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Edward J. Wickson.

The Shepherd's Manual.








Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1876, by the

In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.





Antiquity of Sheep Husbandry The Future of Sheep
Husbandry Its Effects upon Agriculture Demand for
Mutton Sheep Value of the Wool Product Extent of
Pasturage in America.



Selection of a Sheep Farm Effects of Soils upon the
Health of Sheep What is a Good Pasture ? Value of
Certain Grasses The Western Plains as Sheep Pasture
Pastures Fodder Crops Root Crops Folding Sheep
Dog Guards.



Marking Sheep Record for Breeders Management of
Rams Care of Ewes Care of Lambs Selecting Lambs
for Breeders Prevention of Disease Dipping Preven-
tive of Parasites.



Barns and Sheds Feed Racks Feeding Value of Differ-
ent Fodders, Roots and Grains Experiments in Feeding
Profit of Feeding Raising Eaniy Lambs for Market
Feeding Sheep for Market Value of Manure Markets
for Sheep.






How Breeds are Established Improvement of Flocks
Cross Breeding Breeding for Sex Maxims for Breeders
Native Breeds Improvement of the Merinos The Me-
rino Fleece Long- Wool Breeds Medium and Short-Wool
Breeds Foreign Breeds -Cross-bred Sheep American



The Method of Growth of Wool Its Peculiar Structure
Its Composition The Yolk Classification of Wools-
Character of Merino Wool Washing Wool Shearing-
Packing and Marketing the Fleeces Production of Wool
in the World Comparative Values of Wool in Different
Countries Favorable Conditions for Producing Wool in
the United States.



Physiology of the Sheep The Teeth The Bones- The
Vital Functions, Respiration, Circulation, and Digestion
The Causes and Prevention of Diseases of the Sheep Dis-
eases of the Respiratory Organs, of the Digestive Organs,
of the Blood Enzootic Diseases Epizootic Diseases
Diseases of the Urinary and Reproductive Organs, of the
Brain Parasitical Diseases of the Intestines, of the Skin
Diseases of the Feet Diseases incident to Lambing
Special Diseases Diseases of Lambs.



The following Manual is designed to be a hand-book for Amer-
ican shepherds and farmers. It is intended te be so plain that a
farmer, or a farmer's son, who has never kept a sheep, may learn
from its pages how to manage a flock successfully, and to be so
complete that even the experienced shepherd may gather some
suggestions from it. When the author, some years ago, began to
keep sheep, he sought in vain amongst the published works a
simple practical, comprehensive book upon sheep and sheep-keep-
ing, suited to his necessities. The excellent works upon the
Merino and Fine Wool Husbandry by Mr. Randall, were the only
ones to be obtained that were adapted for the use of an American
shepherd, and these referred to a special branch of sheep husbandry
which is becoming every year a less and less prominent one. The
other books on this subject then extant, were either English works
or compilations from them, and were out of date and incomplete.
None of the works gave a description of the modern improved
breeds of sheep which have of late become so deservedly popular ;
or any full or satisfactory account of the diseases of sheep, and
the remedies proper for them under the modern systems of treat-
ment which have grown out of the more accurate scientific knowl-
edge of the present day ; nor could any information as to the
vastly increased scope of this branch of agricultural industry in
America, be found in any book. It was necessary to learn by
experience in this case, as in all others, a costly teacher how to
meet the needs of the modern improved sheep in our climate and


under our methods of culture. The results of personal experi-
ences of some years with the characters of the various modern
breeds of sheep, and the sheep-raising capabilities of many portions
of our extensive territory and that of Canada, most of which have
been visited with a view to the effects upon our sheep of the va-
rying climate and different soils ; and the careful study of the dis-
eases to which our sheep are chiefly subject, with those by which
they may eventually be afflicted through unforeseen accidents ; as
well as the methods of management called for under our circum-
stances, were finally gathered into the shape in which they are here
presented to the shepherds of America, with the hope that they
may be as acceptable and useful to them as they would have
been, when he first undertook the care of a flock, to

NEW YOKE., 1370.

