Henry Stewart.

The shepherd's manual. A practical treatise on the sheep online

. (page 12 of 23)
Online LibraryHenry StewartThe shepherd's manual. A practical treatise on the sheep → online text (page 12 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

wooled and the least hardy of the Spanish flocks, were so bred as
to still further increase the fineness of the fleece, and to diminish


their strength of constitution. The ewes yielded from a pound
and a half to two pounds of washed wool, and the rams from two
to three pounds. The wool was almost free from yolk, and re-
mained clean and white ; the staple was from one Inch to an inch
and a half in length. The body of this sheep was thin, the legs
long, the neck long and thin, the skin pale, and the constitution
weak. Yet the beauty and extreme fineness of the wool were
such (a fiber, not of the finest, measuring 1 / 6to of an inch in dia-
meter) that it overbore the objections to the defects of the sheep.
While this is the general character of the Saxon sheep, there are
a few breeders who have striven with success to give them more
size and greater compactness of form.

The management of the noted Saxon flock of Baron Sternberg,
from which most of our recent importations of these sheep have
been made, is worthy of note here. This flock consists of 1,200
head : 600 ewes, 100 rams. 260 lambs, and the rest wethers and
yearlings. They are kept in one large brick stable, 330 feet long,
63 feet wide, and 30 feet high ; this is well ventilated, and made
to be closed in severe weather. The ewes, rams, etc., are kept in
divisions separated by hurdles, supported by stakes driven into
the floor. In these are placed fodder-racks and feed troughs.
Above the stable are hay and straw lofts, floored with boards,
which are covered with several inches of beaten clay. The litter
and manure remain in the stable six months at a time, until it is
in a compact, solid mass, three or four feet thick. The sheep are
stabled here from November to April, and foddered on straw, hay,
turnips, and brewers' grams. In summer they are taken out to
graze from 9 to 12 in the forenoon, and from 3 in the afternoon
until sunset. Great care is taken in coupling the ewes ; those
rams being selected that are needed to cover defects or improve
weak points in the ewes. Mere fineness of wool is not aimed at.
The greatest possible size of carcass compatible with tine clothing
wool, and a fleece at least 2J Ibs. in weight, are the desired objects.
The weak and inferior Iambs are killed off when young, and the
flock is rigorously weeded of all but healthy animals. The value
of the land upon which this flock is kept with profit is $200 to
$300 an acre. The importation of Saxon Merinos into the United
States have shown that this breed cannot, under ordinary circum-
stances, profitably compete with other varieties of Merinos, on ac-
count of the cost of the shelter and extra care needed for its
proper management, and the smallness of the fleece. The supe-
rior fineness of the wool does not bring a sufficiently high price to
make up for the deficiency in weight. In competition with the


American or French Merino, the Saxon has been found unprofita-
ble for the production of wool in the present condition of the
woolen manufacture, yet there may occur cases in which it can be
made useful at some future time, when the demand for very fine
wool may return under the influence of the changes of fashion.

THE SILESIAN MERINO. The Silesian Merinos have become
already a successfully acclimated breed in the United States. This
breed became established through importations from Saxony as
well as from Spain. The flock out of which the only importa-
tion into America was made, became naturalized in Silesia by an
importation of Infantado and Negretti Merinos, in 1811, by
Ferdinand Fischer, of Wirchenblatt. Mr. Fischer personally se-
lected 100 Infantado ewes and 4 Negretti rams, and these sheep
have been interbred without admixture from that date to the
present. So careful has been the breeding, that since its com-
mencement over 60 years ago, the pedigree of every sheep of the
flock has been recorded. This purity of blood is one of the most
valuable characteristics of the flock in question, in which, having
acquired an offshoot from it, we are especially interested. Perfect
purity of blood gives force, or, to use the breeders' phraseology,
prepotency to the breed used in crossing on other races, and in-
sures uniformity of improvement. If this general opinion of
breeders is founded on fact, as must be admitted, then the value
of the flock to be referred to, can hardly be questioned, and it
might truly be designated as pure Spanish, instead of, by reason
of its accidental location, Silesian. As it is, however, generally
known as Silesian, and is as well entitled to that name as are the
French Merinos to theirs, it is convenient to continue its use. The
American Silesian Merinos were imported from the flock of Mr.
Fischer, by the late Mr. Win. Chamberlin, of Dutchess Co., N. Y.,
from 1851 to 1856. In all, 212 ewes and 34 rams were imported.
The ewes shear from 8 to 11 pounds of unwashed wool, the rams
from 12 to 16 pounds. The wool is from two inches and a half to
three inches long, dark on the outside, without gum, but with
plenty of oil of a white and free, but not sticky, character. The
ewes weigh, alive, from 110 to 130 Ibs., and rams from 145 to 155
Ibs. They are hardy, good breeders, and the ewes are good nurses.
After some years' experience with them, Mr. Chamberlin has
stated that they do not deteriorate, but that the wool grows finer,
without losing in the weight of the fleece. They mature slowly,
and do not reach their full size until four years old ; after eight or
nine years they become lighter in weight. The mature sheep are
as large as the ordinary American Merino. The Silesian is simply


