2020 - Volume #44, Issue #2, Page #28[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Haying With Horses To Feed 225-Cow Herd
Lupher learned to make hay with horses working with his dad. Now he works with his 4 kids doing the same. He says farming with horses was a low-cost way to get into the business and contributes to his ability to keep farming with today’s tight margins.
Lupher’s ranch is at 7,000 ft. He acknowledges that very few farmers in that high desert country still work with horses.
“Horses let me keep my overhead low,” says Lupher. “I save my tractor for baling and hauling bales.”
Lupher has a 30-ft. haybine, but he only cut 30 acres with it last year. He cut and raked close to 350 acres with horses and mowers.
“The real heavy hay was too much for the haybine,” says Lupher. “I usually mow 75 percent or more of my hay with horses. We put up 200 tons last year.”
Working with horses requires familiarity with old equipment and a nose for finding it. Much of what he sees is worn out and has been left to rust. When he does come across a decent horse-drawn rake or mower, his interest often sparks the owner’s interest.
“I asked a fellow if he would part with two #9 McCormick mowers sitting behind his house,” recalls Lupher. “He asked what they were and after I showed him, he wouldn’t part with them.”
He maintains 4 of the classic #9 McCormicks and usually has at least one in the field. However, his main mowers are 7 and 9-ft. I & J mowers with motors and ESM double cutting knife systems (Vol. 41, No. 1).
“We still use the #9s quite a bit,” says Lupher. “If we can get enough teams, we hook up all of them. At one time last year we were cutting 33 ft. of hay every pass with multiple teams and mowers.”
Raking is done with 2 or 3 side delivery rakes and teams of horses and mules. He has a large V-rake equipped with a hydraulic hand pump to lift and lower it. It takes 3 or 4 horses to pull it.
Lupher also has a couple of sulky rakes that he uses to help put up 50 to 70 tons of loose hay on his home place. After mowing and raking, he pushes it into place with a homemade sweep head on an old Farmhand F-11 loader on his tractor.
“That lets me save the baler for hay that will have to be hauled from remote fields,” says Lupher. “I’ve been gathering parts for a horse-drawn buck rake so I don’t have to use the tractor for stacking. I’m also putting together a beaverslide stacker to stack hay.
“Getting good horse-drawn equipment is probably easier today than it was in my dad’s day,” says Lupher, citing firms like I & J and others dealing in parts and new equipment.
He does often have to train his teamsters. Lupher taps into friends, but notes that he is seeing more people wanting to come and help. His work is also attracting horse owners wanting to give their horses some experience. When 3 of his mares were raising colts this past year, he took in several teams.
“They are usually pretty nice horses that need a little polish, and when you get through making hay, even a new team has pretty good polish to it,” says Lupher. “They can handle noise, and they learn how to stand, just by resting after a session pulling the mower.”
Lupher prefers Shire horses and keeps 2 experienced teams and a young team, as well as 2 teams of mules. The horses are used for feeding out hay on Lupher’s home place. The mules are used on a remote winter feeding site.
“They are my tractors that always start,” says Lupher. “Last winter we had a stretch of 40 below zero, and the mules and I were the only things moving. Everyone with a tractor froze up.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Wes Lupher, Box 364, Mt. View, Wyo. 82939 (ph 307 782-3542; firstname.lastname@example.org).
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