Richard Lamb Allen.

A Brief compend of American agriculture online

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332 AMERICAN AGRICULTURE.

The introduction of the Saxons, in great numbers, in 1826,
many of which were excessively diminutive and diseased,
and their indiscriminate use with our pure bred Merinos, was
a serious interruption to the career of improvement in many
of our flocks. Their mixture with the best Saxons was no
further detrimental, than to reduce the quantity of fleece, and
to a certain extent, lessen the peculiar hardiness of the ori-
ginal Transhumantes, which had been fully preserved by
their descendants in this country. The use of well selected
Saxon rams with Merino flocks was extensively practised,
and it is still persisted in by intelligent flock-masters, after 20
years' experience, who are satisfied that they find it for their
interest to continue this style of breeding. The animals
being smaller, consume less, and they probably produce a
quantity of wool in proportion to their food, which, from its
improved and uniform quality, commands a higher price in
the market. Wherever they are not sufficiently hardy, they
can be bred back towards the Spanish Merino standard, by
the use of some of the stouter rams. Their natures are intrin.
sically the same. They are only divergent streams from the
same original fountain, and when again united, they readily
coalesce and flow onwards, without violence or disorder.

The Merino, as might reasonably have been anticipated,
\vhen properly managed, has improved from a variety of
causes. Though kept scrupulously pure in Spain, they were
seldom bred with that refinement of taste, or that nice judg-
ment which distinguishes the accomplished modern breeders.
Their management was too entirely entrusted to ignorant
shepherds or careless agents, to secure that close attention
which is essential to improvement. The sheep had to perform
a journey of several hundred miles twice in a year, to and
from their distant Sierras ; and it was absolutely essential
that strong animals should be selected for breeding; and to
secure this object, those were frequently used which were de-
liricnt in the. most profitable qualities. They were also
closely bred in-and-in, seldom or never departing from a
particular flock to procure a fresh cross. Their wild, noma-
dic life, approaching nearly to that of their natural state, and
their peculiarly healthful pasturage, alone prevented a serious
deterioration from this cause. When brought into the United
States, the flocks were soon mingled with each other, and for
many years past, probably, not an unmixed descendant of any
distinct original flock could be traced. Abundance of appro-
priate food has been given them, without the labor of long



SHEEP. 333

and fatiguing journeys ; and lastly, there has been much care
used in the selection of the most profitable animals for breed.
The spirit of improvement has been recently awakened to
this important branch of American husbandry, and if not ar-
rested by any untoward national policy, it will soon result in
giving us numerous flocks of as choice sheep as the world af-
fords, as we have already all the elements within ourselves
for its attainment.

PECULIARITIES OF THE MERINO. The prominent peculi-
nritio.s of the Merino, are the abundance and fineness of its
fleece, the tenacity with which it is held, its crimped or spiral
form, its felting properties, and the excessive quantity of
yolk, giving to it that softness which distinguishes it from all
others. Their large horns are common to several other va-
rieties. Their hoofs are sometimes singularly long, reaching
8 or 10 inches when allowed to grow. The horns, hoofs and
wool scarcely differ in their chemical constituents, and the
peculiar development of the two former, is justly considered
as an additional evidence of their wool-bearing properties.
The yolk in most of the sheep, forms, with the dust which
adheres to it, a firm crust on the exterior, and together with
the compactness of the fleece, it offers considerable resistance
to the open hand on being pressed, giving the impression of
rigidity. This outer covering repels the rain, the snow, and
the wind like a coat of mail, thus fitting the Merino to endure
exposure better than any other sheep. On opening the crust,
the wool is found of a brilliant, golden hue, sparkling with
yolk, and firmly held together in masses, hardly distinguisha-
ble from the cocoon of the silk-worm. The wool closely
covers every part of the body, and frequently the entire legs
and head, excepting a part of tho face.