The Shepherd's Manual.


From the earliest ages the sheep has been a source of profit to
mankind, and its keeping and rearing an important industry.
Abel, the second son of Adam, chose sheep-herding as his employ-
ment, and although his elder brother chose to cultivate the soil,
the pastoral life became the favored occupation of the human race
in its early periods, and the more toilsome tillage of the ground
was followed from necessity rather than from choice. With a
sparse population, a scarcity of labor, but at the same time an
ample territory, the cultivation of flocks became in early times the
readiest means of providing food and clothing, increasing the com-
forts of man and of accumulating transferable wealth. Although
at first sight it is a singular circumstance, yet on reflection it is
seen to be a necessity of the case that the territory upon which the
flocks of the ancient patriarchs were fed and tended, is still the
home of shepherds, and that there, for forty centuries, flocks have
wandered from pasture to pasture under the care of their nomadic
proprietors. Where the physical features of the country were
favorable to pasturage, there the first civilized occupation was that
of keeping sheep, and so it remains to this day.

In view of its bearing upon the future of sheep husbandry in
the United States, it is important to remember this fact, that where
peculiarly favorable physical features of the country were present,
and the shepherd occupied the land, there the shepherd and his
flock retain possession until this day. Thus, at the time of the
conquest of Spain by the ancient Romans, that country was cele-
brated for its flocks and the quality of its wool, and to-day the


Spanish Merino is equally celebrated, although through adventi-
tious circumstances, but chiefly political disturbances, its pre-emi-
nence has been lost to Spam, and other countries enjoy its fruits.
As civilization progressed stage by stage, and garments of man-
ufactured wool displaced those of skins, careful breeding began to
improve the fleece, and varieties among sheep became fixed in
type. Before the Christian era the fine wools of Italy were noted,
and the fineness of the fleece was cultivated to a degree unknown
to us of the present day. The sheep of that period were housed
and clothed, their skins were oiled and moistened with wine, and
their fleeces were combed and washed repeatedly, in order that
the quality of the wool might be refined as far as possible. Al-
though this excessive refinement destroyed the vigor and impaired
the constitution of the sheep, yet their descendants, inferior in
form, as might be expected, are still fine-wooled sheep. Thus far
the improvement in sheep operated only towards refining the
fleece, and the carcass was a secondary object, only cared for so
far as it could serve as a vehicle for carrying the wool. The lamb
of the flock was considered a choice morsel, but the mature sheep
was neglected as an article of food. It is only in recent times that
the excellence of mutton has been made an object hi the improve-
ment of sheep. At the present it is only in sparsely populated
countries that sheep are cultivated for wool alone, while in densely
peopled localities the production of mutton is of greater consider-
ation than that of wool, or at least is of equal value to it. At the
present time, proximity to, or distance from market, decides the
choice of breeds, and in fact this consideration alone has in some
cases been the moving influence in the creation of new varieties
or breeds specially adapted to certain localities. In a similar man-
ner the necessities of sheep-breeders have led them to make some
important modifications in their methods of agriculture, so that
while the character of their flocks has been changed for the better,
their agriculture has been improved, the product of the land in-
creased, and its value advanced, until profitable sheep culture has
become synonymous with the most profitable farming. In fact,
the character of the farm has been indexed by the character of the
flock reared upon it. This improvement has in greater part oc-
curred only in connection with the rearing of mutton sheep. To
feed these heavy bodied sheep profitably, it has been found neces-
sary to raise large crops of cheap roots and luxuriant green crops ;
and to raise these crops, the most skillful tillage, the cleanest cul-
ture, and the most liberal manuring have been requisite. In this
way the product of the soil has been vastly increased, and the


sheep, directly and indirectly, has been both the gainer and the
means of gain.

