Richard Lamb Allen.

A Brief compend of American agriculture online

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well as humanity in the practice. An animal eats much less
when thus protected ; he is more thrifty, less liable to disease,
and his manure is richer and more abundant. The feeding
may be done in the open yard in clear weather, and under
cover in severe storms. The shelters for sheep are variously
constructed, to suit the taste or circumstances of the flock-
master. A sheep-barn built upon a side hill will afford two
floors ; one underneath, surrounded by three sides of wall and
opening to the south, with sliding or swinging doors to guard
against, storms ; and another overhead, if the floors are made
perfectly tight, with gutters to carry off the urine ; and suffi-
cient storage for the fodder may be made by scaffolds. Or
they may be constructed with 12 or 15 feet posts on level
ground, allowing them to occupy the lower part, with the fod-
der stored above. In all cases however, thorough ventilation
should be provided, for of the two evils of exposure to cold
or too great privation of air, the former is to be preferred.
Sheep cannot long endure c'ose confinement without injury.
In all ordinary weather, a shed closely boarded on three sides,
with a close roof, is sufficient protection, especially if the
open side is shielded from bleak winds, or leads into a well
enclosed yard. If the apartment above is used for storage,
the floors should be made tight, that no hay, chaff or dust can
fall upon the fleece.



344 AMERICAN AGRICULTURE.

RACKS OR MANGERS are indispensable to economical feed-
ing. If the hay is fed on the ground, the leaves and seeds,
the most valuable part of the fodder, are almost wholly lost,
and when wet, the sheep in their restlessness while feeding,
will tread much of it into the mud. To make an economical
box or rack, take 6 light pieces of scantling, say 3 inches
square, one for each corner, and one for the centre of each
side. Boards of pine or hemlock, 12 or 15 feet long and 12
or 14 inches wide, may then be nailed on to the bottom of the
posts for the sides, which are separated by similar boards at
the ends, 2i feet long. Boards 12 inches wide, raised above
the lower ones by a space of 9 to 12 inches, are nailed on the
sides and ends, which completes the rack. The edges of the
opening should be made perfectly smooth to prevent chafing
the wool. The largest dimensions above given are suitable
for the large breeds, and the smallest for the Saxon, and still
smaller are proper for their lambs. These should be set on
dry ground, or under the sheds, and they can easily be remo-
ved wherever necessary. Some prefer the racks made with
slats, or smooth, upright sticks, in the form of the usual hor.so
rack. There is no objection to this, but it should always be
accompanied by a board trough affixed to the bottom, to catch
the fine hay which falls in feeding. These may be attached
to the side of a building, or used double. A small lamb re-
quires 15 inches of space and a large sheep 2 feet, for quiet,
comfortable feeding, and at least this amount of room should
be provided around the racks for every sheep.

TROUGHS may be variously constructed. The most econo-
mical are made with two boards of any convenient length, 10
to 12 inches wide. Nail the lower side of one upon the edge
of the other, fastening both into a two or three inch plank,
15 inches long and a foot wide, notched in its upper edge in
tile form required.

FOOD. There is no better food for sheep than ripe, sound,
timothy hay, though the clovers and nearly ;ill the cultivated
grasses may be advantageously fed. IJcan and pea straw
are valuably and especially Hie former, which if properly
cured, they prefer to the best hav ; and it is well adapted
to the production of wool. All the other straws furnish a
good food, and sheep will thrive on them without hay when
fed with roots or grain. Jlool.s ought to he given (hem occa-
sionally for a change, and especially t^llie <-\\es after lamb-
ing, if this occurs before putting them on to fresh pasture.
They keep the stomach properly distended, the appetite and



