In this doctoral thesis data of modern draught horse technology has been collected scientifically, using mowing as an example. Field research with seven different horse drawn and two tractor drawn alternatives has been conducted, examining different parameters regarding requirements and performance of the tested alternatives. The results encompassing amongst others draught load, risk of soil compaction, energetic efficiency, emissions, physiological parameters of the horses show the horses to be superior to tractors in any case but speed, output and methane production. The character of the horses and the skilfulness of the driver have great influence on the results. Liability to the soil is less in horse work than in tractor work and the topsoil is less compacted by horse work while the subsoil is not compacted at all. Maximum area that can be worked with horses per day is limited by the needs of feeding and regeneration of the horses.The double-knife mower with 1.90 m working width hitched to a fore cart equipped with an engine-driven power-take-off is assessed to be the most advisable of the examined horse drawn alternatives.
According to the FAO, there are around 300 million working animals worldwide. They play a fundamental role in human livelihoods through their contribution to financial, human and social capital, supporting between 300 and 600 million people globally, particularly in poorer areas, where animal energy represents a huge and extremely important sustainable power resource.Yet its recognition remains neglected in many programs of cooperation to development, with animal traction being largely ignored by decision and policy makers and even by civil society at all levels, which compromises a real development of this technology as well as animal welfare. On the other hand, a collective ecological and economical consciousness and an increasing awareness of public opinion about the need to reduce the excessive industrialization and mechanization of agriculture and forestry has led some sectors of society to consider the (re)use of animal traction as a valid modern source of energy. Indeed, working animals optimally transform the consumed biomass in energy and natural fertilizer, which avoids soil degradation and contributes to a sustainable management of arable lands, forests and sensitive areas. The need to maintain biodiversity, reduce carbon emissions, encourage self-reliance and reduce consumption of resources also contributes to this trend.
Although animal traction would be well-suited to cover parts of farm power demand in sub-Saharian Africa, the use of draft animals has been limited in the region. The authors demonstrate why this is the case in Ghana.