This machine is a hand-powered chaffcutter typical of those used to cut up hay and straw for animals, notably horses, both on Australian farms and in the cities. Crops were also chaffed before they were put into the silo, to ensure close packing and to prevent fermentation.
The chaffcutter is one of the labour-saving animal food preparations machines made by agricultural manufacturers in the 19th century and first half of the 20th century. Others included crushers, grist mills, cake breakers, root cleaners and cutters, and corn shellers. When hand feeding large numbers of stock the amount of feed required to be cut, crushed or broken became quite excessive, so through necessity mechanisation developed quickly in this area. The benefits of using food preparation machines ensured that livestock had better digestion, and the mixing of fodder was facilitated which encouraged fattening animals to eat more. Cut feed was also advantageous for hard-worked horses, horses which bolted their food, animals with worn teeth and young animals with incomplete teeth.
Hand-powered chaffcutters like this one were one of the most common pieces of machinery on Australian farms. Chaffcutters were an essential piece of machinery when horses were used on farms to pull ploughs, cultivators, harvesters and other machines. Their use declined after the widespread introduction of the tractor after the Second World War. Bentall chaffcutters were a popular make used in Australia.
Hine, H.J. "Good Farming By Machine" (Teach Yourself Farming Books), Hodder and Stoughton Limited, London, 1948, pp.145.
Simpson, Margaret & Phillip, "Old Farm Machinery in Australia: A Sourcebook and Fieldguide", Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst, NSW, 1991, pp.75-79.
A Brief History of E H Bentall and Company Collector Café, http://www.collectorcafe.com/article_archive.asp?article=820&id=1671
Curator, Science, Technology & Industry