Henry Stewart.

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

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Another special branch of sheep keeping, which offers advan-
tages to farmers favorably situated for it, is the raising of a good
class of sheep to meet the demands of those who purchase for the
purpose of raising lambs, or for winter feeding and fattening.
Where markets are too distant to enable these branches of sheep
husbandry to be profitably followed, a good class of stockers or
drover's sheep might be raised. Half-bred, long-wool mutton sheep
could be raised in every western state and shipped to the great cen-
tral markets of Kansas City, Chicago, St. Louis, Buffalo, and else-


where, to be disposed of to drovers, or to farmers themselves who
are seeking a supply of store sheep. This would give an oppor-
tunity of increasing the supply of long wool, so much needed, and
of decreasing that of fine wool now too plentiful to maintain prices
satisfactory to fine wool growers. The season for marketing these
sheep would be hi August and September, the time in which they
are most in demand, and one in which the western pastures gener-
ally fail. It may be that in a few years, at some or all of these
points, and many others, there may yet be seen great sheep mar-
kets at stated periods, something like those of Ireland, Scotland, or
England, at which 40,000 to 80,000 sheep are offered for sale, and
bought and paid for in a couple of days. When sheep breeding
becomes fully developed in America, these markets will probably
have been found needful, and have grown and developed from
necessity, as has been the case elsewhere, and such an economical
and convenient division of labor as this may become a regular and
systematic part of the business of sheep farming.



The strength and vigor that results from the fixity of type,
which is so marked a characteristic of wild races of animals, come
through what is called the natural selection of parents. It is the
natural force and strength of the most vigorous in perpetuating
their kind, together with the hardening influences of exposure,
which give them their strong constitution and great power to
resist misfortune. The race is perpetuated only by the strongest,
because weaker members perish from the hardships necessarily
borne by a wild race, or are driven off or destroyed in the desper-
ate conflicts which occur between the males at the breeding season.
To gain strength and vigor, the most skillful breeder could follow
no more effective course than the one here indicated. The natural
power possessed by the thoroughbred male animal to transmit his
qualities, which power is recognized amongst breeders by the
term " prepotency," fixes the type of the race which through this
influence becomes homogeneous ; every member presenting exactly
the same character in form and habit. But when a race of ani-


mals becomes domesticated, necessities arise which call for some-
thing more than mere vigor of constitution, although this should
always remain a vital point in the breeders estimation. The sole
aim of the stock breeder is profit, and this lies not so much in a
long life as in early maturity. The total result of six or ten years of
the life of a wild animal is crowded into two or four years of a
domesticated one. The capacity for consumption of food, and the
ability to turn a larger quantity of food into flesh or wool in a
shorter time are gained by the skill of the breeder, and in course of
time the quality of the product is refined and improved until hardly
a semblance of the original stock remains in the highly-bred, im-
proved animal. The rapidity with which these effects have been
produced by some of the most skillful sheep-breeders is wonderful,
and the names of Bakewell and Webb will be remembered, and
their successes perseveringly emulated for many years to come.
No animal is more easily improved in character, and none yields
more readily to the breeder's art, than the sheep. But the reverse
is also true, for if on the one hand success rapidly rewards the
successful breeder, failure as rapidly warns the unsuccessful one
that he has made a mistake, and must immediately retrace his

The management and selection of any existing breed of sheep, or
of the production of any new breed or variety, must be a question
of profit. The point for the farmer to consider is, what kind of
sheep will pay him best to keep, taking into consideration his
locality, his soil, the crops he can conveniently raise with which
to sustain them, and his markets for disposing of his wool and his
animals, whether as lambs or as store sheep, or fat sheep fit for
the butcher. For want of thorough acquaintance with the habits,
characteristics, and peculiarities of the various breeds, many a
farmer has made a fatal mistake, and failed, when otherwise he
might easily have been successful. The results of these mistakes
in selection, and errors of management, have led to much dis-
appointment and disgust. One of the most serious errors of our
breeders and farmers, is the endeavor to maintain up to a
certain standard of excellence in this country, in spite of all the
differences of climate and varieties of food, the highly bred races
of English sheep, which have been imported from time to time.
Nearly every flock of all the pure races has failed to keep up to
the original standard, although new importations have been added
to them. The farmer who has purchased a few sheep from such
flocks, being without the requisite knowledge as to their manage-
ment, or not possessing the fitting food for them, has found them


