WORK Time of Horses on Farm Varies Widely

In farming a considerable part of the crop area is used in producing feed for the work stock. The proportion of the total area necessary for this purpose depends to some extent upon the way in which the work stock requirements are distributed during the year. This is reflected in the average amount that each horse is worked during the year.

The hours of work per horse by seasons in selected farming areas of the United States is shown in Table 33. These data were obtained from farm-management studies undertaken in cooperation with State colleges of agriculture. They show the number of hours that horses were worked as taken from records carefully kept and closely supervised.

TABLE 33.—Hours of work per horse by seasons in selected farming areas
ColoradoIrrigated diversified crop and sheep feeding19242194302263327986
MontanaIrrigated diversified crop19201635215236219705
KansasWinter wheat192521128287255157827
South DakotaSpring wheat19222060241306211818
MinnesotaDiversified crop and dairying19202392221300219832
Ohio (south)Diversified crop and livestock19232066240205125636
Ohio (north)1786211264150711
KentuckyTobacco and livestock19241865287296208856
North Carolina1925201884873081841,167
TexasCotton (black-land belt)2128929523199914
* The year is divided into four equal parts: December, January, and February are considered winter, the following three months spring, etc.

Work is Seasonal

Generally horses are worked more in the spring and summer than in the fall and winter. As a rule, they are worked about one-third the work days during the spring and summer seasons. During the fall months perhaps one-fourth the work days is a more common practice. In winter, in most sections, perhaps less than one-tenth of the total available horse work is utilized in as many cases as more is used. In the South, because of an earlier planting, horses are usually worked more in February and March than during the fall months. This explains the large amount of horse work shown for North Carolina and Texas during the winter season. The large amount of horse work shown for Colorado in the fall is explained by the fact that potatoes and sugar beets were important crops in the area from which these data were obtained, and both require much horse work in harvesting and marketing during the fall season.

There is a wide variation in the amounts horses are worked on different farms and in different areas. Important factors in determining these differences are the length of the growing season and the system of farming being followed. For example, in a farming area in southern Ohio in 1923, the horses on 20 farms were worked on the average only 636 hours per horse, while in an area of North Carolina in 1925 the horses on 20 farms were worked on the average 1,167 hours. That is, in southern Ohio the horses were worked during the year the equivalent of 63.6 days of 10 hours each, and in North Carolina they were worked the equivalent of 116.7 days.  In western Kentucky one of the 18 farmers worked his horses on the average the equivalent of 59.6 10-hour days, while another worked them the equivalent of 145.5 days. The latter followed a more diversified system than the former.

Some Keep Too Many Horses

Often farmers keep more work horses than are required by the crops grown and other livestock kept. For example, a Colorado farmer keeping seven work horses never worked more than six of them at any one time during the year. He worked more than four only 17 days during the year. As a result, he used 20 per cent of his total crop area in producing feed for the work stock. It is to the farmer’s interest to plan the crops and livestock so that the horse work requirements will be distributed as much as possible and at the same time to plan to keep only as many mature horses as are necessary to take care of these needs.