animal traction

Donkeys in transition: changing use in a changing world

Donkeys have a long history in the development of human societies. Typically referred to as a beast of burden, traditional uses for donkeys have included the transportation of goods and people, use in agricultural and forestry activities, to access water, and provide citizens in low- and middle-income countries a means of making an income for communities. However, the rise of mechanization, the development of modern farming techniques, and the increasing availability of motorized vehicles have led to donkeys and mules becoming redundant from traditional roles in many parts of the world. We provide examples of where donkeys have successfully transitioned from traditional roles to new, non-traditional roles in Europe and North America, and demonstrate that, although the roles and use of donkeys and mules are changing in a rapidly developing world, we can learn lessons from the past and apply them to current challenges. As the need for working equids declines in transport and agriculture, they still hold great value for recreational, therapeutic, and environmentally friendly methods of animal traction. 

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Comparing effects of tillage treatments performed with animal traction on soil physical properties and soil electrical resistivity: preliminary experimental results

Soil Compaction results from compressive forces applied to compressible soil by machinery wheels, combined with tillage operations. Draft animal‐pulled equipment may also cause soil compaction, but a huge gap exists on experimental data to adequately assess their impacts and, actually, animal traction is an option seen with increasing potential to contribute to sustainable agriculture, especially in mountain areas. This study was conducted to assess the impacts on soil compaction of tillage operations with motor tractor and draft animals. In a farm plot (Vale de Frades, NE Portugal) treatments were applied in sub‐plots (30 m x 3 m), consisting in a two way tillage with tractor (T), a pair of cows (C) and a pair of donkeys (D). Undisturbed soil samples (120) were taken before and after operations for bulk density (BD) and saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ks). The relative changes in BD observed after tillage in the 0-0.05 m soil depth increased after operations in all treatments. The increase was higher in the tractor sub-plot (15%) than in those where animal traction was used (8%). Before operation Ks class was rapid and fast in all samples, and after operation this value was reduced to 33% in T, whereas it reached 83% in C. Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) was useful as a tool to identify the alterations caused by tillage operations on soil physical status. These preliminary results confirm the potential of animal traction as an option for mountain agri‐environments, yet it requires much wider research to soundly ground its assets.

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