to dwindle away from day to day until only a sorry remnant has
been left which has been finally absorbed into a flock of hardier
natives, or has disappeared altogether. Had these farmers judi-
ciously purchased male animals only, and used them, under
proper restrictions, for the improvement of their native sheep,
they would in time have possessed flocks which they could have
managed successfully and profitably, and have secured a perma-
nent type suited to their locality and circumstances. But the
improvement of a flock by breeding requires much patience and
perseverance, and a fixed idea of some result to be gained. In
breeding, good results rarely come by hap-hazard or accident.
There must be a distinct end in view, and there must be appropri-
ate and painstaking efforts made to reach that end. The breeder
must have a clear idea, not only of what he wants to gain, but of
what he wishes to get rid of, and he must know the character of
his flock intimately. One who knows all this can so accurately
describe the kind of ram he needs to improve his flock, that a
conscientious breeder from whom he may purchase the needed
animal, can choose him as well, if not better, than he can himself.

In breeding to improve- a flock, the qualities of both parents
must be considered, remembering that the male exercises the
greater influence in determining the character of the offspring. A
pure-bred Cotswold ram, crossed upon a Merino ewe, for instance,
will produce an offspring that much more resembles himself than
it does the dam. This principle is well recognized amongst breed-
ers. Nevertheless, the very best of the females should be chosen,
and the faulty lambs culled out each year, until the finest only
remain. During this time it would be prudent for the farmer to
retain no males of his own breeding, but to secure by purchase or
hire from some capable professional breeder, such changes of
males as may be necessary. Much good may be done by unselfish
breeders in the way of letting pure-bred rams for a fair considera-
tion to neighboring farmers who may not have the means to
purchase one outright. By changing rams occasionally, two
farmers may very profitably help each other without expending a
dollar for the necessary new blood.

The points sought for in rams, with which to improve a flock,
are those which directly add to the value of the sheep, or those
which are evidence of the possession of valuable qualities. Thus
the abundance of yolk, or the fineness of the wool, or its curl, or
the depth or form of carcass, upon which depends the quality and
the quantity of the fleece, are esteemed in the Merinos ; in the
Southdown, the small head and leg, and small bones, with the


black muzzle and legs are highly regarded, as these denote quick
fattening properties, and hardiness of constitution. The breadth
of shoulder, the straightness and levelness of the back, the breadth
of loin, and the spring of the ribs and rotundity of the frame of
the Cotswold, Leicester, and other heavy-bodied sheep, indicate
capacity for feeding and digestion, and laying on of flesh, and are
therefore regarded as valuable points. Large bones are an unfavor-
able point, as they denote an abstraction of nutriment which
should otherwise go to the formation of flesh and the greater
value of the carcass. The absence of horns, for the same reason,
is desirable in sheep bred for mutton. A soft, mellow feeling of
skin and the tissue underneath, and a softness of the fleece, are
indicative of a tendency to the rapid formation of fat. A round
frame and broad loin indicate the existence of abundant flesh,
where it is the most valuable, and a general squareness of the out-
line of the figure proves the existence of large muscular develop-
ment and consequently heavy quarters. In short, for sheep which
are not kept solely for the production of wool, what is wanted is,
all the flesh possible with no more bone than can carry it, and that
the flesh should be where it will be the most valuable, viz : on those
parts which bring the highest prices on the butchers' stalls the
loins and quarters. Where wool is the sole object, weight and
fineness of fleece alone need to be considered. Where wool and
mutton are each equally sought for, the matter becomes compli-
cated by many considerations, each of which should be studied
with a view to give the preponderance to those which have the
greatest special or local importance.

