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close this book Animal traction
close this folder 3. Animal husbandry
View the document Sheller
View the document Nutrition
View the document Grooming
View the document Minor medical problems and first aid

3. Animal husbandry

A draft animal's value is based on the special training and care that enables it to pull. The time, money, and effort that goes into raising and maintaining an animal makes it costly and hard to replace. At some seasons of the year, the loss or inefficient performance of a draft animal can result in production setbacks or crop failures that are very costly to the farmer.

In order to protect their investment, farmers must keep their animals strong, healthy, and eventempered through proper handling, a good feeding program, and prompt medical attention when necessary.



It is important to give work animals a place where they can eat and rest unbothered by weather, insects, other animals, and uncomfortable restraints such as hobbles, short ties, and narrow stalls. In the tropics, animals do not need elaborate shelters, but stabling them in dry, comfortable surroundings contributes to their overall soundness and work value.

A lean-to with a straw roof provides shelter from heat, rain, and wind. A simple lean-to is a wall four or five meters long and two and a half meters high, with a canopy on one side. It is built on

high ground so water drains away. The wall is situated so it blocks prevailing winds, and the roof made on the side opposite the wind. An earthen floor is adequate, but straw or sand should be kept in the area where the animal sleeps, or "beds down." Horses often prefer standing to lying on a hard, cold, or wet surface, so owners should make special efforts to ensure that bedding is ample.

Manure and urine-soaked straw should be collected regularly to reduce fly populations and hoof

infections. It makes excellent compost, but should not be piled or stored near the stable area.

A smokefire made from a green log or slow-burning stump helps keep the shelter area free of mosquitoes and flies.

A manger, trough, or rack can be built into the wall of the leanto to hold hay, grain, salt licks or water buckets.


Stalls and Corrals

A lean-to can be made into a stall, or "box stall", by closing off the three open sides with a wood fence or mud walls. The sides should be sturdy and high enough so animals cannot Jump out. A stall for one horse or bull should be approximately 25 square meters.

A stall may be expanded into a pen or small corral where two or more animals are kept. Usually, animals can be left at liberty in this area, but if they compete for food or fight, they must be tied, or kept in separate pens within the larger area. If they are tied, they must be able to reach individual feed and bedding areas without getting tangled in their ropes (see below).

Horses are more active than either donkeys or bulls and so it is advisable to let them move freely in a stall or corral. Tying them or keeping them in narrow stalls can cause them to develop nervous habits such as weaving, kicking, pawing, cribbing (locking the lower jaw against a stallboard or feed trough and sucking air), halter pulling or refusing to lie down.


There are many instances, both in the stable and field, when owners must tie, hold, or immobilize their animals. Controlling their movements without hurting them requires proper use of ropes and basic harness equipment. Improperly tied, animals may suffer from fatigue, rope burns, limb injuries, poor posture, or nervousness due to boredom or fear. Serious injuries or strangulation can result from use of slip knots or very short ties.

Animals tied in a lean-to or stall should be fastened on a line Long enough to permit movement and access to feed and bedding areas. The line is attached to the base of a support pole or to a stake, using a fixed loop. A fixed loop is one that does not "slip," or close around the stake; the animal should be able to circle the stake without "winding itself up." The top of the stake should be broader than the diameter of the loop so the loop cannot be pulled off.

The free end of the stake rope is attached to the animal's halter. A halter is a piece of rope which fits over an animal's head and muzzle and allows the owner to lead, tie, or control it. The halter's design makes it strong, safe, comfortable and easy to use on cattle, horses, and donkeys.

A simple halter can be made of strong soft rope.

The halter is especially useful during training because it allows the trainer to control an animal's head from three points. It is superior to single-point attachments such as the hornrope or nosering for this reason.

Improved Halter For Cattle Or Equines

Each draft animal should have a permanent halter so it can be led or tied easily. The halter also can be used like a bridle. Reins or "lines" are attached to the side rings so the head can be pulled right or left for turns, and straight back toward the chest for stopping and backing-up.

Local craftsmen can make strong, comfortable halters from leather, heavy canvas, or flat-wound rope. Rings and buckles are made or bought. How to Put on a Halter

• Make friends with the animal. Talk to it, touch it, feed and water it, clean its stall, occasionally give it a tidbit or hand-feed it salt. Let it get used to you. If you can pat it on the neck and touch its nose and ear, you can probably slip the halter on.

