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Swine And Sheep

( Originally Published 1918 )

Nature of the animal. Swine were native to the Far East, but spread in very early times to the western world. They are easy to keep, being tame and hardy ; and of all our domestic food animals they are the most prolific. They come to maturity in a few months. We kill, in an average year, over three quarters of our hogs without impairing their numbers. Further, the hog is not particular in the matter of his diet— is, in fact, a fine door-yard scavenger, eating anything and everything with cheerful lack of discrimination. It is pretty easy to keep a pig, and if facilities are available it is profitable to rear large numbers.

Early stages of the industry. Hogs were introduced into this hemisphere by Columbus in 1493. Later, the Spanish brought them to Florida, and the Portuguese to Nova Scotia and Newfound-land. There were swine in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1609 ; and they reproduced so rapidly thereabouts that people had to build palisades to keep them out of town. They were introduced into the Plymouth colony in 1624 and into New York the following year. But these early arrivals were of inferior quality ; it has taken careful breeding, selection, and feeding to produce the best breeds of the present. In early colonial days, and on the Western frontier later on, pigs were not always, or even usually, kept in pens, but were allowed to run wild and feed on nuts, roots, and other forage.

The wide use of pork. Pork has always been a palatable and, at the same time, a comparatively cheap meat. This is due chiefly to the fact that the hog lives on cheap food and is so wonderfully prolific. Pork is a favorite meat practically all over the world, even among many savage peoples ; for the hog easily adapts himself to a variety of natural conditions and is at home almost anywhere.

Breeds of swine. Aside from the unimproved variety of swine there are numerous breeds well known to stock-raisers. Large size was formerly the chief aim of the breeding, without much regard being paid to the proportions of the body. Not until after the Revolution was much attention paid to improving our breeds of swine, but during the succeeding half-century considerable progress was made. Between 1820 and 1830 the Chester White breed was developed by crossing some white swine common in Pennsylvania with some imported white stock from England ; and about 1830 the Berkshire breed was introduced from England. The latter breed yielded a good percentage of lean meat and was in favor as a producer of bacon and ham ; but it was not until 1870 that it came into general favor. The Poland-China breed was developed in Ohio about 1840 by crossing other breeds; known under a variety of names until 1872, it was finally termed Poland-China in that year by a national convention of swine-breeders. Further favorable results were attained by crossing this breed with the Berkshire. It is astonishing to what scientific accuracy and effectiveness hog-breeding has now advanced ; to become an expert breeder requires much ability, study, and experience.

Pork and slavery. Swine production in this country's earlier days had its close relations with slavery. Bacon was a cheap food, and was in great demand in the slave states for the slaves. But the planters who had the slaves did not raise many pigs, in view of the far greater profits to be obtained in planting a few large crops, such as cotton, tobacco, and sugar. This allowed parts of the country better adapted to hog-raising to find a favorable market for their pork products in the slave states ; the corn states in the northwestern section and in the Central West seized the opportunity and came to command the Southern market. For corn and hogs go together — where you find the one you are likely to find the other. "Hog and hominy " has been almost a synonym for food in general in certain parts of the country.

" Corn on the hoof." This relation of the two industries of corn-raising and hog-raising deserves further attention. It appears that certain farmers discovered that corn-fed pork was sweeter and otherwise superior to the swill-fed. But in the days before the building of Western railways corn was cheap enough, we have seen, to be used as fuel ; it was certainly a sufficiently inexpensive stock food, for it sold, at times, for five or six cents a bushel.

The idea developed of herding the hogs in pens, instead of letting them range about as formerly, and of feeding them on the abundant corn. This enabled hog-raisers to put them on the market well fattened at any time they wished ; and, once the enterprise had proved itself practicable, the industry developed rapidly in the corn states. This was about seventy years ago, in such states as Kentucky and its neighbors just north of the Ohio River; and from this region the industry spread farther west-ward with the march of population beyond the Mississippi. Even when railroads had come to form a network over these states, hog-raising continued on a large scale, because the pork could be sent to market as readily as the corn ; thus the corn was sent in " on the hoof." A large pork-packing business soon developed in the Western cities ; for Western hogs were largely packed when slaughtered, whereas those of the East were more

commonly consumed freshly killed. The cities conspicuously associated with the pork-packing business in its earlier stages were Chicago, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Louisville.

Location of the industry. At the present day the swine belt is practically identical with the corn belt. The great region for swine, not only for the United States but for the world, is that group of corn-producing states which we have already had occasion to mention : Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Missouri, Indiana, Texas, Kansas, and Ohio. Considerably more than half of the swine in the country are to be found in these eight states, which retain a large percentage of their corn, in order to convert it into pork before it is disposed of.