a very high-bred Spanish sheep, resulting from the union of two
of the best families, and bred for more than half a century for a
particular purpose by one breeder, or what is really equivalent to
that, a father and son. The fleece is superior hi fineness to that of
any other Merino we possess, and for a really fine wool, is un-
rivalled. It is fortunate that the Silesian Merino begins its career
in America under such favorable auspices, and that the shepherd
in charge of the flock, Mr. Carl Heyne, so thoroughly under-
^stands its requirements and management. It is to be hoped that
the conservative and judicious management of this flock will help
to establish it successfully, and to launch it on a long course of use-
fulness. Rams and ewes of this flock are already being distributed
by sale throughout the country, and the original flock now numbers
over 800 head. One peculiarity in Mr. Heyne's management,
is especially noteworthy ; the lambs are yeaned very early in the
winter. This is of course a matter of choice on the part of the
shepherd, but it involves the greatest excellence of management,
and the provision of roots for the maintenance of the nursing
ewes, along with a perfect arrangement for shelter and warmth
during the winter season. It is obvious that few American breed-
ers, and still fewer farmers, would find it possible or profitable to
incur the necessary expense of this sort of management for the
amount of profit realized from the wool alone.

CKOSS-BRED SHEEP. It is a somewhat suggestive fact that just
now the most profitable sheep in Europe are cross-bred. The
cross-bred races in England are what the English farmers perti-
nently designate the ' ' rent-paying sheep, " that is, that there is more
money in them than in any others. The cross is made between
the strictly mutton sheep and the strictly wool-bearing sheep.
The sheep raised chiefly for wool are of slow growth and late in
maturing. The high-bred mutton sheep are high feeders, and re-
quire the most careful treatment. They have been refined so
highly that they no longer possess the requisite constitution, nor
are they so prolific as to satisfy the wants of farmers who depend,
not upon the high prices obtained by breeders for their stock, but
upon those offered by the purchasers of meat and wool, who can
only give what the inexorable necessities of the markets enable
them to pay. The cross-bred sheep are of quick growth and early
maturity ; their mutton is acceptable hi the markets ; their fleeces
are of wide adaptation to woolen manufactures, and they are
easily fed and make a greater weight of marketable meat with a
comparatively small consumption of food. In Mr. Lawes' experi-
ments, related in the Royal Agricultural Journal, it was found that


the cross-bred sheep could be fed more cheaply, for the same
weight of flesh, than the pure breeds, with but one exception,
that being the Cotswold. The same necessity to make the most
profit on the least expenditure, exists with American as with the
English, French, and German farmers, and we are discovering, as
they have done, that the cross-bred sheep bring the most money
to their owners. In England, through the operation of this fact,
there has been established for some years past a system of ram
sales, at which breeders of pure blood sheep offer their surplus
rams for sale or for hire by the year. By this means farmers are
enabled to select for themselves such breeding animals as they
may need. These sales are attended by purchasers from all parts
of Europe, Australia, and South America, and also by a few of the
more enterprising breeders of the United States and Canada, or
their agents. At the Vienna Exposition of 1873, where there were
exhibited several cross-breeds of sheep which were highly satisfac-
tory, the favorable results of this system were prominently set
forth. The most conspicuous of these was

