DEVON-L ArchivesArchiver > DEVON > 1998-12 > 0913292815
From: Leah Montgomery <>
Date: Thu, 10 Dec 1998 23:26:55 +1100
I read a New Scientist article some time ago, it would take me a week to
find it now, about how the invention of mechanical transport put huge
numbers of horses and bullocks out of work, and the numbers fell
dramatically over the last century. If I remember rightly it suggested
that the land area of England could only just support the numbers needed
to do the work necessary and leave enough to produce food.
One of the contradictions in farming in colonies like Australia was that
you needed to maintain the horse or bullock teams which pulled the
ploughs and harvesters. In areas with low soil fertility like Australia,
hence low yields and low prices, and small farms-in the colonial era
subdivision of the public lands was usually into fractions of the square
mile, either 320 or 160 or 80 acres-you needed large areas of crop to
make the farm pay, and large areas to graze the horses and bullocks. And
according to my wife's grandfather, who had horse teams into the 1950s,
two horses per furrow per acre per day was required. You only had so
many days in which you could prepare the soil, so you had a limit set by
available horsepower on the acrage you could farm. This sort of
economics drove innovation in agriculture in Australia, particularly
mechanisation. My grandfather got his first tractor in the 1920s, and he
was farming thin red soils on limestone.
However, where is the history of the oxen? In Australia some of it has
been written, but ag. history is of little interest and seldom taught.
'Tis a pity.
A horse team pulling a coach requires three feeds a day, usually oats,
|OXEN by Leah Montgomery <>|