The " lard hog " and the " bacon hog." The American hog is called the lard hog, as distinguished from the so-called bacon hog of Canada and Europe. It is the corn that makes the difference, for it is a great fattener ; while the bacon hog comes from the barley-growing districts of Canada and Europe. It is because barley costs more than corn to produce that the stock-raiser cannot afford to feed grain to the swine ; they live as far as possible on grass, and especially clover. But this diet results in more lean meat in the pig's body than is found in the American hog, and those in America who like English bacon must send abroad for it. We therefore import bacon, although we export to England and Ireland vast quantities of cheaper pork. The most important center of European hog-raising is in the barley regions of Germany and Russia, along the Baltic ; these countries, next to the United States, are the largest producers of hogs ; but we raise several times as many of these animals per annum as the two combined.

Pork-packing. In the case of swine, likewise, appear the wonderful economy and efficiency of the packing plant. Nothing is wasted. Hair, intestines, hoofs, and bones are utilized for mattresses, brushes, sausage casings, glue, fertilizer, and other products. Grease, soap, gelatin, etc. are by-products. The packing plants turn out more than a hundred articles which are not used as food. The meat is marketed in almost every known form — fresh, salted, smoked, canned, pickled, dried, and so on.

Slaughtering. In the case of hogs, we are led to remark upon the rapidity and efficiency of the slaughtering. This astonishing development of industry comes out, of course, in the butchering of cattle and sheep, but it is perhaps more in evidence in the case of the hog.


Utility of the animal. The sheep is yet another of the anciently domesticated animals ; the wealth of the Israelites and other pastoral peoples of antiquity was largely in sheep, which were originally raised for their skins and milk as well as for their meat. They also figured largely in religious ceremonies, being one of the chief sacrifices. In modern times they are valued for their flesh and wool ; and improvements in breeding are designed to better their qualities along these lines.

Early sheep-raising. There were wild sheep in America before the Discovery (the Rocky Mountain sheep has always been an interesting animal to the hunter), but there were no traces of domestication. Later the Indians of the arid states of the South-west became great sheep-raisers, but their animals were descended from Old World stock. The domesticated sheep was probably a native of Asia and thence spread widely over the face of the earth. Columbus, once more, was responsible for the introduction of the Old World product; he brought sheep to America in 1493. Of all the early European settlers the Spanish and English were most active in bringing over the sheep. In the sixteenth century the Spaniards introduced them into Florida and Mexico, where they multiplied rapidly and whence they speedily spread both north and south, especially into Texas, New Mexico, and Utah. The English brought sheep to Virginia in 1609, but their increase was slow at first, owing to the destructive activity of wild animals ; and the same was true in New York, whither they were brought from Holland in 1625. In early colonial times sheep-raising could be most safely carried on in regions which afforded natural protection against wild beasts, as, for instance, on the islands along the coast.

The merino. The breed of sheep most prized for its wool is the merino, which, while it probably 'originated in Asia Minor and was thence brought to the West, received such care and underwent such improvement in Spain that that country is always thought of as the originator of the breed. The merino sheep is, so to speak, all fleece. His coat hangs loosely on his body, and its folds provide a great amount of space for wool ; whereas the old unimproved German sheep had 5500 hairs per square inch, the merino has 40,000 ; and he has a good many square inches to have his thousands on. And this fleece weighs him down to such an extent that he cannot leap fences and *do damage as his longer-legged and less handicapped fellows can. Once upon a time a New England sheep-raiser became disgusted with his animals because they were always doing damage to neighbors' crops and getting him into trouble, and he tried to raise, from a queer young ram, animals whose legs could not jump fences. He individual fleece sheep to endure very cold weather ; this ability to resist the cold and to live on the coarsest food, combined with an unequaled docility, has made the merino very satisfactory wherever it has been imported.

Introduction of the merino. In order that the very best wool might be available for home manufacture, there were imported into this country, in 181o, twenty-six thousand merino sheep, which were distributed throughout the country. Owing to the depression in the industries of the United States following upon the Napoleonic Wars, in 1815 and 1816, wool could not be marketed, and so whole flocks of merinos were slaughtered ; but with the revival of manufactures after 182o attention was again given to the merino. By this time, however, the Spanish merino had been bred with the native Saxon sheep, producing the Saxony merino, in which an extreme fineness of wool had been developed at a sacrifice of other qualities. But the marked physical weakness of the Saxony merinos, together with the general decline in the value of wool, prevented them from ever gaining a strong hold in this country.

The karakul. A new departure is now being made, in both the United States and Canada, by the introduction, on special ranches, of the so-called " karakul " sheep. These are common in Bokhara, western Turkestan, and neighboring regions and produce the valuable article, ranked as a fur, called Persian lamb. The results so far obtained since the introduction of karakuls, in 1908, indicate that these sheep can be raised as successfully in this country as in their original home. The pure-blood lambs yield the most valuable pelts ; but when karakuls are crossed with our ordinary breeds of sheep, there is said to be a marked improvement in the wool and in the character of the mutton as well, and the lambs are said to be heavier than the average of those born of our usual breeds.