Another peculiarity of the Merino is its longevity. They
attain a great age when properly managed, and in healthy
localities, sometimes breed till 20 years of age. The Merino
may be described, generally, as a small-boned, closely made,
medium sized sheep, varying from 80 Ibs. of live weight for a
small ewe, to 160 Ibs. for good sized wethers and rams, in
ordinary condition. They are light in the shoulders and
chest, and are, altogether, more deficient in form than the
best mutton sheep. This apparent difference is materially
lessened when both are denuded of their fleece ; as the longer
pile of the latter covers defects, which would manifest them-
selves under the closer covering of the Merino. Yet, with
this seeming deficiency, Young found, in feeding, between



336 AMERICAN AGRICULTURE.

The localities in which Merino sheep can be profitably kept
in the United States, are wherever the pastures are sweet and
dry ; the climate not too hot, and the land not too valuable
for other purposes. Wool is the great object in the sheep
husbandry of this country, and when sheep farms are remote
from the large markets, the Merino will make much the most
profitable returns. In the neighborhood of cities, where
large and fat sheep and early lambs bear a high price, the
mutton sheep may be substituted.

THE SOUTH-DOWN. This valuable sheep has been known
and bred for a long time on the chalky downs of England,
where it has always maintained the character of a hardy
animal, yielding a medium quality of wool, and furnishing
mutton of a superior flavor. It was not however, till within
the last 70 years, that any considerable attention was devoted
to its improvement. Since that period, its fine points have
been remarkably developed, which is shown in its improved
size and form, and its early maturity and productiveness.
The late Mr. John Ellman of England, was the first who
took them thoroughly in hand ; and so eminent was his suc-
cess, that he founded a flock which has been the source from
which all the best blood has been since derived. His crite-
rion of a good South-Down is as follows : " The head small
and hornless ; the face speckled or grey, and neither too long
nor too short. The lips thin, and the space between the
nose and the eyes narrow. The under jaw, or chap, fine and
thin ; the ears tolerably wide, and well covered with wool,
and the forehead also, and the whole space between the ears
well protected by it, as a defence against the fly. The eye full
and bright, but not prominent. The orbits of the eye the
eye-cap, or bone, not too projecting, that it may not form
a fatal obstacle in lambing. The neck of a medium length,
thin towards the head, but enlarging towards the shoulders
where it should be broad and high, and straight in its whole
course above and below. The breast should be wide, deep,
and projecting forwards between the fore legs, indicating a
!_'"<" I constitution, and a disposition to thrive. Correspon-
ding with this, the shoulders should be on a level with the
back, and not too wide above ; they should bow outward from
the top to the breast, indicating a springing rib beneath, and
leaving room for it. The ribs coming out horizontally from
the spine, and extending far backward, and the last rib pro-
jecting more than the others ; the back flat from the shoul-
ders to the setting on of the tail ; the loin broad and flat ;



1 1 I-:KP. 337

the rump long and broad, and the tail set on high and nearly
on a level with the spine. The hips wide ; the space
between them and the last rib on either side as narrow as
possible, and the ribs, generally, presenting a circular form
like a barrel, The belly as straight as the back. The legs
neither too long nor too short. The fore-legs straight from
the breast to the foot ; not bending inward at the knee, and
standing tar apart both before and behind ; the hocks having
a direction rather outward, and the twist, or the meeting of
the thighs behind, being particularly full ; the bones fine, yet
having no appearance of weakness, and of a speckled or
dark color. The belly well defended with wool, and the
wool coming down before and behind to the knee, and to the
hock ; the wool, short, close, curled, and fine, and free from
spiry projecting fibres."

Other breeders have commenced where Ellman left off',
and have apparently pushed their improvement to its utmost
capacity ; and especially has this been done by Messrs.
Grantham and Webb, the latter of whom, while preserving
all the essential merits of the sheep, has carried the live
weight of breeding rams, to 250 Ibs., and well fattened wethers
to 200 Ibs. dressed weight. Many of the choicest animals
have been imported into this country, and they are now to
be found in limited numbers in almost every State of the
Union. The wool was formerly short and used only for
cloths, flannels, &c. It has been considerably lengthened
in many of the late flocks, and with the improvements in
the combing machinery, is now much used in England, as
a combing wool. The quantity produced is nearly equal to
that of the Merino flocks when well kept, varying according
to tfce size and style of breeding, from 3 to 4 Ibs. of clean
washed wool, which in quantity, does not differ materially
from half-blood Merino, and sometimes rather exceeds it.
The larger animals of course, produce fleeces of much
greater weight, sometimes reaching to 8 or 9 Ibs. The South
Down will subsist on short pasture, but well repays full feed-
ing. It attains early maturity, is hardy and prolific, frequently
producing two at a birth. Like all highly improved English
breeds, it is not a long-lived sheep. It may be considered in
its prime at three. The wethers may be fattened at 18 to 30
months, and the ewes at 3 to 5 years, when first required as
breeders. The last are sometimes allowed to come in with
a lamb at a year, but they cannot be sustained in vigor, if put
to breeding before two.
O



