Why farm with draft animals?
It provides the farmer an important connection to the land and the work of farming. When working with horses, the driver breathes fresh air and hears the surrounding sounds compared to the fumes of diesel fuel and the roar of a conventional tractor engine.
When working with horses, your work is in front of or below you. When working on a tractor, one has to turn around to look at the work that has been done.
We use horses to plow, disk, harrow, cultivate, and pull wagons. We are proud to be part of a traditional way of farming that still has much to offer today.
Meet our Draft Horse Team
Sam is a Belgian draft horse in his early twenties and came to the farm to work with us more than ten years ago! Although his age is starting to show as his coat gradually becomes streaked with more white, he is still one of the hardest workers on the farm. Eager to please and to get the work done, he can often be seen pulling a wagon full of cheerful summer camp kids, or tacked with his buddy Phred pulling discs, plows, corn and potato planters in the field. He’s not shy about telling you when he feels you’re wasting his time and will occasionally paw at the ground until work starts up again.
If any of our horses were actually a dog dressed up as a horse, it would be Phred. He is the lover of the group and will frequently come over to people to get some much-needed scratches. He’s been at the farm the second longest (after Ruby). He’s a full Belgian draft with a mellow and patient demeanor. Despite being the largest horse we have, weighing over 1800 pounds and standing more than 17 hands high, he is very gentle, especially around children. But watch out if there’s a horsefly bothering him!
Ruby has lived here the longest and is also the oldest horse we have here at Turner Farm. We estimate her to be more than thirty years old. She is partially Belgian and may have some Suffolk draft in her, owing to her smaller size and darker, ruby-colored coat. Although her coat is showing her age as the number of white hairs found on her back and face begin to grow in number. Although Ruby is not the most expressive horse, she will tell you when you found a good itchy spot.
Scooter is one of two mares that we have at the farm, other than Ruby. She is a painted draft and Clydesdale cross giving her the black and white coloring along with her long feathering on her fetlocks. She is 17 years old and has been at the farm for almost two years! Scooter has as much sass as all the other horses combined and loves to be pampered via grooming. Although she may sound like she is all play and no work, she actually has a naturally high endurance level and is very cooperative out in the field. She is intelligent and enjoys playing little tricks on an unsuspecting person.
Jack is the newest to the farm, the youngest, smallest, and yet he’s at the top of the herd due to his confidence and calm nature. Jack arrived here at Turner Farm from Sugarcreek, Ohio just under a year ago. He is six years old and is also a Belgian and warmblood cross. He competes with Phred for the nickname “Fabio” with his curly blonde mane. During the summer months, his favorite places for scratches are at the base of his mane, his cheeks, and under his belly.
Hammer is the second youngest horse on the farm at seven years old. He is also a Belgian and warmblood cross and was brought to Turner Farm during the fall of 2017. He has a propensity for being very curious and will often stick his head out his stall window to say hello. Similar to Sam, Hammer is highly motivated by wanting to please others and work hard. He is a quick learner due to his heightened level of sensitivity to his environment, although this can be a challenge in working with him as well.
Donkeys as Protectors
A single donkey, usually a jennet, is introduced to the herd and undergoes a bonding stage. After it has bonded with the sheep, it will protect them against canine predators (fox, coyote, and dogs) as it would one of its own. This is extremely beneficial in areas where the sheep have many acres to graze. The advantage of the donkey over the guard dog is that they can eat the same food as the sheep so they don’t have to be fed separately. The donkey will also bed down with the sheep at night. Given a strange sound it will voice a warning to the flock which alerts them to danger. Then the donkey will chase and often trample the predator.