The mutton breeds. There was a marked change in the sheep industry about the middle of the nineteenth century, consisting in the transition from the raising of the fine-wool sheep to the production of the coarse-wool and mutton sheep. The mutton breeds were brought from Canada and England and were widely distributed east of the Mississippi River. This grade of sheep helped to increase the output of distinctively combing wools; and to improve the mutton breeds French sheep were introduced and crossed with other varieties. In the states east of the Mississippi the mutton breeds gradually gained the ascendancy ; farther west, as population increased and meat became relatively more in demand than wool, the mutton breeds came to be preferred. The total consumption of lamb and mutton has increased appreciably during the last ten years ; a few years ago more than nine and a half million sheep and lambs were slaughtered in plants subject to federal inspection. The number now aver-ages a good deal above this figure. Besides the mutton there are other carcass products derived, such as tallow ; one of the objects in raising sheep is to get their fat. In the past there was even a variety known as the " fat-tailed sheep," which had large deposits of fatty tissue at the tail — so large at times that the tails required artificial support in the form of little carts. Other products of the carcasses are such as are derived in the packing-houses from cattle and swine. The so-called " catgut " is made from sheep's entrails.

Breeding for meat. At the outset of the twentieth century the merino and English types of sheep were nearly equal in number in the United States, but since that time there has been a marked tendency to increase the mutton breeds, especially in the more thickly populated regions east of the Mississippi.

Westward movement of the industry. Owing to the abundance of good pasture land in the West, the center of sheep-raising has moved westward along with other pastoral industries. Before 1840 there were about 18,000,000 sheep in this country, of which the greater number were in the Atlantic states, between Virginia and Maine inclusive, and in the Ohio River basin. In 1850 and 1860 Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania, in order, were the states having the most sheep ; in 1870 Ohio still led, but with California second, and New York third ; in 1875 California had reached first place, followed by Ohio, Texas, and Michigan ; in more recent times the order became : Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico, Idaho, Ohio, California, Oregon, and Texas. There have occurred some interesting shifts, but the West has won out. However, there are many sheep east of the Mississippi still—about one third of the total number ; in fact, sheep are to be found in respectable numbers in every state in the Union. The number in New England is small, though this section offers attractions for sheep-raising. The case of New England is not so bad as it was represented to be by the humorist who said that the sheep farmer had to let his sheep down between the rocks, by the hind legs, to get the few blades of grass.

Other sheep-raising countries. The United States is one of the leading sheep-raising countries, but comes third after Australia and Argentina ; other important producers are Asiatic Turkey, Russia, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, New Zealand, and South Africa. It will be noted that several of these are in the south temperate zone. This zone, with less than 1.5 per cent of the earth's population, has well on towards one half of the -sheep ; it shows ten sheep per person, whereas in the world as a whole there are about three sheep to eight persons. The. countries are remote, semiarid, and sparse of population ; the sheep thrive, and there is room enough. Sheep are stupid and defenseless and have to be taken care of, and that is done by nomadic herders and sheep dogs at very small cost. The relation of sheep-grazing to rainfall has been expressed as follows : In Australia a plain with ten inches of rainfall will support ten sheep to the square mile; if there are thirteen inches it will support twenty sheep ; and if there are twenty inches, seventy sheep.

Wool and shearing. Our domestic wool is of two distinct classes: that which is taken from live sheep and that taken from carcasses and known as pulled wool." Of our total production of a little less than 300,000,000 pounds, by far the largest proportion is sheared wool. It is the common practice in America to shear sheep but once a year, generally in the spring, but in the South and Southwest they are often shorn in both spring and fall. The reasons for double-shearing are varied, the factor of climate (heat) being the chief one ; loss of wool from the tearing off of the longer fleece on underbrush is another reason. The two fleeces generally outweigh a single one, but the extra wool, it is said, does not, in all cases, make up for the cost in time and labor of the second shearing.

The increasing weight of fleeces. At the beginning of this century the average weight of a fleece was 6.7 pounds, which was 1.1 pounds greater than in 1890 and 1.9 greater than in 1880. During the last half-century the average weight of the American fleece has increased about 140 per cent—a fine tribute to the efforts of the sheep-breeder. At present the average weight per fleece has risen to about 7 pounds ; thus the increase within the last fifteen years or so has not been as marked as it was in the preceding decades.

Wool imports. It is somewhat surprising, in view of the fact that we raise so many sheep, to find that normally we import up to more than one half of the wool required for domestic consumption ; during the last few years, according to a report of the Secretary of Agriculture, these importations have ranged from nearly 250,000,000 to over 500,000,000 pounds each year, the average being over 300,000,000.

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