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  • #44588
    Tim Harrigan
    Tim Harrigan
    Participant

    I just got back from a trip to Uganda on a trip with Tillers International. Here is a look at portions of the train-the-trainer project for local tillage service providers.

    #77801
    Kevin Cunningham
    Kevin Cunningham
    Participant

    Awesome video Tim!

    #77800
    Baystatetom
    Baystatetom
    Participant

    I am so envious! I hope someday when my kids are grown and gone I could do something like this.
    ~Tom

    #77795
    Andy Carson
    Andy Carson
    Moderator

    This is great, Tim. I have many questions. How did the locals take to the improved yoke design? Did they have a tradition of working two teams of oxen?

    About the farming implements themselves (the ripper, for example)… Is there (or has there been) follow-up with how productivity using these improved tools compares to tradition tools? Can the typical farmer afford these tools or learn to modify existing tools? Is this discussion part of the class?

    I would also be curious about mounting the ripper on a wooden frame with skids to control depth and angle. Do you think those spikes in draft represent “digging in” at the tip? Rocks? The skids prevent digging in in either case… I like skids a lot and they last a long time if made of hardwood. I used some cherry left over from another project and even though it’s not that hard of a hardwood, it shows little wear despite alot of use last year. I bet they have some woods in this catagory in Africa. Just a thought.

    #77789
    dominiquer60
    dominiquer60
    Moderator

    Nice Tim!

    It is nice to see all of the hard work that you and Tillers put into this project.

    What was the cattle’s response to the new yokes? they seemed more settled, just wondering if there was anything that you saw off camera also.

    #77790
    Tim Harrigan
    Tim Harrigan
    Participant

    @Countymouse 40477 wrote:

    … How did the locals take to the improved yoke design? Did they have a tradition of working two teams of oxen?

    About the farming implements themselves (the ripper, for example)… Is there (or has there been) follow-up with how productivity using these improved tools compares to tradition tools? Can the typical farmer afford these tools or learn to modify existing tools? Is this discussion part of the class?

    I would also be curious about mounting the ripper on a wooden frame with skids to control depth and angle. Do you think those spikes in draft represent “digging in” at the tip? Rocks? The skids prevent digging in in either case… I like skids a lot and they last a long time if made of hardwood. I used some cherry left over from another project and even though it’s not that hard of a hardwood, it shows little wear despite alot of use last year. I bet they have some woods in this catagory in Africa. Just a thought.

    They saw the advantages of the improved yoke design. They did not have a tradition of working two teams, in fact they initially thought is was a waste and would just make the animals lazy. I measured and showed them the high peak drafts in graphical form, I was not sure if they would understand it but they seemed to appreciate what was happening. They then realized that when the team(s) stalled they were not being lazy, just overloaded. They were presented with a lot of new information and by the end of the training they had really come to terms with the new methods and equipment.

    The biggest thing I stressed was an improved relationship with their animals. They let them free range quite a bit and come tillage time they are pretty jumpy, maybe you can see that in some cases and hence the nose ropes for control. They also had a tendency to be quite rough with them, to force them to work. Surprisingly, what was really effective in convincing them that they could have a more productive relationship with low-stress training and gentle handling was when I showed them some of my videos of working with Will and Abe. Their animals are maybe 700-800 lbs. I pointed out the Will and Abe were 2000 lbs each and if I tried to use a rope for control they could drag me all over the farm anytime they wanted to. So I had to control them based on respect and leadership, not fear and restraint. They really liked Will and Abe, and Will working single, and we saw immediate changes and attempts to treat the animals in humane ways. Within a couple of days the animals were more calm and focused, and they were making straighter, parallel rip lines because of it. But there is a lot of room for improvement in this regard.

    The 4-ox evener played a big role in straighter rip lines as well, the load is too much for a pair and they tend to jump the furrow so to speak and look for ways to avoid the excessive load. I was very pleased about the acceptance of 4 working together.

    The traditional method is to dig basins by had with a hoe for seed planting and believe me, that is very hard to do. The project is just starting and will cover all aspects of the cropping system from tillage to weed control, harvest, transport, storage and marketing so we will be supporting all those efforts. Yields will be measured for comparison purposes as well as other crop and soil parameters. One of my tasks is to obtain grants to strengthen the research component, this is currently a demonstration and training project. The trainees have the option of purchasing a ripper at a subsidized price after the workshop with the idea that they can till their own land and do custom work for others. If that works they should have the ripper paid for in one season. Tillers is also setting up a workshop with a forge to train local artisans to build and repair these tools so the project will have legs when they leave.