In the case of cattle, especially horned varieties, it is safest to catch and tie the animal before attempting to place the halter. Use the method shown. If the animal is obviously very docile and used to handling and you want to do it without ties, be alert to circumstances which may cause it to toss its head and injure you: fast movements, flies, sudden noise, approach of another person or animal.

• Stand next to the animal's left side, facing the side of its head. Hold the free end, or poll piece, in your right hand, and the noose-like noseband in your left. Let the rest of the halter hang free.

Making a Simple Halter

• Make a large loop 1 m in diameter at the end of a rope 3 meters long. Use a fixed knot for Knot A; do not use a slip knot.

• Make a small fixed loop about onethird of the way down one side of the large loop. This is Knot B.

• Pass the free end of the rope through the small loop made in the second step.

• Place the halter over the animal's head so that the non-slipping portion (the headband) fits behind its ears. The slipping section (noseband) fits over the muzzle.

Halter showing where additional ropes may be tied to give maximum control of the head during turning or stopping (A,B,C).

Leather Halter for Horses, Donkeys, Mules. or Cattle

How to Put on a Halter (cont.)

• Pass the free end under the animal's jaw and up toward the right ear. At the same

time, begin to slip the noseband over the muzzle. If it tosses its head, try to move with it; speak to it in a low, soft tone.

• Flip the end of the poll piece so it passes behind the ears and drops down toward you. This is done with the right hand. The right hand remains against the right cheek, still holding the middle of the poll piece.

• If your right hand is high enough on the cheek, there will be enough tension on the noseband to keep it in place while you use your left hand to grab the tip of the poll piece.

• Feed the end of the poll piece through the ring or buckle of the cheekpiece. The more you tighten it, the higher the noseband rides on the muzzle. You want the noseband to circle the muzzle-not squeeze it. You should be able to slide your hand (flat) between the band and the muzzle.

Alternative Method for Tethering a Bull

• Have a local blacksmith take a one-meter piece of iron and bend it into an open, spiraling screw. Hang it from the bull's neck on a piece of strong cord and feed the last link of a chain onto the spiral.

• Tie the other end of the chain to the stake rope (a short length of strong rope which is permanently attached to the stake with a fixed loop so that the rope will not wind itself up).

• The stake may be made of a broken milling pestle or any strong, tapered stick.

Tying animals by the legs or horns on a regular basis is a poor practice. Constant rubbing produces burns, soreness, and infection. In some cases the animal tries to protect the tender area by kicking out, refusing to be handled, or shying away.

Cattle wearing noserings should not have heavy chain attached to the ring, as this discourages normal carriage of the head. Noserings


While noserings can be helpful for controlling very tempermental, headstrong animals, their use can often lead owners into the bad habit of "dragging" them from the front instead of driving (guiding) them from behind. Some stockmen feel that immediate "ringing" (placement of the ring) sets the stage for training by showing the animal "who's boss." But in most cases animals selected for work purposes can be handled and controlled with halters. Causing them pain or fright, especially during the adjustment period, may make them too nervous to eat, drink, or rest.



A good feeding program is essential in maintaining the strength and health of draft animals. Food is the fuel which an animal converts to energy and pulling power. Animals that are not fed enough of the right foods can show chronic fatigue, will lose the ability to work, and are more susceptible to disease. Excess calories are stored as fat, causing animals to become inefficient workers, lazy, stubborn, and ill-tempered. A basic knowledge of the dietary needs of draft animals and of the nutritional content of available feeds will enable owners to plan a feeding program that will help their animals to work to their full potential.

Why Draft Animals Need Special Diets

Grazing draft animals need supplemental feeding for two reasons:

• to increase energy intake and prevent protein, vitamin and mineral deficiencies

• because of limited grazing time or limited forage availability. Pulling loads is hard work.

Animals burn many more calories when working than when idle or grazing. This means that the energy requirements of an animal will increase with the work load. Experience and research in tropical areas have shown that animals need about twice their normal energy maintenance requirement when they are used for medium-intensity draft work.

Without this additional food, draft animals grow thin and weak, because they must burn body tissue in order to produce the energy needed to perform work. Not only do these animals lose strength, they become increasingly susceptible to injury and disease. An adequate diet is especially important to young draft animals because their growth may be stunted or their conformation affected if food normally used to build bone and muscle must be converted into work energy during the critical early years.