The demand for mutton as an agreeable and cheap food is stead-
ily increasing. The markets of the city of New York alone re-
quire more than one million sheep per annum. Farmers formerly
habituated to the daily use of pork are becoming mutton eaters,
and the convenience of a few sheep upon the farm merely to sup-
ply the family table is now appreciated to a much greater extent
than ever before. This cultivation of sheep for mutton alone is a
branch of agriculture which is yearly becoming more important.
As yet we possess no native variety of mutton sheep. The carcass of
the "native " sheep, so called but which is really a heterogeneous
mixture of all those breeds which have been brought to this coun-
try, and which having been permitted to increase promiscuously,
have perpetuated only their poorest qualities is unworthy the
name of mutton ; and those flocks of imported sheep of better
character, such as the Southdowns, Leicesters, or Cotswolds, are
either allowed to deteriorate, or are kept for breeding purposes.
It is very true that a really good carcass of mutton rarely finds its
way to our markets, except from Canada, where almost the sole
attention is given to breeding sheep for mutton. At the same time
there is a demand for mutton, both of that substantial kind which
is represented by legs of 16 to 20 Ibs. in weight, handsome saddles
and good shoulders, and that more delicately flavored kind repre-
sented by the small legs or quarters of the Welsh sheep.

Unfortunately this fact is not generally known to farmers, and
if it were, it is equally unfortunate that we as yet have not the
kind of sheep to meet the demand. Before this excellent and
wholesome food can become as popular as it ought to be, and
sheep keeping can become as profitable as it may be, farmers must
be better informed as to the character of the sheep needed, the
manner in which they may be bred, and the methods by which
they may be fitted for the market This necessary information
must include a knowledge of the modern breeds which have
usurped the place of the old kinds, and the peculiar management
of the new races of sheep, as well as of the special crops needed
for fodder, and the methods of cultivating them. Heretofore in
place of this practical information, American farmers have been
treated to long dissertations upon the origin and history of the
sheep, and descriptions of foreign breeds which are of no possible
value or interest to them.

The sheep, in addition to its value as a food producer, yields to
its owner an annual tribute in the shape of its fleece, which in the


aggregate is a most important contribution to the comfort and in-
dustry of the people. In 1870 there were nearly 30 millions of
sheep in the United States, and the wool production in that year
amounted to 120 million pounds, estimating the average weight of
the fleeces at 4 pounds each. The value of this wool in the farm-
ers' hands would reach at the lowest estimate, $40,000,000. But so
far from being anywhere equal to the demand for this staple, the
supply was less than our yearly needs by a quantity equal to a
value of more than $40,000,000, and wool to this amount is annu-
ally imported from foreign countries. Besides this in wool, there
is annually imported with it the value of $20,000,000 in foreign la-
bor, which has been expended in manufacturing wool into cloth
and other woolen goods. Our own necessities, therefore, demand
an increase in the supply of wool equal to our present production.
This wool, if produced here, would not only use up a large quan-
tity of corn now. thrown upon the markets of the world, and
therefore enhance the value of that which would remain for dis-
posal ; but its manufacture into cloths and goods would employ a
large number of persons who are now engaged in raising agricul-
tural products for sale, and are therefore in active competition
with other farmers. The encouragement of sheep cultivation,
therefore, has a national importance, and is a subject which bears
directly upon the interests of farmers. To increase the wool pro-
duct to a par with the necessities of the country at the present
time, would alone involve the passage through their hands of
'$60,000,000 yearly an immense sum, which now goes into the
pockets of foreigners, instead of those of our own people.

The scope for an increase in our wool product is comparatively
boundless. A full third of the territory of the United States is a
grand sheep pasture of the most favorable character. Vast plains
bearing abundance of the most nutritious herbage, in the most
healthful climate, and the very best conditions for the profitable
breeding of fine and middle wool sheep, and which are valueless
for any other than pastoral purposes, stretch from the 100th me-
ridian for 500 miles west to the Rocky Mountains, and from north
to south for 1,500 miles. In addition to this vast tract, upon which
a hundred million sheep could feed and thrive with ease, there are
immense mountain ranges, extensive valleys, and again beyond
these, great plains, altogether covering a still larger area, of which a
great portion is admirably fitted for the pasturing of sheep. With
so great a scope for the cheap production of wool, it seems to be
a strange thing, that instead of exporting largely of this staple, as
we might and should do, the United States on the contrary is one