338 AMERICAN AGRICULTURE.

THE CHEVOIT is thus described by Blacklock: " They
have a bare head, with a long jaw, and white face$ but no
horns. Sometimes they have a shade of grey upon the nose,
approaching to dark at the tip ; at others, a tinge of lemon
color on the face, but these markings scarcely affect their
value. The legs are clean, long, and small-boned, and cov-
ered with wool to the hough ; but there is a sad want ol
depth at the breast, and of breadth both there and on the
chine. A fat carcass weighs from 12 Ibs. to 18 Ibs. per quar-
ter, and a medium fleece about 3 Ibs. The purest specimens
of this breed are to be found on the Scotch side of the Che-
voit hills, and on the high and stony mountain farms which
lie between that range and the sources of the Tevoit. These
sheep are a capital mountain stock, provided the pasture
resembles the Chevoit hills, in containing a good proportion
of rich herbage." They are eminently adapted to high
lands and a severe climate, though less so than the BJack-
faced or Heath sheep of Scotland. They have become an
American sheep, by their repeated introduction into this
country. A late importation of several choice sheep was
made by Mr. Carmichael of New-York. The wool on these
is from 5 to 7 inches long, coarse, but well suited to combing.
Like the Downs, it has heretofore been classed among the
middle ivools, but these specimens would seem to indicate
that thev are verging towards the long wools.

THE BAKEWELL OR LEICESTER, THE COTSWOLD AND
LINCOLNSHIRE possess several qualities in common, and it is
only a practiced eye that can readily detect the difference.
This resemblance arises from a recent, common origin. They
are all large and hornless; of a pure whute; with long,
coarse and heavy fleeces ; excellent mutton sheep ; coming
early to maturity, and capable of carrying enormous quanti-
ties of fat. There have been from time immemorial, numer-
ous flocks of these liirge, coarse woolcd sheep, existing in
certain parts of Kiigland under a variety of names, and par-
taking of some slight peculiariry of features, according to the
district in which tin -y arc (>::<!. Thus, besides those above
mentioned, there were the Teeswater, the Komney Marsji,
the Kentish, tin; Burnptoti, the, K.xmoor, &c., all of which wiv
deficient in form, slow feeders, and la.tr iu coming to maturity.

Improvement oft.Jie Long Wools. The late Robert Bake well
first commenced a decided improvement with the Leicester*,
nearly a century since. He began by selecting the choicest
sheep in England, which possessed the essential qualities ;



SHEEP. 339

and by judicious feeding and management throughout, he soon
brought them up to a character widely differing from the ori-
ginal with which he started. So eminent was his success,
that in 17^7, he let three ranis for 1250 pounds, (about

MO,) and was offered 10-30 pounds, (about $3,200,) for
:M ewes. Soo-i alter this, he received the enormniu price of
HO;) guiiuvis, or $4,000, for the use of two thirds of a single
ram ibr a season, reserving the other third for himself. He
reduced (he boae and oilal or worthless parts of tho carcass,
and increased the weight of the valuable parts, and especially
their tendency to fatten and early maturity. This was effec-
ted mainly, by a nice discrimination, which has probably
never been surpassed, if it has ever been equalled. He se-
Icvlod medium sizes for the breed, with as much evenness and
perfection of form as possible, for he found that excellence and
profitable feeding qualities were seldom connected with extra
size, large hones, or imperfect form. He also observed the
disposition to fatten in individuals, and used only such as
were conspicuous in this respect. He relied more than all
upon their quality of handling well, depending even more
upon the elastic, mellow touch, than upon the most symmet-
rical Jig-ire. He used only the choicest rams, a little under
size, while the ewes were of lull medium weight. The pro-
geny were pushed with a fill 1 supply of nutritious ibod, and