Work animals have limited time to eat, since they work during the time they would normally be grazing or foraging for food. In the time remaining after work, they may not be able to find and eat enough grass to replace the calories lost during work.

General Rules for Feeding

1) Feed the animal so that it gains weight and maintains strength but does not become fat or lazy. Never let it lose weight.

2) Feed large quantities of grass, straw, and other bulky, fibrous foods. These foods are called roughages. If they are of good quality, they supply all the nutrients that a grazing (nonworking) animal needs for body maintenance. Protein, phosphorous and Vitamin A may be deficient in forage growing on arid land.

3) If only poor quality roughage diet is available, supplement the roughage diet with grain and other concentrate feeds such as beans, seeds, and mill by-products. These feeds give the animal additional energy for work.

4) Give the animals salt and mineral supplements.

5) Worm the animals regularly if parasites are present. This ensures that parasites do not interfere with digestion and that animals get the full value of food.

6) Use quality feeds:

• Do not let animals grace in pastures where herds of other animals graze, or eat grain

or hay from the ground or stable floor. These may be contaminated with parasites.

• Never feed moldy or dusty feeds. These cause serious digestive problems.

• Improve the nutritional value of insect-infested grain by mixing good grains, mill byproducts, or peanut or cottonseed cake into the daily ration.

Never give animals free access to lush, young grass or leaves of young corn or peanut plants. These can cause serious conditions like bloat, colic, or dehydration due to diarrhea.

Recommended rations and feeding products are discussed in detail in Appendix B.

Water Requirement-s

During the rainy season, grazing animals get considerable amounts of water from the grasses and other succulent forages they consume. Under these circumstances, drinking water consumption is not an accurate indication of water requirements. Actual water needs are determined by size, species, environment, and intensity of work. Larger animals drink more because they have a greater body mass to cool. Muscular activity (work) generates additional

heat. Working animals lose water from sweating and therefore need to increase their water intake.

Water Requirements of Draft Animals


Liters per day


10-30 rainy season


15-40 dry season







Working animals should have access to water at least three times per day-morning, noon, and night. Horses and some cattle engaged in heavy work may need a short drink every two or three hours. Zebu' cattle, donkeys and mules can work for longer periods without a drink) but still should be offered water during the mid-day resting/grazing period. A heated animal should never be allowed free access to water.

Some animals will drink too much water in the evening. This may prevent them from eating their

concentrate feeds. They should not be allowed to drink freely until after feeding. A small drink may be given before food is offered.



Grooming refers to the process of cleaning animals so that their coats are free of dust, dirt, manure and sweat.

Importance of Animal Grooming:

1) At night, animals may lie in manure, water or urine-soaked ground. When this material hardens on the coat (hair), it attracts flies and other insects which are a nuisance to the animal and winch may carry disease. Sometimes this material contains parasites such as hookworm, which can enter the skin and seriously affect the animal's health.

2) When sweat evaporates, it leaves a mat of stiff hair. A harness or yoke rubbing against this mat will pull some of the hair loose and harder clumps of hair will rub against the exposed skin. This results in a burn or raw spot which becomes increasingly tender and finally an open wound. These wounds are called girth sores or yoke galls. They can cause pain which makes animals extremely irritable and hard to handle.

3) Daily grooming results in closer physical contact between owner and animal. This association develops trust between them. The owner learns about the animal's moods, sensitivities, and reactions. The animal becomes familiar with the owner's voice, movements, and commands, and becomes easier to handle.

4) Daily grooming lets the owner take a close look at the animal each day. Minor problems like ticks, scratches, muscle strains, harness sores, and stones in the hoof can be detected and treated before they become serious problems.

To groom animals, a person needs two tools-a curry comb and a brush. A curry comb is an ovalshaped plastic or metal brushing device which is used to loosen sweat, manure and other materials from the animal's coat. The brush is used to remove the materials loosened during currying.

How to Groom an Animal:

1) Cross-tie the animal (see page 64 for method).

2) Put the curry comb in the right hand and the brush in the left. Starting high on the animal's neck, apply the curry using gentle, circular motions. When the neck is curried, use the brush to remove the loosened materials. Use firm strokes and brush in the direction of the natural lay of the coat.

3) Clean one section of the coat at a time. Work front to back, using first the curry, then the brush to clean each section. When the entire first side (including the legs) is finished, go to the opposite side and repeat the process starting high on the neck.

4) Pay special attention to areas where harness touches the animal. Remove all hardened sweat.