of the largest buyers in foreign markets. Again, on the Atlantic
seaboard there are millions of acres of land now useless that would,
if cleared and cultivated, make excellent sheep farms for the pro-
duction of the choicest mutton sheep. There are numberless salt
marshes upon which sheep, naturally fitted through long years of
adaptation for just such pasturage, could be made to yield mutton
of the most delicate flavor. There are also hills and rocky moun-
tains upon whose sweet herbage hardy races of sheep could be
made to thrive with profit ; and further inland, highly cultivated
farms, where heavy crops of green fodder and roots could be raised,
that might carry flocks of large framed sheep, yielding combing
W0 ol now so much used in clothing materials for both sexes,
and the demand for which is always ahead of the supply. And
further south, where it is possible to pasture sheep the year
round, but where those which are now kept are so neglected
that some of them are never shorn, there is .also vast room to
change the overdone cotton production for the equally easy but
more profitable production of wool which in that climate, by the
exercise of proper care, may be grown of the finest quality of
staple. What a vast field opens upon our view when we consider
the extent of the territory which we possess suitable for sheep cul-
ture ; and what profit and increase of national wealth is there in
this business to those who undertake it as the occupation of their
lives not only for a short period and intermittingly, and then to
be abandoned for some other temporary speculative business but
with a desire and determination to succeed through the exercise
of patience, perseverance, and skill.


The selection of a suitable farm should be the first care of a
person who intends to devote his time and capital to the rearing
of sheep. To become a successful shepherd, requires that a person
should have a liking for the business, and possess tact, patience,
and perseverance sufficient to resist the temptations which may
arise at seasons of depression to abandon it for some other tempo-
rarily more promising pursuit. Having a determination to stick


to his flock, he must have a farm suited to its special needs or it
will not thrive. Sheep cannot bear damp ; and undrained pastures
are fatal to their welfare. Luxuriance of herbage is not generally
favorable unless the land is heavily stocked and the pasture kept
short and closely cropped. Old permanent meadows, in which a
variety of grasses are found, are better than artificial meadows
which form part of a rotation with other crops. With a portion
of such permanent meadow, there may be many cultivated crops
grown upon the other portions of the farm upon which the sheep
may be folded with benefit both to themselves and the land.

The land most suitable for sheep is one that is naturally drained,
with a sandy loam or gravelly soil and subsoil, and which bears
spontaneously short, fine, herbage, largely mixed with white clover.
It should be rolling, and may be hilly in character rather than flat
and level. Any low spots or hollows in which aquatic or marsh
plants grow, are very objectionable, and should be thoroughly
drained. One such spot upon an otherwise admirable farm may
infect a flock with deadly disease. No domestic animal is more
readily affected by adverse circumstances than the sheep, and none
has less spirit or power to resist them. Virgil, the ancient poet, a
close observer of such matters, says of them, " Oves semper infelix
pecus" (Sheep are always an unhappy flock), and many shepherds
since his day have found reason to hold the same belief. But the
experienced sheepmaster has no fear on this score. He knows
that a reputation for success with sheep is " never gained without
merit, nor lost without deserving," and that failure is not want
of luck, as is so frequently declared, but the consequence of ignor-
ance or bad management. The careful shepherd will not wait
to cure, he is prompt to prevent ; and every defeat is made a new
lesson for study and an example for future avoidance. It is by
long experience that shepherds have learned that the first requi-
site for success in their business is, the choice of a farm upon which
their flocks will enjoy perfect health, and that dry ness of soil and
of air is the first necessity for their well being. By a careful and
judicious choice in this respect, most of the ills to which sheep are
subject, with all their contingent losses to their owners, are

