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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PST

The Brabants Farm
The Brabants Farm

Junior de Los Brabantes AgroExpo 2015.

The Brabants’ Farm

A Horsefarming Project Promoting Sustainable Agricultural Practices in the Colombian Highlands

by Hugo Sanhueza of Bogota?, Columbia
Agronomist & Draft Horse Breeder

A. INTRODUCTION

The Brabants’ Farm is a multi purpose farming operation whose main goal is to promote “horsefarming” as an appropriate technology for farming, forestry and rural tourism. Our 3 ha farm is located high in the oriental mountain range of Colombia, at 2.860 mts a.s.l. (almost 9,400 ft elevation), and approximately 80 kms from the city of Bogota. We breed Belgian (Brabant) horses and fabricate horse drawn machinery for us and local farmers. Additionally, we import specialized horse drawn machinery, implements and harnesses from Amish (USA) manufacturers.

Our philosophy is to support the “transformation” of regional conventional agriculture and forestry into a sustainable, socially responsible, and less petroleum dependent based agriculture, by utilizing animal drawn technology (“horsefarming”), and by meeting key challenges in 21st century small scale agriculture and forestry in Colombia and throughout South America.

The Brabants Farm

ESM Mower.

B. HORSE BREEDING & RAISING

“Brabant” horses are our choice breed due to their excellent temperament, bone quality, “work ethic”, easy keep, and strength (horsepower). The locals are attracted to the feathers on their legs!

We have 9 draft horses of which 4 are mares, and they continue to produce high quality foals every year.

Our first 2 Brabant stallions were imported from Belgium back in 2006. We have used them to breed to our American Belgian mares with great results. Their colts have better bone structure and temperament, and adjust well to our type of local feed and feeding regime. We have noticed similar characteristics in foals of “small” local mares mated with our Brabant stallions.

We offer breeding services to local farmers interested in producing “draft quality” replacement foals with local mares. Our stallions have bred small size mares with great success. All pregnancies and foals have been normal without any kind of incident that could have potentially resulted in grave “accidents” due to the difference in size with the bigger stallions. We use artificial insemination to avoid injuring the small mare and reduce the risk of infection during mating. Our breeding program’s goal is to produce a draft horse, well adapted to local conditions and still a good “work” performer.

The Brabants Farm

Training a young stallion.

“Draft horse culture” is not strongly rooted in Colombian agricultural/rural society. The regional farming community is better acquainted (familiar) with the use of oxen, and this has been a learning experience for all of us. We have decided to leave the “oxen option” open, given the strong “oxen culture” in the Latin American region, and consider oxen specific training and equipment (harness, implements, etc.) for the near future.

One of the major challenges we have encountered since we started our horse farming enterprise has been the proper feeding of our draft horses. The Colombian equine feed industry is more focused on producing horse feeds for smaller, riding types of animals than for draft horses. We have learned that it takes a lot more (than usual) of Colombian made concentrate to adequately feed our draft horses. We haven’t run a test to determine the quality of the ingredients and the formulation of these feeds, but we are guessing this could be the issue/problem. Another key item we recently considered as a key factor in our strategy for properly and adequately feeding our horses is the quality of our pastures. We have now focused on regularly spreading the “collected” horse manure (mixed with lime) onto our pastures to feed the soil and obtain high quality forage. And, we have made “forage” the pillar of our feeding program, with excellent results. In addition to forage, we also add small portions of “feed additives” (vitamins, minerals, etc.) to the concentrate to complement the forage based diet. Occasionally, we feed portions of oats or barley to complement their diet with good fiber. Unfortunately, the local market does not offer these grains regularly, so we buy it when seasonally available. Because of this, we have decided to produce our own grains on rented land, in the near future.

We feed “green forage” on a daily basis. Most recently, we started feeding mixed green forage with haylage and hay, with good results. We have not had any colic incidents as a result of feeding haylage. We think our strategy of opening our small bales and letting them be sun cured/rain washed a day prior to feeding the haylage to our horses has been the reason for the lack of colic incidents when feeding haylage. And they love it!! A single, well packed mini-bale (65-70 kg) of haylage, mixed with a similar quantity of green cut forage, allows us to feed 4 adult horses per day.