iinatically brought to early maturity. Connected with
this, was his practice of in-and-in breeding, or breeding the
parent upon the progeny, for several successive generations,
which had the tendency still further to refine the bone and
ofKtl, and impress most effectually, the desirable characteris-
tics of the race. It is even credibly asserted, that he produced
ro- in such of his fattening sheep as he wished to mature
early for the shambles, as in the first stages of that loathsome
disease, the fat-secreting qrgans accomplish their office more
rapidly than in a state of perfect health, and it at least secured
them against breeding when they left his own hands. It is
certain, that Bakewell carried his refining system to such an
extent, as partially to destroy the procreative powers ; and
he was subsequently obliged to introduce new animals to re-
invigorate and continue his flock. The general system of
Bakewell, however, was attended with complete success.
He produced a race of animal?, not only far beyond what
England had ever before seen, but. which, in all the qualities
he endeavored to establish, have not been exceeded since;
and his improved Leicesters have come down to the present



340 AMERICAN AGRICULTURE.

day as perfect as he left them, showing conclusively, that he
not only formed, but stamped the peculiarities of the breed,
with a permanence which yet bears witness to his genius.
One of these attained the enormous live weight of 368 Ibs.,
and dressed, 248 Ibs.

The Cotewold and Lincolnshire. Other breeders were not
slow in following in Bakewell's footsteps with different breeds,
and the Cotswold and Lincolnshire especially, have become
the subjects of an equally decided improvement, while the
errors of Bakewell were entirely avoided. They possess a
rather more desirable robustness, approaching in some few
specimens, almost to coarseness, as compared with the finest
Leicesters ; but they are more hardy and less liable to dis-
ease. They attain as large a size and yield as great an
amount of wool, of about the same value. These breeds
scarcely differ more from each other, than do flocks of a simi-
lar variety, which have been scprately bred for several
generations. They are prolific, and when well fed, the
ewes will frequently produce two lambs at a birth, for which
they provide liberally from their udder till the time for wean-
ing. The weight of the fleece varies from 4 to 8 Ibs. per head.
PECULIARITY OF LONG WOOL AND ITS USES. The striking
peculiarity of the long wools, is in the production of a fleece,
which is perfectly adapted, by its length and the absence of
the felting property, to the manufacture of worsted stuffs, bom-
bazines, moussel'me de laincs, &c. This is a branch of our
manufactures for which we had little material that was suita-
ble, till the introduction of the long wools; and its rapid ex-
tension within the pnst lew years, clearly shows, that a large
and increasing demand for this kind of wool will continue at
remunerating prices. Besides its uses for combing, it is ex-
tensively manufactured into blankets, carpeting, and many
other fabrics.

IMPORTATION OF LONG WOCLS. Several of the Bakcwells
were imported during the las t. century ; and many flocks
containing some of the besi sp cnmens, have been introduced
and scattered over every section of the country. The lar-
gest of any single Importation of the long wools, was made
by Messrs. Corning & Gotham, in IHJ-J, ;m d immediately
preceding, and consisted of 70 or HO choice Cotswolds.

BREEDING THE LONC WOOLS. Some information on this
subject will be, found under the head of breeding Merinos, and
improvement of lite Long Wools. The ram and ewe should be
selected from the best specimens of the breed which is to be



SHEF.P. 341

perpetuated. There are peculiarities of form <>r appearance
in each, which should be carefully observed. Neither should
a violent cross ever be taken for the purpose of perpetuation,
as suggested, under the head of principles of breeding, in a
previous chapter ; such as between those possessing totally
opposite properties, as the Merino and Long Wools; and there
is no conceivable advantage in mixing the middle wools,
South Downs, &c., with either. Lord Western has long
experimented on the blending of the Merino and Long Wools
through several generations, without any success, nor is it
believed to be attainable. There is no evenness or integrity
of character either in the animal or fleece from such mix-
tures, nor is it possible to foretel the character of progeny
from such bastard crosses. The general rule, that like be-
gets like, will not hold true here, for the animal comes large
or small, with a long or short fleece, fine or coarse, or inter-
mixed ; and this too is repeated through numerous genera-
tions, when the immediate parents exhibit properties altogether
unlike the offspring, and which it derives from some remote
ancestry. This practice will do to produce lambs for the
butcher, as the consequence of a fresh cross is greater stami-
na and thrift ; and it is found that lambs thus bred, attain an
early and full development. Thousands of such are annually
bred on the banks of the Hudson, Long Island, and around
our large cities, and in the worst possible way ; as the large,
coarse ram is used on the delicate Saxon ewe ; yet the lambs
thrive and command a good price in the market, and the
owner is satisfied to pocket the result. Yet nothing could
be more absurd than to propagate from such progeny for any
other purpose.