In crossing breeds, we seek to increase the size, improve the
shape, or hasten the maturity of the sheep ; or improve the length,
quality, or closeness of the fleece. But it will not do to select at
random any ram which may happen to possess the qualities
desired, without regard to some aflBnity of character with the
ewes, lest lambs should be produced that are weak hi constitution,
or shapeless mongrels, through too wide a disparity between the
parents. Experience has shown that the Leicester ram has made
a greater improvement with long-wool sheep than with the short-
wool breeds, and that the Southdown has made a more successful
first cross upon the latter. The Cotswold has been very success-
fully crossed upon the Merino, the Hampshire-down, the South-
down, and other races, and as the parent of cross-bred races, this
most valuable breed has gained the highest reputation. As a rule,
the first cross between a superior and high-bred race, and an infe-
rior one, produces the best sheep for breeding together ; further


crosses often produce animals which deteriorate in breeding, the
progeny regaining more of the character of its inferior parentage,
and losing that of the superior one. Judgment and caution are
needed in selecting those results which have been successful, and in
rejecting those which are unfavorable, also in continuing the inter-
breeding for a sufficient length of time to eliminate all the defects
which may reappear at times in the progeny. It is only after
several generations that animals can be produced, which may be
permitted safely to perpetuate their kind without further careful
selection. During the intervening period, very close watchfulness
is necessary ; the form of the animal, the preponderance of the
desired points, as well as those that are not desirable, the charac-
ter of the fleece, and the soundness of the animal's constitution,
should all be patiently studied. Great contrasts between breeding
animals should be avoided, as being dangerous to uniformity, and
a gradual approach to a desired end by several steps will be found
more certainly effective than to endeavor to attain it by one or
two violent efforts.

The selection of rams for breeding is a matter of the greatest
importance. Not only the character of the flock, but the number
of the lambs, to some extent, depend upon this. For general
purposes, the ram should be chosen for his perfection of shape
and fleece, rather than for his size or weight. For mutton sheep,
whether long wool or medium wool, a round barrel, broad loin,
fine bone, short legs, close wool, especially upon the back and
loins, small head, full fore arms and thighs, and a mellowness of
flesh within the fore legs upon the ribs, where a poor sheep
never carries any fat, and in general an evenness of excellence,
rather than any special single point of superiority, whether
of size of body, or length, or weight of fleece, should be
sought. A very heavy, large-bodied ram, will probably pro-
duce very irregular lambs, which will disappoint the breeder ;
while a well knit, more even, smoother but smaller ram, will pro-
duce lambs of great uniformity and resemblance to himself, and
very frequently, and especially so if out of well selected ewes,
greatly surpassing him in size of carcass at maturity. In breeding
from a large ram upon small bodied ewes, unless there is some
special reason against it, a ram with a small head should be chosen,
and the ewes selected should be wide across the loins, with a broad
rump and wide pelvis. From a disregard of this it is sometimes
the case that severe labor or death in parturition occurs amongst
the ewes. In the first coupling of the young ewes, the greatest
care should be exercised in selecting the ram, for its influence may


and sometimes will extend beyond his own immediate progeny,
and modify that of future sires upon the same dams. While this
influence of the first male is not so general as to afford a basis for
a rule, yet observation has shown it to be of sufficient force to
entitle it to the consideration of careful breeders. The influence
of the ram upon the sex of the progeny, is something equally
worth considering, although it is as yet somewhat undetermined.
In theory it is supposed to be exerted through a natural provision
by which the fecundity of a race increases along with the better
opportunities it enjoys for its subsistence. Thus it is reasoned,
when animals are well fed and cared for, and are not allowed to
breed early, their produce will be in greater part females, permit-
ting a more rapid increase, in consistence with their more favor-
able opportunities for development. On the contrary, when ani-
mals are sparely fed or exhaustively used, and allowed to breed
early, the tendency of nature is to restrict the production by the
birth chiefly of males. This theory receives confirmation through
the tendency of the early breeding and exhaustively producing
Jersey cow to have male calves, and through some observed facts
in sheep breeding.