The Brabants Farm

Team of Brabants hitched to our workcart.

C. FACILITIES

Our horse stables’ architecture has a European influence. Brabant horses are heavy and like to rub against anything to scratch their bodies. We thought that a well built structure is what we needed to avoid damages to our stables, so we have a “concrete-block-building” we enjoy very much. We took advantage of the local geography to build the 2-story stables, which we use for storing hay, grain, animal feed, harness, and veterinary products and medicines on the second floor. Occasionally, we use it for hosting University student visits, Field Day guests, and other events.

The way we like to set up our building complex allow us to circulate around the central corral/arena, with a single-horse workcart for delivering forage and for directly feeding the horses in the stables. The access to the second floor is by way of a bridge connecting the building to a hillside. We continue to improve our horse facilities to accommodate the ways we like to manage our horses, store our machinery, and move around a reduced space safely.

The Brabants Farm

Brabant workcart with aerator.

D. HORSEFARMING AND ANIMAL DRAWN TECHNOLOGY

We utilize our horses in many agricultural tasks, with a variety of farm machinery and implements. We normally hitch two horses for doing the majority of the work. We use two to three horses with the Brabant work-cart and a subsoiler/ripper to break the soil (in lieu of a plow), or lightly cut through the pasture to aerate, which allows rain water to get into the soil, as well as helping to minimize run-off from heavy rain. Then, we hitch to a motorized cart (26 hp) with two or three horses and a roto-tiller, to smooth out the soil for planting/seeding. We use a single horse work-cart for spreading manure (every three months) and for trans- porting forage straight to our stables on a daily basis.

We design “appropriate” machinery to meet our specific needs. This way we are simplifying the work and helping ourselves with the overall efficiency of horse-farming.

We have started producing hay, haylage, and silage in small round bales. We rent a mini round baler and a plastic wrapper for this purpose, although we continue to hand feed our horses with green forage. The idea for specializing in forage production is due to our proximity to Colombia’s main dairy regio?n, the Ubate Valley. This is the regio?n with the highest percentage of work horses being utilized for agricultural work in the country. Unfortunately, these horses are being underutilized and their tasks are limited to transporting green forage and milk containers to the milk processing plant and/or the milk collecting truck.

We like to modify and/or combine old with new mechanization ideas. This approach allows us to get the best of both, in terms of simplicity and efficiency.

The Brabants Farm

Two-horse team hitched to a Vicon Spreader installed on a Brabant workcart with a vintage horse-mower gear.

We regularly use in our farming activities the following animal-drawn machinery and implements:

  1. 25HP motorized workcart with 4 auxiliary hydraulic lines to ope?rate, a rotovator, an ESM mower, a plastic wrapper, and anything else that may require the hydraulic system and/or the PTO;
  2. Non-motorized workcart with a hydraulic system with 4 auxiliary lines, to raise or lower the workcart’s platform (floor) and working depth of implements;
  3. Single axle workcart to transport green forage, deliver compost to the fields, use it as a vehicle trailer to transport all kinds of building material, horse feeds, etc.
  4. Two liquid fertilizer sprayers, we occasionally use to spray liquid fertilizer and/or spray “bug control” chemicals when strictly necessary;
  5. German made potato digger (HK?). We have not had the opportunity to use it, yet!
  6. We had a VICON fertilizer spreader which we sold to a local dairy farmer who needed it more.
  7. A rented mini round baler and plastic wrapper we use when we are ready to make hay, haylage, and/or silage.
  8. Soil reaper or sub-soiler, for superficial break up of the soil for seeding/planting.
  9. Two-way plow, for mechanical weed control or for re-establishing a new pasture.
  10. Pasture aerator, for passing once or twice a year over the pastures to puncture small holes and allow rain water to get into the root system.
The Brabants Farm

Loading green cut forage.

