There are some well-known and successful permaculture farmers who believe draft horses do not belong in a permaculture system. I disagree. If cattle have a place, certainly do plough horses who offer more utility and function. Here’s why I believe draft horses make a great addition to a holistic farm:
1. One draft horse can pull 2000-8000lbs
3. Meat in applicable countries
4. Gelatin/collagen in pharmaceuticals
5. Income from breeding, lessons, selling composted manure
6. Mowing by way of pasture grazing
7. Shed winter coat hair for paintbrushes
1. Manure is composted and returns nutrients to soil
2. Hoof prints make indentations in soil, creating seed and moisture collection pockets to help increase germination rates
3. Trampled cover crops during browsing return organic matter, nutrients and biomass to soil
1. Specie-specific parasite life cycles of sheep and goats are disrupted when horses rotationally graze same pastures
2. Sheep, goats, and foraging birds like ducks and chickens ingest parasites of the horse in return when rotationally grazing
3. Cover crops can be grown as forage for horses that also meet specific needs of the land (I.e. forage turnip for fodder abs to assist with soil compactions, etc.)
4. When allowed to openly graze, horses trim back overgrown growth such as Russian Olive while browsing.
A detailed presentation I created for a permaculture course through Cornell is available as a video. You can see that in the video below.
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Angela is the farmer and content creator behind Axe & Root Homestead LLC. This historic six-acre permaculture farm is home to two Clydesdale horses, ten honeybee hives, five sheep, two guardian dogs, barn cats and a flock of 40 geese and ducks. The farm produces maple syrup, fruit from a small orchard and loads of garden produce for consumption, preservation and donation to the local food pantry.
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