SHEEP. 345

general health good, and they render their winter forage
nearly equal to their summer feed. Much grain is not suited
to store-sheep. It is too rich, and should be given sparingly
pt to the lambs, the old ewes or feeble sheep, or to restore
the rains after hard service. For the above purposes, oats
arc tho host ; and if any other grain, beans or peas are given,
it should be in small quantities. When there is a deficiency
of hay and roots, grain may be used with straw. But the
Hock ought to be so fed as receive the same amount of nour-
ishment throughout every part of the year. The evenness
and value of the fleece depends much upon this. When the
amount of nutrition is great, the wool secreting organs are
distended, and the fibre becomes enlarged ; when limited,
they necessarily contract and the fibre is small. This pro-
duces a want of trueness, which the' experienced stapler readily
detects, and does not fail to estimate against the value of the
fleece. Sheep ought to have a full supply of salt, and if
accessible, sulphur, ashes, tar and clay would frequently
be nibbled by them when their stomach required either. Pine
or hemlock bouglis are a good substitute for tar, and afford a
most healthful change in the winter-food of sheep. Entire
cleanliness and dry ness are also essential to the health of the
flock. The smaller sizes of the Saxon may be well sustained
on two pounds of hay, but larger sheep will consume from
three and a half to four, or even five pounds per day. Sheep
like all other animals when exposed to cold, will consume
much more than if well protected, or than during a warmer
season.

The care of the ewes wi'h young, is an important consider-
ation, as the lamb is sometimes the only profit yielded by the
flock, for when fodder is high or wool low, the fleece will
barely pay for the food and attention. Pregnant ewes
require the same food as at all other times, but caution is
necessary to prevent injury or abortion, which is often the
result of excessive fat, feebleness or disease. The first may
be remedied by blood-letting and spare diet, and both the last
by restored health and generous focd. Sudden fright, as from
dogs or strange objects ; long or severe journeys ; great exer.
tions ; unwholesome food ; blows in the region of the foetus,
and some other causes produce abortion.

Yeaning. Most flocks are turned into the pasture before

yeaning time, and the ewe is then left to nature, which is a

good practice if she is healthy and the weather good. But

a larger number-of lambs will be reared by a careful over-

O*



346 AMERICAN AGRICULTURE.

sight of the ewes and the use of proper precautions. As their
time approaches, which may be known by the springing of the
udder and the enlargement of the natural parts, they should
be put by themseh r es at night, in a warm stable or with others
in the same condition, and well looked after, late and early in
the day. They seldom need any assistance, nor should any
be rendered, except in case of wrong presentation, or feeble-
ness in expelling the foetus. In the former case, the shep-
herd may apply his thumb and finger after oiling, and push
back the young, and assist in gently turning it till the nose
and fore-feet appear ; and for the latter, only the slightest
aid should be rendered, and that to help the throes of the
dam.

MANAGEMENT OF LAMBS.. When lambing in the field,
only a few should be together, as the young sometimes get
changed, and the dams refuse to own them. This dificulty
is generally obviated by holding the owe till the lamb has
sucked two or three times ; or they may be shut up together,
and the lamb rubbed with a little fine salt. The lamb does
not require nourishment for some hours ; but if the dam re-
fuse to lick it as soon as it appears, it must becarefully wiped
dry. If the weather be cold and the lamb is dropped in the
field, the shepherd should be furnished with large pockets
or a well-lined basket, in which it must be placed till the
ewe is brought to the shed. After the first day or two, the
udders ought to be completely drained of their milk by tho
hand, so as to prevent swollen or caked bag. In case of de-
ficiency of milk, the lamb maybe supplied from a new-milch
cow, by means of a sucking-bottle with an air vent, or it may
draw a part of its nourishment from another ewe, which
can be held while the lamb is sucking. It is sometime
necessary to substitute a foster-mother, in which case, the
fwe may be made to own the lamb, by milking from her
udder over the lamb and under his tail, rubbing it on well; or
rub the adopted lamb with the entrails and contents of the
stomach of the dead lamb, or cover it with the skin. If the
ewe proves a bad nurse, or it is desirable to bring the lambs
forward rapidly, they may be early taught to eat boiled oat^ or
other grain, cabbage, roots and tender hay. Lambs should
be well fed, as it is important to produce size, constitution and
perfection of form. The ewes and their young ought to be
divided into small flocks, and have a frequent change of
pasture. Some careful shephards adopt the plan of confin-
ing their lambs, and allow them to suck two or thee times a



SHEEP. 347

day, by which they sutler no fatigue and thrive much faster.
But this is troublesome and injurious, as the exercise is essen-
tial to the health and constitution of the lamb intended for
rearing. It is admissible only when they are wanted for an
early market, and by those who keep sheep for this purpose, it
is a common practice.