THE COTSWOLD-MERINO. These are fine examples of sheep.
They are without horns, with bare faces resembling the Cotswolds,
but with the pink noses of the Merino; the ears are slightly
drooping, and the top-knot shorter and less abundant than in the
Cotswold. The wool is much finer than in the Cotswold, very
bright, with good curl, thickly set on the skin, and well filled
with liquid yellow oil, but free from solid yolk or gum. The
fleece is better closed than that of the Cotswold, and is easily kept
free from dirt and dust. The flesh is firmer than that of the Cots-
wold, and thicker than in the Merino, both back and ribs being
well covered. The girth taken over the wool averages 5 feet 8
inches. The wool is scant below the knee and hock. This is the
character of the first cross. When interbred without further
crossing, this character has been well maintained. The cross-bred
animals and their produce are of strong constitution, mature
quickly, becoming prime fat at 12 to 14 months old, and weigh
alive at that age 140 to 148 pounds. The flock from which some
of the specimens exhibited at Vienna were taken, numbered 340
head, and was bred by the Moravian Sugar Factory Company, of
Keltschan, Austria. The sheep are fed upon waste beet pulp from
the factory, a small quantity of oats, hay, and oil-cake, in addition
to clover pasture and mangels, which completes the round of the
year's feeding. The mutton is held in high esteem, and brings
the extreme price of 8 cents per pound, live weight, after the
fleece is sheared.


There are many other flocks similarly bred in Austria and Hun-
gary, and all are reported as being equally satisfactory. In refer-
ence to these sheep, a German agricultural journal published in
Vienna, in its issue of June 2, 1873, remarks as follows : " We"
cannot sympathize with the complaints of the admirers of high,
fine wool, looking as we do upon the farmer as a merchant who
must keep up with the times, and supply the wants of the market.
As the public have ceased to ask for the very fine cloth which was
so highly valued 50 years ago for its beauty and durability, no one
can complain that the manufacturer turns his attention to cloths
of coarser quality, suitable to the present public taste. When the
manufacturer no longer requires so much of the high, fine wool,
the price falls, and the farmer ceases to produce an article that is
no longer profitable." There could certainly be nothing more
pertinent to our own case than this. The same need has found its
same remedy here, and the Cotswold-Merino is largely bred for
the production of market lambs, and some of our best breeders are
giving their attention to the establishment of permanent flocks of
this cross, with promising results.

THE SOUTHDOWN-MERINO. This cross has been tried with
success ia Germany upon a middle quality of land, not sufficiently
productive to support the heavier bodied Cotswold-Merinos. The
first cross-bred sheep possess good feeding qualities, and when bred
together without further crossing, keep well up to the standard of
the parents. The Arch Duke Albrecht has a flock of 1,400 of this
cross, of which some specimens were exhibited at Vienna. The
wool is rated as middle fine, weighing 3 Ibs. to the fleece in the
shearlings, and 3 Ibs. in the two shearlings. This cross made
upon grade Merinos, is very common in the United States, where
early market lambs are produced, there being no fatter, better, or
more desirable lambs to the butcher, although there are heavier,
than those from this cross. As in the Cotswold-Merinos, the first
cross is the best for interbreeding.

THE LEICESTER-MERINO. This cross is a somewhat unusual
one, and does not appear to have been made with a view to the
permanent establishment of a new race of sheep, except in rare
instances where the possession of a suitable breed of Merinos and
the taste of the proprietor have been coincident. In one case only
has the effort to establish this cross been reported in any publica-
tion of wide circulation. The history of a flock of about 500 Lei-
cester-Merinos, bred by M. E. "Pluchet, of Trappes, France, given
to the Central Agricultural Society, of France, in January, 1875, is




