BY: STAFF CORRESPONDENT
Cheap: A pair of plough-ready oxen cost $3,000 (£1,800) - roughly the same
as a second hand tractor
May 12, 2011 — LONDON, ENGLAND, UK (DAILY MAIL) — Farmers across America
ditch tractors for oxen in bid to beat rising fuel prices.
Wisconsin-based traditional farming school teaches 20 farmers every weekend
from all over country
When farmers Danielle and Matt Boerson realised they could no longer afford
to run their tractors, they took the bull by the horns - and ditched them
for oxen. Soaring petrol prices had become so high that the couple, who run
an 80-acre farm near Madison, Wisconsin, were forced to get rid of their two
tractors, hay baler, plough and rotavator. So they took a course at the
agricultural institute in traditional farming techniques.
'It gave me the confidence that, yes, I could do this', Danielle told the
Times. 'It just required a lot of concentration and a firm voice.' Their
instructor was former peace core volunteer Dick Roosenberg, 64, who learned
the trade while working for the UN in West Africa. He took the skills he had
honed back to Michigan and set up Tillers International.
At first the company was aimed at helping Third World farmers harvest in the
cheapest way possible. On the side, he also helped historically-themed
villages. But his specialist knowledge is now enjoying a new wave of
interest with farmers from Wisconsin to Alaska now joining his courses. He
is already teaching up to 20 farmers every weekend.
Best machine: Oxen only eat grass and can work for up to 14 years.
They are also a handy source of fertilizer.
'People want to get away from petroleum fuels where they can, because it's
getting more expensive,' he said. A pair of plough-ready oxen cost $3,000
(£1,800) - roughly the same as a second hand tractor. But younger cattle are
a snip at $150 each. They only eat grass and can work for up to 14 years.
Old times: Two teams of oxen dig ground for the foundation of a school
in Whitley, Kentucky, in the early 1900s
The only downside is that they are slow and are not viable on a large farm.
They are however perfect for 'small farms, with high-value garden crops',
said Mr. Roosenberg. Todd Juzwiak, 42, bought two oxen after learning how to
command them with Mr. Roosenberg. He told the Times: 'We are definitely
saving on fuel. Though it's not necessarily easier. Tractors don't often
jump over fences.'