    Tool design will be an iterative, ongoing process of refinement. They are currently working on, at their US location, a ripper with a rolling attachment to serve as both a clod buster and for depth control. The high draft spikes were just from the breaking of of the high strength soil by the tillage tool. No roots and not many rocks. This is dry land ripping, harder than it will be in a few weeks when the rainy planting season starts with the goal of having the rip zones finished and ready for planting as soon as the rains come. But wet soil does not shatter well, as you know. And the problem is that the soil is so beat up from years of moldboard plowing that there is very little of what we would call good soil structure, and a plow pan to boot. That is the purpose of the ripper at 10 inches, to get below the plow pan. Anyone who thinks that soil compaction is a function of the mode of transport would be disabused of that notion if they saw these fields. Tillage intensity is a big contributor no matter what is pulling it.

    @dominiquer60 40478 wrote:

    Nice Tim!

    It is nice to see all of the hard work that you and Tillers put into this project.

    What was the cattle’s response to the new yokes? they seemed more settled, just wondering if there was anything that you saw off camera also.

    Erika, I may have touched on this above. The yoke response was good, but we really focused on a bigger approach to treating the animals with kindness and developing a more productive working relationship. I saw noticable improvement almost immediately. I can say they were somewhat awe struck by my ability to work with Will and Abe from just about any location in a calm and quite way, and have them work in a focused and responsive manner. I was really glad to have those videos. They may have thought I was full of it had I not had something to show them. Probably improved my credibility considerably. If you look at the video carefully you will see how their yokes are pulsing into the neck under the high loads. The improved yoke does as well, but not as noticeable with the large neck seat and rearward rotation of the yoke with the dropped hitch point. Also, look carefully where the pair are pulling the ripper alone. You can see how forcefully the ripper draft rotates the traditional yoke forward, opposite of the N.A. yoke. You can see the vertical skeins practically pointing forward and alongside their face. And you will see one driver jumping from one side to the other in an attempt to keep them in a straight line as they looked for opportunities to bail out from the straight line and heavy load.

    These are the threads I tried to weave together as we shared our observations with the trainees and theirs with us.

    #77804
    Avatar of irish
    irish
    Participant

    brillent work

    #77802
    Kevin Cunningham
    Kevin Cunningham
    Participant

    @Tim Harrigan 40485 wrote:

    the problem is that the soil is so beat up from years of moldboard plowing that there is very little of what we would call good soil structure, and a plow pan to boot. That is the purpose of the ripper at 10 inches, to get below the plow pan. Anyone who thinks that soil compaction is a function of the mode of transport would be disabused of that notion if they saw these fields. Tillage intensity is a big contributor no matter what is pulling it.

    So is it the frequency of plowing that has caused the loss of soil structure or the lack of residual ground cover, or a combination in that environment? I would imagine it is difficult to cultivate crops in such a brittle environment. Besides the conservation tillage what are the other parts of helping that land heal from the cropping that has already occured there?

    #77791
    Tim Harrigan
    Tim Harrigan
    Participant

    Restoring soil productivity in all cases is a challenge. Here it is even more difficult than in the northern states because it is so much warmer there than it is here on a year around basis. When the soil is warmer, the rate of microbial activity is greater, and microbial activity consumes organic carbon and organic matter. When you throw tillage in the mix it aerates and warms the soil even more and increases the rate of loss even more. So in remediation you have a fairly limited set of choices that need to fit in the cropping system. You can decrease tillage intensity. We are encouraging the switch from moldboard plowing to in-line ripping. You can use crop rotations that maintain a healthy balance of pests and pathogens. They are interested in corn and beans and also grow pigeon peas (legume), good for root growth and microbial activity at the root/soil interface and adding nitrogen to the system. I am sure other options will be considered. You can incorporate cover crops to create a more active soil environment throughout the year, and to shade the soil surface, keeping it cooler and supportive of soil biology. You can add organic inputs like compost and manure to try to add organic matter faster than it is consumed. We are encouraging the use of mulches to facilitate weed control.