5) When currying the legs, be very gentle. Use the edge of the curry to clean the bony structures around the knees, hocks, elbows, and fetlocks.

6) Leave the head until last. Brush it gently. Be sure to loosen the halter and remove any sweat or loose hair caked under it (especially behind the ears and on the muzzle).

7) If the animal moves, kicks, or attempts to reach back and bite, immobilize it by tightening the crossties and lifting one of the legs in the manner described on page 65.

8) Use water to loosen material that is sticky or very hard.

9) Pick up each hoof and check for stones. Remove stones or caked manure with a hoof pick or blunt instrument.

10) Clean the harness. If the harness is caked with sweat and loose hair, it will dig into the animal and cause a sore. Clean the leather with a scraper; then use a sponge and warm water to remove the finer residue. Keep the leather supple by applying vegetable oil or petroleum once a week. The best time to groom an animal is before the working period. This ensures that it will be clean when harnessed and that sores will not occur. It also helps to prepare the animal for harnessing and work by making it attentive to the owner's voice and commands.


Minor medical problems and first aid

Farmers and extension agents should be able to handle minor medical problems and common first aid measures. This section reviews the diagnosis and treatment of common problems. For information on diagnosis and treatment of other illnesses, see Appendix C.


This is a pus-filled swelling caused by the presence of foreign material under the skin. The material may be a thorn or broken needle, dirt introduced by a puncture, or blood from a ruptured vessel (result of a blow or bruise). The swelling will come to a head, break, and drain naturally. If the animal is in pain, the process should be hastened by applying hot soaks (one or two per day). The abscess is then cut open with a sterile, sharp knife and flushed out with a solution of salt water or mild antiseptic. Massage improves the drainage. Sulfa powder can be applied inside the abscess. The cleaned cavity is then plugged with sterile gauze or antiseptic cloth. The area must be drained dally until the discharge ceases.


Bloat is a condition that affects ruminants. The intake of lush, early-growth pasture, immature grain, or any feed to which the animal is unaccustomed causes unusual amounts of foam to build up in the stomach. This prevents normal belching. A gas forms, the animal's left side distends. Breathing becomes difficult and death may be the result. Serious cases are treated by piercing the animal's side with a special device; this should be performed only by a veterinarian or trained veterinary medic. Bloat often can be alleviated through administration of a drench. A pint of vegetable oil (or peanut oil) is put in a bottle and the animal is made to drink (see below). It is preferable to have a veterinarian do this, but in emergency situations, the farmer or extension agent can do it by following these steps:

1) Raise the animal's head just enough to allow liquid to flow down its throat. Hold the animal by the nostrils.

2) Insert the bottle into the side of the mouth between the front teeth and the rear molars so the animal cannot bite or break it. The mouth of the bottle should rest on the animal's tongue.

3) Tilt the bottle so the liquid flows slowly and the animal can swallow it. If the animal coughs, or appears not to be swallowing, the liquid may be passing into the windpipe (and lungs) instead of the gullet. This can cause pneumonia and kill the animal.


Colic is pain of the digestive tract. Colic affects equine animals which have eaten too much grain, indigestible roughage, or lush forage. Animals with poor teeth are especially prone to the condition because they cannot break down foods in the mouth before swallowing them. Ground-fed animals may ingest sand with their food and suffer from sand colic. A chronic form of colic is due to the migration of strongyles (worms) in the digestive tract. In all cases, the animal suffers pain from the gas which builds up in the stomach. The pain may become so intense that the animal injures itself by kicking or rolling.

Symptoms include pawing, kicking up at the stomach, rolling (this causes leg and spine injuries), biting the flank, sweating, constipation, increased heartbeat, and shock. Keep the horse warm and quiet and administer drench.


Constipation should be treated by administering a mineral oil drench (1-4 quarts, depending on the size of the animal). A veterinarian may administer liquid parafin or magnesium sulfate through a tube inserted into the stomach via the nostrils; this should not be attempted by inexperienced persons, since it might pass into the lungs. In emergency situations, an agent or farmer should give a drench made of 1-1/2 pints warm beer, 1/2 glass whiskey or rum and 1-1/2 pints water, or 1-l/2 pints warm milk and 2 tablespoons ginger.


Diarrhea may develop from the excessive consumption of lush green pasture. It can cause dehydration of an animal. Regulation of the intake of lush pasture will prevent this problem.