The niche for fabricating horsedrawn machinery and implements is very limited, due to a lack of awareness and horsefarming culture among small farmers in the regio?n. Consequently, we buy/import commercially available horsedrawn machinery, for trials and demonstrations at our farm. Based on the results of our testing we make the recommendations or show the machinery working during our “Field Day.” Parallel to this, we continue to develop our own machinery with specific requirements to meet the needs of the local farming community. Presently, we are focusing on developing horsefarming techniques, methods, and “tools” for producing high quality hay, haylage, and silage for feeding dairy cattle and horses, especially during the “dry seasons,” which occur twice a year in this region. We have established strong support from several Amish farmers and manufacturers of animal drawn machinery, to provide us with appropriate horse drawn machinery and horsefarming ideas to get the job done. Presently, two of our dairy farmers in the area have imported ground-driven mowers with ESM Technology (from I&J). Another machine that is gaining in popularity among some of the farmers is the VICON “pendulum” type fertilizer spreader/ broadcaster. This machine could become highly popular in years to come given its efficacy in broadcasting fertilizer and for reseeding pasture. The majority of small and mid size farmers “broadcast” their fertilizers and pasture seeds by hand.

A major constraint for promoting horsefarming is the lack of “technical” knowledge of personnel working in metal fabrication and repair shops. They only have basic understanding and limited experience on how to repair farm machinery.

The Brabants Farm

Motorized workcart with plastic wrapper.

E. RESEARCH, EXTENSION & EDUCATION

Once a year, we conduct a field demonstration to share our ideas about horse-farming. We also share the results of our horsefarming R&D with local farmers. Presently, we are focusing on the production and conservation of forages. For our next activity, we may get involved in the production of potatoes, an important crop in the regio?n. One key farm implement for this production scheme is a German made potato digger (HK?). If well received, this machine can change the way small farmers harvest their potatoes. This machine would mechanize potato harvesting, and will required significantly less labour than is needed today. Currently, Colombian small farmers use “hoes” to seed and harvest potatoes, a “back-breaking” activity.

During 2015, we intend to offer “custom services” to small (and mid size) farmers, as part of our strategy for promoting horsefarming. We will provide these services within a 100 km radius of our farm. Many small farmers lack animal drawn farm machinery and implements, and the costs of renting the service of a tractor with implements is much higher than the fees we would charge on a daily basis. This strategy will allow the farmer to experience the quality work horses and their equipment can produce, and to create an incentive for purchasing their own team of animals and implements. At the same time we will try to develop a rapport with SENA, a government technical school and training center for collaborative work in the area of horsefarming training and the development of a “horsefarming curriculum,” to prepare animal traction “specialists” who may play a critical role in the promotion of horsefarming throughout the area and regio?n, in the future.

These challenges have come in ways of developing/employing: 1) better practices for protecting and managing our natural resources, specifically our agricultural (and forest) soils; 2) improved designs of farm implements and machinery to reduce the negative impact of modern equipment on agricultural soils being caused by heavy equipment, current tillage practices, and high consumption of petroleum based fuels; 3) reduced “carbon” emissions by reducing the employment of fossil fuel technologies versus increased use of bio-fuel technology for motorized workcarts; 4) increased role and participation of small scale farmers, in overall sustainable agricultural practices and rural economic growth.

The Brabants Farm

Motorized cart with mini-baler.

F. THE WAY AHEAD

Transforming conventional agriculture will require profound changes in individual and collective attitudes, personal values, and strategic vision. Major changes will not occur in terms of years but generations. To accomplish this it will be necessary to:

  1. Educate future farmers and agricultural professionals in new ways of farming, forest work, rural economic development/growth, and natural resource management (and conservation).
  2. Share information through field demonstrations and social media.
  3. Manufacture horse drawn machinery and implements appropriate for the type of farming being practiced.
  4. Develop technological packages specific to the type of productive activity (i.e. silage and hay production for dairy and horse farms, horticultural production, etc).
  5. Identify and/or develop newer tools and tillage methods to lessen the negative impact of current farm machinery and heavy tools on agricultural soils.
  6. Improve local equine resources by utilizing heavy draft type stallions.
  7. Promote concrete ideas, such as: Brabant type workcarts, motorized work-carts, single axle horse carts, mechanical horse mowers, etc.
  8. Incorporate bio-fuel technology with animal power technology to provide “power on demand” options.
  9. Incorporate “horse-drawn agricultural technology” curriculum in Universities and Technical Colleges.
The Brabants Farm

Two-horse field sprayer.