    Those are the basic approaches, you really need to incorporate all of them to make headway in the remediation process, and even then it is a challenge and the process is slow. I generally think a lofty goal is a 1% increase in OM in 10 years in this climate, that is probably overly optimistic for Uganda. The details of the approach are not worked out yet, and I don’t have good knowledge of the full range of specific options. Some things we may think of as cover crops, radishes, turnips and mustards for instance will likely be considered to be food crops there. So that may increase intensity of use rather than decrease it.

    Managed ecosystems are fluid and full of surprises.

    #77803
    Kevin Cunningham
    Kevin Cunningham
    Participant

    @Tim Harrigan 40506 wrote:

    Managed ecosystems are fluid and full of surprises.

    This is key, and why I farm, the learning and challenge never end.

    #77796
    Andy Carson
    Andy Carson
    Moderator

    These videos bring up so many questions.

    You mentioned the oxen free range most of the time. Are they tended to keep them out of gardens and fields? Are they fenced in at night to keep predators away? Africa seems to have some scared predators…

    I am curious about penning the oxen at night. This would provide a way to deposit a substantial amount of organic matter onto the soil in a short time, but would also lead to some compaction. If followed by a nitrogen stockpilling thick rooted crop that could break up compaction (radish?), the plot might be useful for food right away and even most useful in a couple seasons as it just recieved a heavy manure addition followed by a reduction in compaction. Just a thought.

    I am curious what these oxen are used for traditionally in Uganda. Is meat a substantial portion of thier value?

    Is there an appreciation for the other jobs that oxen can do in the off season when not tilling fields? I would think this not only benefits the farmer, but also keeps the oxen in shape physically and mentally.

    Lastly, if it does require 4+ oxen to do the tillage demonstrated, does caring for this many oxen impose a financial hardship on the average farmer? Are they cheap enough to care for that this is not a big concern? If so, why not just add another team in front so you have a total of 6 oxen to do this heavy work?

    #77792
    Tim Harrigan
    Tim Harrigan
    Participant

    @Countymouse 40509 wrote:

    You mentioned the oxen free range most of the time. Are they tended to keep them out of gardens and fields? Are they fenced in at night to keep predators away? Africa seems to have some scared predators…

    I am curious what these oxen are used for traditionally in Uganda. Is meat a substantial portion of thier value?

    Is there an appreciation for the other jobs that oxen can do in the off season when not tilling fields? I would think this not only benefits the farmer, but also keeps the oxen in shape physically and mentally.

    Lastly, if it does require 4+ oxen to do the tillage demonstrated, does caring for this many oxen impose a financial hardship on the average farmer? Are they cheap enough to care for that this is not a big concern? If so, why not just add another team in front so you have a total of 6 oxen to do this heavy work?

    They don’t free range all the time, just in the dry season when no crops are subject to damage. If cattle damage other’s crops they are liable for the damage.

    I don’t know the details of their use, but it seems most use is for tillage and planting. Not used for transport, not sure why, it would make sense. I had the same response to their lack of use. I am sure the meat is an important source of income.

    The 4 ox issue seemed to be a non-issue. This was a train-the-trainer program for tillage service providers. Some said they had more oxen they could use, others thought they could share or hire an additional team for this phase of the work. We did not push the 6 ox concept, 4 was a significant revelation. If they go with 4 rather than 2 I would consider that a victory.

    #77797
    Andy Carson
    Andy Carson
    Moderator

    @Tim Harrigan 40512 wrote:

    Not used for transport, not sure why, it would make sense. I had the same response to their lack of use.

    What’s the water supply in this area like? I have no doubt that there is lots of stuff to move, but water is a heavy, regular chore that everyone can relate to. It might make a good example project.

    #77793
    Tim Harrigan
    Tim Harrigan
    Participant

    That is a good idea. Potential issue: fetching water is women’s work, driving oxen is men’s work. Not sure, just guessing.

    #77805
    Avatar of j.l.holt
    j.l.holt
    Participant

    @Tim Harrigan 40523 wrote:

    That is a good idea. Potential issue: fetching water is women’s work, driving oxen is men’s work. Not sure, just guessing.

    The men could drive the Oxen on a tread mill to pump water in to a holding tank.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 19 total)

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