Castrating and docking lambs After selecting enough of
the choicest rams for stock getters, the castrating may be
performed at any time between two and six weeks old, when
the lamb is in good health. A cool day should be chosen, or
if warm, it must be done early in the morning. The best
method is for one person to hold the lamb firmly between his
legs, on an inclined plank upon which he rests, while another
with a sharp knife, cuts oft" about two thirds of the lower part
of the scrotum. The testicles are then drawn out till the
spermatic cord is reached, which is divided by the thumb nail,
or it is pulled out and cut with a sharp knife. It is sometimes
done by simply opening the scrotum, when the testicles and
spermatic cord are jerked out. The wound should then be
rinsed with cold water, after which apply lard. The opera-
tion of docking, is by many deferred till a late period, from
apprehension of too much loss of blood ; but if the weather
be favorable and the lamb in good condition, it maybe per-
formed at this time with the least trouble and without injury.
The tail should be laid upon the plank, the person holding
him in the same position as before. With one hand he draws
the skin towards the body, while the other person with a two-
inch chisel and mallet, strikes it oft' at a blow between the
bone joints, leaving it one and a half to two inches long. The
skin immediately slips back over the wound and is soon healed.
Ewe lambs should be docked closer than the rams. To pre-
vent flies and maggots, and assist in healing, it is well to apply
an ointment composed of lard and tar, in the proportions of
four pounds of the former to one quart of the latter. This is
also a good application for the scrotum. The lambs should
be carefully protected from cold and wet till they are perfectly
well.

Tagging or clotting, is the removal of such wool as is lia-
ble to get fouled when the sheep are turned on to the fresh
pastures, and of course it should be done just before leaving
their winter quarters. It is most easily accomplished by
placing the animal on a low table, and then holding it as in
shearing, till the operation is performed. All the wool near
the extremity of the sheath and the scrotum of the males,



348 AMERICAN AGRICULTURE.

from the udder of the ewes, and from the dock, and below it,
the inside of the thighs and from the legs of the sheep, should
be removed.

SUMMER MANAGEMENT. As soon as the warm weather
approaches and the grass appears, sheep become restive and
impatient for the pasture. This instinct should be repressed
till the ground has become thoroughly dry, and the grass has
acquired substance. They ought moreover, to be provided
for the change of food, by the daily use of roots for a few
days before turning ouf. It would also check the tendency
to excessive purging, which is induced by the first spring
feed, if they were housed at night, and fed for the first few
days, with a little sound, sweet hay. They must be provided
with pure water, salt, &c. as in winter, for though they may
sometimes do tolerably well without either, yet thrift and
freedom from disease are cheaply secured by this slight
attention. Dry, sweet pastures, and such as abound in aro-
matic and bitter plants, are best suited for sheep-walks. No
animal with the exception of the goat, crops so great a vari-
ety of plants. They eat many which are rejected by the
horse and the ox, and which are even essential to their own
wants. In this respect, they are valuable assistants to the
husbandman, as they feed greedily on wild mustard, burdocks,
thistles, marsh-mallows, milk- weed and various other offend-
ing plants; and the Merino exceeds the more recent breeds
in the variety of his selections. Many prepare artificial
pastures for their flocks. This may be done with a number
of plants. Winter rye or wheat sown early in the season,
may be fed off in the fall without injury to the crop ; and in
the following spring the rye may be pastured till the stalks
shoot up and begin to form a head. This affords an early
and nutritious food. Corn may be sown broadcast or thickly
in drills, and either fed off in the fields, or cut and carried to
the sheep in their folds. An experiment made with white
mustard for feeding sheep, is detailed on page 216, which
shows it to be a valuable crop for this purpose. To give
sheep sufficient variety, it would be better to divide their
range into smaller ones, and change them as often at least.
as once a week. They seek a favorite resting place, on a
dry, elevated part of the field, which soon becomes soiled. By
removing them from this for a few days, rains will cleanse,
or the sun dry it, so as again to make it suitable for them.
More sheep may be kept, and in better condition where this



SHEEP. 349

practice is adopted than where they are confined to the same
pasture.