The character of the soil upon which sheep are pastured has a
great influence in modifying the character of the sheep. Upon
the kind of soil of course depends the character of the herbage
upon which the flock feeds. Certain soils, such as those consist-
ing of decomposed granite or feldspar, and which are rich in pot-
ash, are not generally favorable for sheep. Even turnips raised on


such lands sometimes affect the sheep injuriously, producing dis-
ease under which they waste away, become watery about the eyes,
fall in about the flanks, and assume a generally unhealthy appear-
ance. Upon removal to a limestone, or a dry sandstone soil, sheep
thus affected, improve at once and rapidly recover. The lambs,
as might be expected, are most easily affected, and many are yearly
lost by early death upon lands of an unfavorable character. As
a rule, lands upon which granite, feldspathic or micaceous rocks
intrude, or whose soils are derived from the degradation of such
rocks, should be avoided by the shepherd. Such soils are, however,
not without their uses, and fortunately are excellently adapted to
the dairy. The soils most to be preferred are sandstone and lime-
stone lands, of a free, dry, porous character, upon which the finer
grasses flourish. The soils which are derived from rocks called
carboniferous, which accompany coal deposits, or are found in the
regions in which coal is mined, are those upon which sheep have
been bred with the most success. The original home of the Lei-
cester sheep, as well as that of the famous Shropshires, is on the red
sandstone ; the Lincoln is raised on the alluvial soils based on
limestone ; the Cotswold has had its home for centuries on the
limestone Cotswold hills ; the Southdown, Hampshiredown, and
Oxforddowns, are native to the chalk hills and downs of southern
England ; the Scotch Cheviot and the hardy black-faced Scotch
sheep thrive on sandstone hills and mountains of trap rocks which
rise amongst them ; the fine wools of Yorkshire are produced on
magnesian limestone soils ; and to come to our own soils, we find
the American Merino reaching perfection on the limestone hills of
Vermont, beneath which fine marbles are quarried. Unfortu-
nately this is the only instance we possess of having given a local
habitation to a race of sheep in America ; but how soon we shall
have produced or acclimated several breeds of sheep, which will
take their peculiarities from the locality in which they are bred
and raised, is only a question of time. Peat or marsh lands are
unfavorable for sheep farms. Salt marshes near the coast, how-
ever, may be excepted from this general condemnation, as the
saline herbage acts as a specific against some of the parasitic dis-
eases the liver-rot mainly to which sheep are subject upon
marshy pastures. The Romney-marsh sheep of England are bred
successfully upon the alluvial soils of reclaimed marshes, and pro-
duce good wool and a heavy carcass. The gigantic Lincoln, the
largest sheep bred, originated and thrives in perfection upon
drained alluvial soils.
The dry, friable nature and porous character of the soil has as


much to do with the health and growth of sheep as the geological
character of the rocks upon which it is based, or from which it has
been derived. The census returns of England show that the high-
est percentage of sheep to the 100 acres, is found precisely NY here
the soil is naturally drained and dry, and the lowest, where clay
abounds, and damp, cold soils with rank, coarse herbage are gen-
eral. In our own country, although the time has been far too
short as yet for this condition to operate largely, we find the same
fact curiously developed, and Ohio and western Pennsylvania,
with their extensive coal bearing formations underlying dry roll-
ing fields, possess more sheep than any other district, while New
York, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan, which cover an extensive
deposit of limestones and sandstones, with naturally dry soils, come
next on the list. The vast stretch of prairies in the Mississippi
Valley, and of plains west of the Missouri to the Rocky Moun-
tains, chiefly underlaid with limestones and sandstones, and especi-
ally remarkable for a dry, porous soil, which bears a rich carpet
of the best sheep pastures in the world, have already proved them-
selves to be well adapted to the successful growth of flocks bear-
ing fine and medium wools. The rich alluvial valleys of the east-
ern rivers where naturally or artificially drained, have been found
to be fitted for the production of large bodied sheep bearing the

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Online LibraryHenry StewartThe shepherd's manual. A practical treatise on the sheep → online text (page 1 of 23)