One of the facts directly pertinent to this matter is recorded in
the Anncdes de V Agriculture Fran$aise, as follows. It was proposed
at a meeting of the Agricultural Society of Severac, to divide a
flock of ewes into two parts, that an experiment might be made to
test the question of breeding for sex. One flock of ewes was put
into an abundant pasture, and was served by very young rams.
The other flock was put into a poorer pasture, and was served by
rams not less than four years old. The result is given in the tables
which follow ; the flock from which the excess of female lambs
was expected, being served by rams 15 months to 18 months old,
produced three twin births, and the flock expected to yield the
most male lambs, and which was served by rams over 4 years old,
produced not one double birth.

Flock for female lambs served by rams under 18 months old .

Sex of the Lambs.

Age of Ewes. Males. Females.

Two years old 14 26

Three years old 16 29

Four years old 5 21

Total 35 76

The excess of female lambs in this flock is very remarkable, as
is also the excess of male lambs shown in the next table.


Flock for male lambs served by rams over 4 years old :

Sex of the Lambs.

Age of Ewes. Males. Females.

Two years old 7 3

Three years old 15 14

Four years old 32 14

Total 55 31

The result certainly justified the expectation, but it can scarcely
be held to be anything more than suggestive for further research
or experiment, rather than conclusive for the founding of a rule.
The following well considered remarks made by the Hon. A. M.
Garland, editor in charge of the sheep and wool department of the
National Live-Stock Journal, at a meeting of the Madison Co., (111.)
Farmers' Club, May 8th, 1875, are sufficiently valuable and perti-
nent to be recorded here : " One essential to successful breeding is
a persistent endeavor to attain the standard that has been fixed
upon by the breeder as his idea of the perfect animal. While the
sheep will be found to conform more readily than any other ani-
mal, except perhaps the dog, to certain well understood physio-
logical laws, the attainment of all the desired characteristics, and
their incorporation into the life and constitution so as to insure
transmission with the desired force and certainty, is a labor involv-
ing not alone judgment and taste, but patience as well. Mythology
tells us of the goddess who leaped full-armed from the head of
Jove ; but the attainment of perfect ends without the employment
of patient and laborious means, is not among the blessings that
surround the business man in this material age. He who expects
to accomplish in a year what others have only completed in a life-
time of labor, is pretty surely doomed to gather the bitter fruit of
disappointment, and the chances are largely in favor of pecuniary
loss as well. It required over fifty years of labor, and care, and
study, to bring the nine-pound fleece rams imported by Humphrey
and others, up to the 25 and 30 pound shearers that head a number
of the flocks of the present day. The highest types of the Cots-
wold and Southdown are the result of an expenditure of time, and
money, and study, equal to that bestowed upon the Merino in the
United States in the last half a century. Such facts as these afford
small encouragement for those young men who see visions, and
those older ones who dream dreams, of a speedy fortune and an
assured fame by the establishment of an intermediate breed of
sheep one that will combine in a single animal the good qualities
of all the breeds and the weak points of none. Any of the estab-


lished types will improve what is known as our common native
sheep, sufficiently to justify the payment of a fair price for a choice
ram. Grades from these flocks of common sheep, bred towards
the long wools, the Downs or the Merinos, will be found profita-
ble stock to the average farmer. Care should be had to breed all
the time in the same direction that is, always using the best rams
of their kind within reach, having due regard to prudence in
making the purchases. The first cross will usually show a greater
change from the standard of the coarse-wooled mother than subse-
quent ones, though an occasional cropping out of her less desira-
ble characteristics may be expected, but should not discourage the
effort at improvement as persistent crossing by pure-bred rams
will bring its reward in a sightly flock of grades, that can be de-
pended upon to reproduce their characteristics with reasonable

