1988 - Volume #12, Issue #6, Page #19[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
He farms with a six horse hitchYou can buy a tractor in 20 min. but it takes a lifetime to train a six-horse team and even that might not be enough time, says Buck Buckles, a farmer in the sandhills of Nebraska who's one of only a few cattlemen left who works a six-horse team every day.
Buckles hitches his team of off-white "mostly Percheron" draft horses up to a big hay sled seven days a week to feed his 900-head of beef cattle. In the four hours it takes to feed the animals the horses cover 5 to 6 miles, responding obediently to gentle commands and waiting patiently during loading and unloading.
The hay sled, which Buckles loads with . about 3 tons of loose hay, is equipped with a "hydrofork" loader powered by a 9-hp. Briggs & Stratton motor. The big fork is controlled by three hydraulic cylinders and is used both to load and unload hay. Buckles stands on a platform next to the fork controls, tying the reins loosely to a rail behind him. Most of the time the horns respond to verbal commands. Often they need little or no direction because they perform the same task every day. Hitched six abreast, the horses are driven by only two lines. The farm is designed with extra-wide gates to accommodate the big team.
Buckles says he couldn't handle the horses as easily if he hitched them in pairs. He says he'd have to spend more time driving a smaller team while the six-horse team pretty much takes care of itself. Feeding 900 head of cattle by himself in 4 hrs. gives him enough to do, he says, without having to pay attention to the animals.
It took many years to develop the team but breaking in a new horse is relatively easy. He simply hooks the newcomer up with the team. Sometimes he even hitches up a high-strung saddle horse that is other-wise hard to handle. The experience usually has a settling effect on a skittish horse because there's not much he can do when hitched to five well-broken horses.
It's more economical to feed with horses, according to Buckles. He can easily fix virtually anything that goes wrong with his haying equipment and he doesn't have to buy fuel to feed a tractor. He also thinks horses provide "more of a challenge" than a tractor, making his work more interesting.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Buck Buckles, HC 91, Box 27, Gordon, Neb. 69343 (ph 308 282-1609).
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