published by Eugene Gayot, the well known writer upon live
stock, in the Journal d> Agriculture Pratique, of the 27th of May
following, with a portrait of one of these sheep which is reproduced
here. The course followed by Mons. Pluchet during the 36 years
of his persevering effort is very suggestive and instructive. He
commenced in 1839 by coupling his Rambouillet Merino ewes,
weighing about 68 pounds when dressed for the butcher at 3 years
old, with a pure Leicester ram of moderate size. The effort to
produce what he wanted, by one cross only, failed. At first the
lambs were too small, and the fleece was too light. Greater suc-
cess was made by crossing the half-blood ewes with rams of
quarter Leicester blood. The produce, containing three-eighths
Leicester, and and five-eighths Merino blood, were much improved,
giving a much longer and better fleece than the half or quarter,
bloods. After continuing a course of breeding the produce of
this cross together, up to 1856, a new type of animal, entirely dif-
ferent from its ancestors, resulted. The carcass was much larger
than in the Merino, the wool was not so long as that of the Lei-
cester, but finer and softer ; the face was free from wool, and the
head was square, with large, prominent eyes. The bone was
remarkably fine ; the flesh solid, and the ewes were prolific and
remarkably good nurses; but neither the carcass nor the fleece
were sufiiciently heavy to be profitable. The ewes of this cross
were coupled with a pure Leicester ram, and the produce being
eleven-sixteenths Leicester, were again crossed with rams of three-
eighths Leicester, or of the previous cross. The sheep thus pro-
cured were 8|- sixteenths Leicester and 7|-sixteenths Merino, or
nearly half bloods. The close in-and-in-breeding of 1his cross
gave a race, of sheep that, when fed on the same pastures as the
original Merinos, produced exactly the same dead weight of meat
of superior quality at 24 months, that the Merinos gave at 36
months, and a fleece weighing 9 Ibs. in the yolk, which sold at a
higher price per pound than the Merino fleece. Under the cir-
cumstances in which Mons. Plachet was placed, the result was
very profitable, and the new race he originated occupies a place
which neither of the original parents was able to fill. Under a
system of close breeding, without fresh admixture, the quality and
character of this flock are maintained, and the ewes continue to
be both prolific of lambs and milk, and are excellent nurses,

COTSWOLD-LEICESTER. A very handsome cross-bred is pro-
duced by the union of the Cotswold ram with the Leicester ewe.
The fleece of this cross is of a silky fiber, beautifully waved and
curled. The wool partakes of the fineness and luster of the Lei-

- _



It was found to maintain its original character perfectly, produc-
ing a sheep which yielded a fleece of wool closer and finer than
that of the Cotswold, but not so long, weighing from 11 to 13 Ibs.,
and a much heavier carcass of mutton of a quality equal to that of
the Southdown which weighed, at three years old, 150 Ibs. The
ewes are prolific, the lambs strong, healthy, and maturing quickly,
reaching a live weight of 140 to 160 Ibs. at twelve mouths. They
are found to be equally suitable to the light pastures of Long
Island, with either the pure Southdown or the pure Cotswold, and
are perfectly at home beneath the hot summer suns of our climate.
It is a coincidence which is not at all remarkable, being founded
on common necessities, that in producing this and other crosses,
the Germans and ourselves have taken up the same materials to
work with. The climates of both the United States and southern
Germany are similar ; the summers are hot and dry, and the win-
ters compel the use of preserved and dry food for a considerable
length of time. The breeds which would be suitable to the mild,
moist, and even climate of England, are not exactly adapted to
Germany or the United States, and we must hesitate to follow, or
must follow with great caution, the lead of the English breeders.
But the example or success of the Germans may be made more
safely applicable to our circumstances, inasmuch as the conditions
in both cases are similar. This coincidence is a proof of the fact,
that in working out these changes, breeders and farmers are forced
to follow certain natural laws, and that as they work in conform-
ity thereto, they succeed, but when they oppose these laws, they
must necessarily fail. It is in exact accordance with this fact that
we find it difficult or impossible to preserve, for any length of time,
the condition of sheep imported from England, more especially
of the more highly refined breeds ; but that we can easily accli-
mate their produce, or build up cross breeds which will be more
profitable and convenient for us to keep. With our wonderful
diversity of climate, soil, and surface, and with the varied demand
for staples for manufactured fabrics, there is opened a field for
the exercise of the breeder's skill in producing new races to accom-
modate these conditions, and to meet these demands, which is
hitherto unexampled in the history of agriculture. This is no
mere matter of conjecture. It has been clearly demonstrated by
experience and practice. "Wool of the cross between the Cots-
wold or Leicester rams on Merino ewes has been imported into
New York from New Zealand and Australia, for some years past,
to meet the demands of the manufacturers of delaines and other
staple goods. Our wool-buyers have been in the habit of going to




