one a name, and give them orders by calling their names.
You must teach the oxen to walk steadily in a straight line.
At the beginning of training, use the oxen only for light work, such as cultivation and light transport.
Gradually make them do more tiring work. After ten days, harness the oxen to a plough (see page 42).
The oxen must walk in a straight line, and pull steadily. To begin with, do a light ploughing (see Booklet No. 7, page 8).
At the end of each furrow, let the animals rest for 1 or 2 minutes.
In this way the oxen gradually become used to all kinds of work, and the farmer also becomes used to handling the tools.
In some places there are animal training stations where the farmer can learn how to train his oxen.
Remember that oxen should not do very tiring work before they are 4 years old (see page 16).
The animals must do some work such as transport even outside the main farming season; they must not lose the habit of work.
When a man works, he gets tired. When an ox works, it gets tired.
We know too that oxen need plenty of time to find their food and digest it.
For tiring work like ploughing, oxen should not be worked for more than 5 hours a day.
For less tiring work, like light transport, oxen can be worked a little longer.
It is best to make the oxen work when the sun is not too hot, early in the morning. When it is very hot, the oxen get tired more quickly, and work less.
You must not work the oxen too long. They will get too tired and will fall sick. The farmer must know his oxen well, so that he can judge what work they can do and remain well.