WASHING SHEEP. In most of that portion of the Union
north of 40, the washing is performed from the middle of
May till the first of June, according to the season and cli-
mate. When the streams are hard, which frequently is the
case in lime-stone regions, it is better to do this immediately
after an abundant rain, by which the lime derived from the
springs is proportionally lessened. The practice of a large
majority of our farmers, is to drive their sheep to the wash-
ing ground, early in the morning of a warm day, leav-
ing the lambs behind. The sheep are confined on the
bank of the stream by a temporary enclosure, from which
they are taken, and if not too heavy, are carried into water
sufficiently deep to prevent their touching bottom. They
are then washed by gently squeezing the fleece with the
hands, after which they are led ashore, and as much of the
water pressed out as possible before letting them go, as the
great weight retained in the wool, frequently staggers and
throws them down. A good practice is to lead the shef> into
the water and saturate the fleece, after which they are taken
ashore. When they commence steaming, they are again led
into the water, and washed clean. This insures thorough
cleansing where the Avater is pure. Others make use of
a boat, one end of which rests on a bold shore and the other
is in deep water. The operator stands in the boat and
plunges the animal over the side where the washing is per-
formed ; or it is sometimes done by sinking a tight hogshead
or large box in the water, with heavy weights, in which a
man stands, and the sheep are brought or led to and from
him by another person who walks on a plalform reaching
from the bank to the hogshead. Either of the last methods
obviates the necessity of standing for a long time in water,
by which colds, rheumatism, &c. are frequently contracted.
In parts of Germany and sometimes in this country, sheep
are forced 1o swim across a narrow stream several times, by
which the fleece is tolerably cleaned, if all the water be
pressed out when they get to the land. The yolk bping a
saponaceous compound, not an oily matter as is generally
supposed, it readily combines with the water and passes out
of the wool. An excellent practice when streams are not
convenient, is to lead a small ripple of soft water into a tub.
To this a little soap is added, after which the sheep are im-
mersed and thoroughly cleansed. Perfect whiteness and



350 AMERICAN AGRICULTURE.

purity of the fleece is readily obtained afterwards, by throw-
ing over the sheep a jet of water. This practice has a good
effect, in preventing or removing cutaneous disorders and
destroying ticks or other vermin. Many judicious fanners
object to washing sheep, from its tendency to produce colds
and catarrhal affections, to which sheep are particularly sub-
ject ; but it cannot well be dispensed with, as the wool is
always more saleable, and if carefully done, need not be
attended with injury. Warm settled weather however, is
indispensable to washing with safety to the general health of
the sheep.

SHEARING. The manner of shearing varies with almost
every district ; but as this is an art to be acquired under a
skilful master, we shall omit particular details on the subject.
First clip all the tags and filth, if any remains or has been
accumulated after the tagging in the spring ; then take off
the fleece and spread it with the outside uppermost on a smooth
bench or table, and push the wool carefully together, to render
it more compact; double the sides over to the centre; throw
the clean loose locks into the middle, and roll together from
each end. This makes a smooth, dense package, which is
secured by passing a stout twine one or more times around
the sides and ends. All the wool from the extremities should
be closely sheared and saved by itself, before dismissing the
the sheep, but never put up with choice fleeces. If wounds
are made, which is sometimes the case with unskilful opera-
tors, a mixture of tar and grease ought to be applied. After
shearing, such horns and hoofs as are likely to be trouble-
some, should be sawed and pared. The branding or mark-
ing is essential to distinguish them from other flocks, and
this is done on the shoulder, side or buttock. A brush or
marking iron is used for this purpose, with paint made of
la^np black, to which a little spirits of turpentine is first
added, and then diluted with linseed or lard oil. If the wea-
ther be cool, and especially if severe storms occur after
washing or shearing, the flock should be housed. If sultry,
they should have a cool, shady retreat, where they will be
shielded from the flies and the heat. Blisters and permanent
injury to the skin and fleece, are frequently the result of such
exposure. Shade-trees in their pastures, contribute much to
the comfort of sheep, when exposed to a blazing sun. A
close examination of the skin, should be made at shearing,
for the detection of disease or vermin. For remedies, see
article diseases. SMEARING OR SALVING SHEEP, is a custom