those distant countries to select wools suitable for their needs
which they cannot procure at home. The heavy expenses involved
act as a protection to this industry here, not to speak of the pres-
ent import duty levied on foreign wools. Large quantities of this
cross-bred wool are also used in England, where it cannot be pro-
duced so cheaply as here. It would be strange indeed if we can-
not, with our vast territory, equally favorable in climate and soil
with those distant regions of the southern hemisphere, at least
compete on equal terms with the shepherds of those countries,
more especially as we enjoy an immense advantage, which they
do not, in having a market at our very doors for the mutton which
these sheep so profitably produce. In short, the production of
American cross-bred sheep offers a most enticing field for experi-
ment and labor both to the skillful breeder and the enterprising
farmer. For the first in keeping up a supply of pure bred rams,
and in improving their quality so as to meet the demand of the
farmer ; and for the latter in seeking out, selecting, and using these
pure rams on our native sheep with proper knowledge, judgment,
and skill, so as to supply the demands of our own manufacturers
at least, if not those of other countries. To do this there must be
an actual contact and interchange of ideas and experiences be-
tween the woolen manufacturer and fhe breeder and farmer, by
means of which the needs of the one and the opportunities and
duties of the others, may be mutually explained and made known.
Neither branch of our native wool industry can flourish as it
should and might without this interchange of views and the
recognition of an identity of interest.


Wool in its character and structure in no respect differs from
hair. When hair is soft, pliable, and of a spiral or wavy form, it
is what we call wool. Wool, like hair, is the outer covering of
some species of animals, and is a growth from the skin. The skin
of an animal is a composite structure consisting of two portions,
the outer and insensible layer called the epidermis, and a highly
sensitive, vascular and nervous layer beneath this, called the



derma. It is in the derma that the hair is rooted, and from it
that it is nourished. The hair, (or wool), consists of two portions,
the shaft, or that which pierces through the epidermis and forms
the outer coat or fleece, and the bulb or root which is imbedded in
the derma. The bulb of the hair is rooted in a gland called the
hair follicle, and from this it derives the cells which form the outer
surface of the hair. These cells are converted into flat scales, in-
closing the interior fibrous structure of the hair, and as they are
successively produced, they overlap like shingles on a roof, or the
scales of a pine cone, forming the imbricated coat of the hair to
be hereafter described at length. Rising into the hair bulb is the
hair germ, which furnishes the hair with nutrition, and the ele-
ments of its growth. On each side of the hair follicle is a gland
which secretes a viscid fluid. These glands, known as the sebace-
ous glands, open by small canals into the sheath of the hair. Other


sebaceous glands open independently upon the surface of the epi-
dermis. They secrete a fluid which serves to lubricate the skin,
and in the sheep supplies the oil and yolk that fill that pur-
pose for the fleece and prevent any injury to the wool by con-
tinued rubbing, or " cotting," or felting, in consequence of the
wearing and friction, while upon the sheep's back. In a healthy
skin this secretion with those of other glands, (called the sudori-



parous glands), which are situated in the derma, amount to a total
quantity which surpasses that of the evacuations from both the
bowels and kidneys.

In fig. 47 is shown the structure both of the skin and the hair,
the engraving, (from Chauveau's Comparative Anatomy of the Do-
mestic Animals), representing a section of the skin highly magni-
fied. The epidermis is shown at A, the derma at B, the hair follicle
at c, the sebaceous glands at 1, the bulb or root of the hair at 2, the
hair at 3, a fat cell at 4, a sudoriparous or sweat gland at 5, and at 6
the excretory duct of this gland, or pore of the skin.

Hair or wool is composed of three layers. The outer one, the
epidermis, is very thin, consisting of the flattened cells or scales
overlapping as previously mentioned. In wool these imbricated
scales are highly developed, and fill a most important office, giving


to it much of its value as a material for the manufacture of cloth.
When examined by a microscope of high power,- a fiber of wool
presents the appearance shown in fig. 48. The discovery of the
serrated surface of wool which is generally attributed to Mr.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryHenry StewartThe shepherd's manual. A practical treatise on the sheep → online text (page 12 of 23)