" In and in " breeding, or breeding between near relatives, is a
subject which has given rise to much discussion, and to much
diversity of opinion. The truth seems to be that close breeding
up to a certain point is necessary to secure a fixed type, and when
judiciously done, it may be the means of securing most valuable
results. The English sheep breeders who have become most noted
for their successes, have bred very closely, a most conspicuous
example being Mr. Bakewell with his improved Leicesters. Proba-
bly no race of animals were so closely interbred as this. But it is
questioned by some breeders if the limit of safety in this respect
has not been overstepped, for no race so strongly exhibits in their
defects the evil results which follow from too close breeding for
any considerable length of time. The small light bone, the bald-
head, the prominent glassy eyes, the thin, delicate skin, the ten-
dency to tuberculous diseases, and other scrofulous affections, all of
which are characteristic of some classes of the Leicesters, are the
very evils which are known to follow from too close sexual affini-
ties. Safety certainly lies in the avoidance of this sort of breeding
to any great extent, and as a general rule for ordinary breeders, it
may perhaps be laid down, that to breed a ram to his own lambs
may be permitted, but to breed to the second generation of off-
spring should be avoided. To change the ram the second year
would be to act on the side of safety, and except in rare instances,
and for the attainment of clearly apprehended results, this should
be the limit of close breeding. To breed a ram to his own ewe
lambs is regarded as safer, and not so close breeding as breeding
full brother and sister together, and yet to attain certain desired
ends, this is and has been done, and will often be done by breeders.


It may be questionable, however, if the results sought might not
be as certainly and more securely gained by using less closely re-
lated animals. Mr. Edwin Hammond, a noted breeder of Ameri-
can Merinos, who has done much to develop this breed, seldom
used rams with which to make his crosses that were not of his
own flock. His famous ram 'Sweepstakes, came from a closely
in-and-in bred family ; but because the most skillful breeders have
succeeded in producing conspicuously favorable effects, it must
not be concluded that other less capable breeders or farmers who
know but little of the science of breeding, can hope to achieve any
satisfactory measure of success. Besides, it should be considered
that we only hear of the successes of these breeders. Their fail-
ures are at once put out of the way, and no record is made of
them ; in fact a portion of their skill, and not an inconsiderable
portion either, consists hi instantly recognizing their failures, and
in summarily disposing of them.

In summing up these few general remarks upon breeding, the
following may be accepted as maxims for guidance to those as yet
not familiar with the principles of the art. Breed for some well un-
derstood object. Learn and know the character of every ewe and
ram in the flock. Remember that the male gives his impress upon
the progeny most strongly. Purity of blood in the male is an
absolute necessity. It is cheaper to pay a fair price for good rams
to a capable breeder, who makes the production of breeding ani-
mals his business, than to attempt to raise one's own breeding
stock. Animals that are not pure-bred, when coupled, tend toward
reversion to the inferior stock rather than to progression towards
the superior. Animals, as sheep, that are easily impressed favora-
bly, as easily retrograde ; the rule works both ways. To feed well, is
the co-efficient of, to breed well ; without good feeding good breed-
ing is of no avail. Breeding lays the foundation, feeding builds on
that. The first cross is the most effective, the next is but half as
effective, and so on until, as in the increasing fraction y a , 3 / 4 , 7 /s,
"/is, 31 /32, 63 /64, etc., etc., unity is approached by diminishing
quantities, and is thus never reached ; so the higher we breed the
less advance is made in proportion. That a type so fixed that the
breeders care in selection can ever be relaxed will never be reached.


THE MEXICAN SHEEP. Since the first discovery of America
by Europeans, more than four centuries ago, there have been nu-
merous importations of sheep into both South and North America.
The first of these importations consisted doubtless of the common


native sheep of Spain, designated by Dr. L. T. Fitzinger, the
author of a paper upon the races of domestic sheep of Europe,
(presented to the Imperial Academy of Science in Vienna, in 1860),
as the landschafy or common rustic sheep, (Oms aries). This sheep

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Online LibraryHenry StewartThe shepherd's manual. A practical treatise on the sheep → online text (page 8 of 23)