SHEEP. 351

little practised in this country. For cold, elevated and
exposed situations, it may be necessary, arid it is generally
adopted in Scotland. The object is to prevent cutaneous
diseases and vermin, and furnish additional warmth and
protection to the fleeces of such breeds as are deficient in
yolk. It is usually performed the latter part of October,
but is sometimes done immediately after shearing. The
mixture or salve consists of tar and butter or grease, in dif-
ferent proportions ; 1 gall, of the former to 12, or some-
times 20 Ibs. of the latter ; the greater proportion of tar
being required for the younger sheep, or for more exposed
situations. The grease is melted over the fire, and the tar
stirred in, and when sufficiently cool, it is applied to the
whole body of the sheep, by carefully parting the wool and
rubbing it on the skin with the fingers. The above quan-
tity is sufficient for 30 or 50 sheep, according to their si/.e
and the character of the wool. This application is not
required for fine-wooled sheep, whose fleeces are more
appropriately protected by a natural secretion of yolk ; and
it is better to omit it in all cases, where the health and com-
fort of the animal do not render it absolutely essential. Mr.
Stewart, an experienced Scotch shepherd, uses only tallow
and train oil mixed in equal proportions. He asserts that
the improvement in the growth and quality of the wool is at
least one-third, and it materially benefits the condition of the
sheep,

WEANING. The lambs may be weaned from 3 to 4
months old. They should be put upon rich, sweet feed, but
not too luxuriant ; while the dams are turned upon the
poorest, and so remote from their young, as to be out of sight
and hearing. The ewes ought to he carefully examined
after a day or two,,and if necessary, the milk removed with
the hand. If it continues to accumulate, the ewe may be fed
on hay for a few days. When thoroughly dried off, they
should have the best fare to recover condition for subsequent
breeding and wintering. The fall is a critical period to lose
flesh, either for sheep or lambs ; and if any are found defi-
cient, they should be at once provided for by extra feed and
attention. If cold weather overtakes them poor or in ill
health, they will scarcely outlive it; or if by chance they
survive, their emaciated carcass, impaired constitution, and
scant fleece will illy repay the food and attention they will
have cost.



352 AMERICAN AGRICULTURE.

The time for taking sheep from the pastures must depend on
the state of the weather and food. Severe frosts destroy
much of the nutriment in the grasses, and they soon after
cease to afford adequate nourishment. Long exposure to
cold storms upon such lands, with such food to sustain them,
will rapidly reduce their condition. The only Safe rule is to
transfer them to their winter quarters the first day they cease
to thrive abroad. Drafting the flock for the purpose of rid-
ding it of the supernumeraries, should be done at an earlier
day. Such of the wethers as have attained their prime, and
those ewes that have passed it, ought to be withdrawn soon
after shearing, and provided with the best feed, and rapidly
fitted for the shambles. If they have been properly pushed
on grass, they will be in good flesh by the time they are taken
from it, and if not intended for stall-feeding, the sooner they
are then disposed of the better. Stall-feeding will be lost on
an ill-shaped, unthrifty beast. The perfection of form and
health, and the uniform good condition which characterize
the thrifty one, indicate too plainly to be misunderstood, those
which will best repay the care of their owner. The selection
of any indifferent animal for stall-fattening, will inevitably be
attended with loss, and they had better be at once disposed
of when first brought from the pasture, for the most they will
bring.

MANAGEMENT OF SHEEP FOR THE PRAIRIES. When des-
tined for the prairies, they ought to commence the journey as
early after shearing as possible. They are then disencum-
bered of their fleece, and do not catch and retain as much
dust as when driven later. Feed is also generally bettor,
and the roads are dry and hard. Young and healthy sheep
should be selected, with early lambs ; or if the latter are too
young, and the distance great, they should be left and the
eWM dried off. A large wagon ought to accompany the flock,
to carry such as occasionally give out; or they may be dis-
!>< ><! c.l 'win-in 'v'r thi-y become enfeebled. With good care,
it hardy flock may !>< driven at the rate of 12 or 14 miles a
day. ( 'oiistant watchfulness is requisite to keep thorn healthy
and in good plight. One half the expense of driving may !><>
saved by the use of well-trained shepherd-dogs. When arri-
ved at their destination, they must be thoroughly washed, to
free them from all dirt, and closely examined as to any dis-
eases they may have contracted, which if discovered, should
be promptly removed. A variety of suitable food and good
shelter must be provided, for the autumn, winter, and spring



Online LibraryRichard Lamb AllenA Brief compend of American agriculture → online text (page 35 of 44)