This condition affects equine animals, particularly horses; it causes lameness and eventually cripples the animal. It is due to poor circulation in the hoof (too much blood) caused by an overly rich diet, concussion of the hoof, overwork, or colds. The animal stands on its heels; its feet are hot (the hoof and the flesh directly above it feel warm to the touch); it limps or may refuse to move. Eventually, rings develop around the hoof wall and the toe portion of the hoof begins to grow outward, curling back on itself.

An animal with founder must be made to walk even though it refuses at first. The activity forces the hoof to perform its natural function, which is to pump blood up out of the foot. Cold soaks are used to relieve swelling and pain. This is done easily by having the animal stand in mud, a stream, or a filled irrigation ditch; otherwise, it is kept standing in buckets of cold water.

Hoof Problems (Equines)

STONE IN HOOF: Carefully remove the stone by prying it out with a hoofpick, screwdriver, or non-pointed instrument.

THORN IN HOOF: Tap the suspected area with a wrench or bolt until the animal flinches. Trim surface area if possible and pull the thorn out. Soak the hoof in warm salty water to draw out infection. Then apply a poultice composed of a hot paste of bran and epsom salts that have been pre-mixed in boiling water and partially cooled. Pack this around the hoof and wrap it in burlap. After 10-12 hours, remove the poultice, flush the wound with antiseptic, and then pack it with pine tar. If swelling and heat indicate that the infection is still present, repeat the procedure.

SANDCRACK: This is one of several conditions caused by drying out of the hoof and improper diet, including insufficient oil intake. Cracks appear during the dry season when the animal lacks the green forage necessary for production of horn, which forms the hard outer wall of the hoof. The crack descends from the coronary band down into the hoof wall. It is painful and causes lameness; sometimes infection results. Cracks are sometimes the result of a direct blow, such as a kick by another animal. Sometimes cracks are related to a conformation fault, as when an animal's natural gait causes it to hit one foot with the other. The blow damages the horn-producing mechanism in the coronary band.

Treatment consists of inserting a wooden wedge into the crack and wrapping it with a bandage so the crack cannot open and close when the animal walks. Workload should be decreased and diet corrected by feeding concentrates to provide additional oil.


Animals are usually bitten on the leg or head. Symptoms include intense local swelling, lameness, swelling of the head, lips and gums, shock, lowered body temperature, and impaired vision. Treatment is as follows:

1) Apply wide tourniquet five cm above the bite, not so tight that it cuts circulation. Loosen it every 15-20 minutes for a two-hour period following detection of the bite.

2) Clip the hair around the bite. Enlarge the wounds (fang marks) by making incisions parallel to the blood vessels. Apply a nonoral suction to the wound for a period of 30 minutes.

3) A large bull should be injected with 50 milliliters (ml) of polyvalent antivenin; smaller animals receive larger dosages.


A sprain results from damage to a muscle, tendon, ligament, or joint. The tissue is stretched or torn when the animal steps in a hole, twists its foot, or pulls too great a load. Swelling and temperature increase may occur in the affected area, but some sprains are hard to detect, being related to chronic conformation faults in the legs. In these instances soreness begins after several hours of work and disappears with a night's rest. Application of cold packs relieves the swelling and pain. The affected limb is wrapped in loose cotton or cloth and then wound with a strip bandage. Rest is the best treatment for lameness.


When the animal is lame in the front legs, its head will go up when the lame foot hits the ground. Lead the animal toward the observer, first at a walk, then at a trot. Lameness is more easily seen when the animal trots.

When the animal is lame in the hind legs, its head will drop when the lame foot hits the ground. Lead the animal away from the observer, first at a walk, then at a trot.

These are the most common kinds of lameness. Other lameness is related to the abnormal growth of bone or the accumulation of fluids in the joint. A veterinarian should be consulted when these more serious problems are suspected.

Wounds and Burns

Minor flesh wounds are washed with soap and sterile (boiled) water, or with hydrogen peroxide or a one percent solution of potassium permanganate. Alcohol, iodine, and creosote are stronger antiseptics that can damage tissues and delay healing if applied too liberally. After the wound is clean, dust it with antibiotic powder and cover it.

An untreated or improperly cleaned wound may become infected. Soreness, inflammation, and pus are common symptoms of infection.

Rope or harness burns should be washed with soap and water and covered with petroleum jelly or antibiotic ointment. The application of wood ash will cause a scar to form quickly and will also help keep flies off the wound. The harness and pads should be cleaned and adjusted.