The Brabants Farm

Mowing overgrown oats.

The Brabants Farm

The Brabants Farm

Spotlight On: Equipment & Facilities

New Buggy Gear Design

New Buggy Gear Design

by:
from issue:

As long back as most of us can remember, the plain people were using buggies for transportation. Buggy frames were mounted atop wood wheels that turned on large solid steel axles. Today, more new technology is available for buggies. Torsion axles, fiberglass and steel wheels, hydraulic disc brakes, LED lights, and sealed batteries — the list could continue.

International Harvester Fertilizer Distributor

International Harvester Fertilizer Distributor

from issue:

Because of the many varieties and mixtures of fertilizer, it is impossible to give complete tables listing them. It is, however, very easy to determine the distribution of any particular fertilizer by proceeding as follows. Put a cloth, or some large sheets of paper under the machine and turn the main driving wheel 57 times for 7′, 51 times for 8′ and 46 times for 9′ machine. Weigh the amount ejected which will indicate the amount distributed per one-tenth of an acre.

John Deere Model A Tractor

from issue:

Your John Deere Tractor has a range of speeds. These various speeds not only give you the flexibility and adaptability you want, but also they enable you to balance the load and the speed for maximum economy. However, if you are handling a light load and want to travel at slow speed, it is far better to put your tractor into the gear which gives you the speed you want than to use a higher gear and throttle down.

The New Idea No5 Transplanter

The NEW IDEA No. 5 Transplanter

from issue:

The planting distances or intervals at which the water is released, is controlled by the gear and pinions under the shield near the driver’s right foot. The large, flat-faced gear should be so turned that the arrow on the back points straight up. The numbers on either side of the arrow will then be so arranged that the number 1, 2, 3 and 4 will be on the side of the water trip lever and will denote the various positions in which the Driven Pinion meshes with the gear.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 4

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 4

by:
from issue:

Over the last few years of making hay, the mowing, turning and making tripods has settled into a fairly comfortable pattern, but the process of getting it all together for the winter is still developing. In the beginning I did what everyone else around here does and got it baled, but one year I decided to try one small stack. The success of this first stack encouraged me to do more, and now most of my hay is stacked loose.

Haying With Horses

Haying With Horses

If the reader is considering the construction of a barn we encourage you to give more than passing thought to allowing the structure of the gable to be open enough to accommodate the hanging of a trolley track. It is difficult or impossible to retrofit a truss-built barn, which may have many supports crisscrossing the inside gable, to receive hay jags. At least allowing for the option in a new construction design will leave the option for loose hay systems in the future.

An Efficient, Economical Barn

by:
from issue:

A well thought out, functional barn should be the center piece of any farming endeavor, horse powered or fossil fueled, that involves livestock. After building and using two previous barns during our lifetimes, I think the one we now have has achieved a level of convenience, efficiency, and economy that is worth passing on.

Illusive Herd of Threshasaurus Sighted

Illusive Herd of Threshasaurus Sighted

by:
from issue:

The Threshasaurus’s large size and curious nature may appear antagonistic, but they are mostly curious and largely non-threatening. Be careful when approaching, however, as they do have sharp teeth and many fast moving, exposed pulleys.

The Milk and Human Kindness A Look At Butter Churns

The Milk and Human Kindness: A Look at Butter Churns

by:
from issue:

Finding an old butter churn at a flea market, one that is still usable can be a lot of fun, and because there are so many types, it’s good to know a few tips to help you find one that works well for you. For one thing, the size of your butter churn must match your cream supply so that your valuable cream gets transformed into golden butter while it’s fresh and sweet, and that your valuable time is not eaten up by churning batch after batch because your churn is too small.

