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Turning hay into chaff

A piece of metal farm machinery with a large circular wheel, with a handle attached to the front, atop a four-footed stand. - click to view larger image
Harrison McGregor & Co chaffcutter, 1880s

To power Australian farms, horses needed energy in the form of grass, hay, chaff, grain and water. Most farmers aimed to grow enough feed to support their own herds.

The need to feed farm horses also drove the development of trades and industries like chaffcutting and contributed to the invention of improved cropping technologies, such as hay and straw harvesters.

Some farmers also specialised in producing horse feed, and people developed businesses to distribute feed across the country.

Small-scale farmers looking to turn their hay into chaff often purchased a modest chaffcutter, such as the Harrison McGregor & Co model pictured at right.

These cutters were operated by hand or attached to a horseworks (where a horse walked in a circle to turn a central crown wheel and power a belt which drove machinery). Hay stalks were fed into the toothed rollers of the chaffcutter and pushed through two rotating blades that cut the hay to a set length.

Explore more Spirited: Australia's Horse Story

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