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Adapting Tools for Animal Power

Adapting Farm Tools for Animal Power

TechGuides (PDF)

Tillers researches methods and tools for low-tech farming. We have chosen to share the results of that research here, free, in order to encourage dispersement of the technology we promote. Please consider making a donation to support our research. Thank you!




Animal-Driven Shaft Power Revisited (0.2MB)


Estimating Logging Draft (0.3MB)


Estimating Ox-Drawn Implement Draft (0.6MB)


Estimating Sled and Stoneboat Draft (0.1MB)


Estimating Tillage Draft (0.2MB)


Estimating Wagon Draft (0.9MB)


Forecarts (0.2MB)


Measuring Draft Power, A Low-Cost Dynamometer for Field Use (0.5MB)


Themi-Tillers Manual Hay Baler (1.7MB)


Themi-Tillers Manual Hay Baler Plans (0.5MB)


Wood-Framed Spike Toothed Harrow (0.3MB)


Advanced Training Techniques for Oxen (0.3MB)


Britchen, Brakes, and Head Yokes for Restraining Loads Behind Oxen (0.1MB)


Building an Ox Yoke (2.2MB)


Improving Ox Yokes (0.9MB)


Neck Yokes Design and Fit (1.2MB)


Selecting and Teaming Oxen (0.9MB)


Training Young Steers (0.1MB)


Yoking and Harnessing Single Cattle (0.3MB)


Developing a Mulching Roller for no-till weed control


Adapting cultivators

Tillers is working to adapt cultivators to animal power, especially for international use. The cultivators must be scaled down to match the smaller sizes of the African ox breeds. They must also be adapted such that they can easily be manufactured using local materials, tools, and skills.



Plastic Pipe Yoke Bows
Bending plastic pipe for yoke bows

Tillers' international projects emphasize appropriate technology, designing tools and equipment that can be manufactured locally using inexpensive local materials, tools, and skills. Traditional American yokes use a wooden bow around each ox's neck that must be carefully steam bent. Native east and south African woods do not have the necessary structure to bend without breaking. Therefore traditional African yoke bows typically consist of two straight pieces that rest along the animal's neck, which require a hump for effective pulling.


To improve the fit of these yokes, thus also improving the ox's health and efficiency and no longer requiring a humped animal, Tillers developed a technique for bending plastic water pipe into bows. The water pipe is packed with sand to keep it from crushing when bent, and heated over a fire. It then bends readily around a form, either an appropriately sized wooden form or a handy tree. A better bow fit for the animal and a lower hitch point make improved yokes more comfortable, allowing the oxen to work for longer periods of time with more pulling power.




Forecarts 0.2MB



Powered forecarts to adapt tractor-drawn implements

Gain the efficiency of hydraulic and shaft driven equipment without the fuel consumption of a tractor. Powered forecarts pulled by draft animal power require about a third the amount of fuel as tractors. The above video shows both a hay bine and a baler in action behind powered forecarts pulled by oxen and draft horses.


Hay Bine





Measuring draft

Measuring Draft Power: A Low Cost Dynamometer for Field Use 0.5MB

Estimating Logging Draft 0.5MB

Estimating Ox-Drawn Implement Draft 0.6MB

Estimating Sled and Stoneboat Draft 0.1MB

Estimating Tillage Draft 0.2MB

Estimating Wagon Draft 0.9MB



Bob Okello's Uganda Plow

Bob Okello's Ugandan plow



Fodder choppers
Fodder choppers

Grasses and crop residues being brought to dairy cows need to be chopped to improve palatability and intake. A chopper greatly reduces the time it takes to prepare these feeds compared to chopping with a machete. Tillers has developed two primary types of choppers, a cutting box with a hand-operated levered blade and a more complex rotary operated blade with an automatic feeder.



Martin ditcher
Martin ditcher

Used to build road beds or make run-off ditches, simple tools like the Martin ditcher can allow people to improve their local infrastructure.



Slip scraper
Slip scraper

A slip scraper can be used to level building sites, dig pit silos or dig irrigation and run-off ditches.



Four ox evener
Four ox evener

An evener improves the ability of multiple teams of oxen to work together. This allows the smaller, local oxen to do heavier work. The evener allows the driver to monitor how evenly the two teams are pulling, maxmizing their power.




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