The mixture of breeds of similar character, is attended
with the best consequences. Such was the intermingling of
the improved Leicesters with the Cotswold and Lincolnshire,
by which the latter were refined; and such was the use of the
latter with the Leicesters, when they became impotent and
almost worthless from over-refinement in breeding. Good
results have followed the mixture of the South and Hampshire
Downs. A marked improvement in the Merino in this conn-
try, has been claimed by Mr. Jams, and several others, from
the mixture of the various flocks, which for ages had been kept
distinct in Spain ; and the same result is known to have fol-
lowed a similar course with the Rambouillet and Saxon flocks.
The ewe goes with young about five months, varying from
145 to 162 days. Each flock-master will of course deter-



342 AMERICAN AGRICULTURE.

mine what is the proper time for his lambs to come. For
early market, or when there are few sheep, and those well
looked alter, they may come while the ewes are in the yards,
and provision can he made for the progeny, by placing such
as are heavy, in warm stalls. Both the dam and young thus
receive a closer attention than they would in the field ; and
after a weeks housing in severe weather, the lamb may be
turned out into the dry yard, where he will suffer no more,
apparently, than the full grown sheep. But with large flocks,
early lambing is attended with much trouble, and it is gene-
rally avoided, by deferring it till the weather has become
more settled, and a full bite of grass will afford the dam a
plentiful supply of milk. Yet in this case, the young sheep
must daily be under the eye of the shepherd, w r ho should see
that they are well supplied with food, and especially that they
are brought under cover in severe or stormy weather.

A ram will serve from 10 to 100 ewes in a season, accord-
ing to his age, health, feed, and management. A South
Down or Long Wooled lamb of 7 or 8 months, is sometimes
used, and when this is done, he should be well fed, and al-
lowed to run only with a very few ewes. If full grown rains
are turned into a lean pasture to remain with the ewes, not
less than four should be put in for every hundred. But if a
well-fed ram, in full health and vigor, is kept up, and led out
to the ewe as she comes into heat, and allowed to serve her
once only, he will suffice for one hundred, without injury to
himself or progeny. For this purpose, the ram should be
prepared, not by being fat, for this, neither he nor the ewe
should ever be ; but by being fed with grain for a short time
before and during the continuance of the season. The ewes
are more likely to come quickly into heat, and prove prolific,
if lightly fed with stimulating food at the time. It is reason-
ably enough conjectured, that if procreation, and the lir:!
period ofi.;|!ifion takes place in cold weather, the liptus will
eiuiently be lifted lor the climate which rules during the
early Maovs of'its < \Mene;-. If this be so, and it is certainly
in accordance with the laws of nature, fine wooled sheep an-
most likely to maintain their excellence, t>y deferring (lie
connexion of the male, till the commencement of cold weather;
and in the northern states, this is done about the first of De-
cember, which brings the yeaning time in the last of April
or first of May, when the early grass will afford a good qual-
ity of feed.



SHEEP. 343

WINTER MANAGEMENT AND FOOD. Sheep should be
brought into winter quarters soon after the severe frosts oc-
cur, as these diminish the feed, and materially impair its nu-
tritious qualities. They ought also to be removed from the
s lands bi-Joiv they IK-OO e permanently softened by the
rain.-, :H they will injuriously affect their comfort and health ;
and it is equally objectionable from their poaching the sod.
If the number be large when brought to the yards, they must
be carefully divided into flocks of 50 to 100, according to the
size of the yards and sheds. The young and feeble must be
separated from the others, and the ailing ones placed by them-
selves ; und that no one may suffer from the others, all should
be classed as uniformly as possible as to strength. The
yards must be dry. well supplied with a trough of fresh water,
and with comfortable sheds to which they can retire when
they "hoose.

.SHELTERS in northern climates are indispenable to profita-
ble sheep-raising, and in every latitude north of the Gulf of
Mexico, they would be advantageous. There is policy as



Online LibraryRichard Lamb AllenA Brief compend of American agriculture → online text (page 34 of 44)