Build Your Own Butter Churn

Build Your Own Butter Churn

by:
from issue:

Fresh butter melting on hot homemade bread… Isn’t that the homesteader’s dream? A cheap two-gallon stock pot from the local chain store got me started in churn building. It was thin stainless steel and cost less than ten bucks. I carted it home wondering what I might find in my junk pile to run the thing. I found an old squirrel cage fan and pulled the little motor to test it. I figure that if it could turn a six-inch fan, it could turn a two-inch impeller.

John Deere Corn Binder

John Deere Corn Binder

from issue:

The John Deere Corn Binder is set up as illustrated in the following pages. The darkened portions of the progressive illustrations show clearly the parts to be assembled and attached in proper order. Where the instructions or the connecting points are numbered, follow closely the order in which they are numbered and lettered. Arrows are also used to point out important adjustments or parts that need special attention in setting up.

Students on the Lines

Students on the Lines & McD Grain Indicator Plate

from issue:

We conclude our online presentation of Volume 41 Issue 2 with beautiful photos from Walt Bernard’s Workhorse Workshops (www.workhorseworkshops.com) and some hard-to-find info on the McCormick-Deering Plain Fluted Feed “R” Grain Drill Grain Indicator Plate.

The Cutting Edge

The Cutting Edge

by:
from issue:

In the morning we awoke to a three quarters of a mile long swath of old growth mixed conifer and aspen trees, uprooted and strewn everywhere we looked. We hadn’t moved here to become loggers, but it looked like God had other plans! We had chosen to become caretakers of this beautiful place because of the peace and quiet, the clean air, the myriad of birds and wildlife! Thus, we were presented with a challenge: how to clean up this blowdown in a clean, sustainable way.

New Idea Mower

New Idea Mower

from issue:

For proper operation the outer end of the cutter bar should lead the inner end when the machine is not in operation. After long use the cutter bar may lag back and if this happens it can be corrected by making adjustments on the cutter bar eccentric bushing as follows: First making sure that the pin and bolt in the hinge casting “A” Fig. 5 are tight and in good condition.

Multi-Purpose Tool Carrier Equi Idea Multi-V

Multi-Purpose Tool Carrier: EQUI IDEA Multi-V

Building on the experiences with a tool carrier named Multi, consisting of a reversible plow interchangeable with a 5-tine cultivator, the Italian horse drawn equipment manufacturer EQUI IDEA launched in 2012 a new multi-purpose tool carrier named Multi-V. The “V” in its name refers to the first field of use, organic vineyards of Northern Italy. Later on, by designing more tools, other applications were successfully added, such as vegetable gardens and tree nurseries.

Parker Soil Pulverizer

Bring Back To Life the John P. Parker Pulverizer

by:
from issue:

Meanwhile, my senior year was approaching fast, and all of us students began to contemplate what our final project would be with a bit of urgency. Our capstone project tasks us with identifying a need for a product or solution, bringing that product through the design phase, then building that product and displaying at the Technical Exposition. So I had the harebrained idea to embark on recreating not only a scale model of Parker’s Pulverizer, but to also recreate the real thing in full-scale, complete with fresh new wheel castings.

Mini Horse Haying

Mini Horse Haying

by:
from issue:

The first mini I bought was a three year old gelding named Casper. He taught me a lot about what a 38 inch mini could do just by driving me around the neighborhood. He didn’t cover the miles fast, but he did get me there! It wasn’t long before several more 38 inch tall minis found their way home. I presently have four minis that are relatively quiet, responsive to the bit, and can work without a lot of drama.

McCormick-Deering All Steel Corn Sheller

McCormick-Deering All-Steel Corn Sheller

from issue:

To obtain the best results in shelling, the machine should be run so that the crank makes about forty-five (45) revolutions per minute or the pulley shaft one hundred and seventy-five (175) revolutions per minute. When driving with belt be sure that this speed is maintained, as any speed in excess of this will have a tendency to cause the shelled corn to pass out with the cobs. The ears should be fed into the sheller point first.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT