England - The Returns From A Farm Flock
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
To resume the account of the farm practices, the lambing is late in March and the ewes are shorn in May. As the sheep are on the wolds, in hurdles, during the winter their wool becomes so muddy it must be washed, or else suffer a dock of a shilling to the fleece. For two years the wool had brought about 20 cents a pound. The ewes clip an average weight of 71/2 pounds and the yearlings or "boggs" 10 to 12 pounds. Sometimes the ewes are mated with rams of some other breed. Bred to Oxford rams their lambs are big, growthy and shear finely; when mated with Hampshire rams the lambs are heavier _and fatten more rapidly; when bred to Lincoln rams the lambs are larger. "This is Leicester ground, not Lincoln ground," said Mr. M., and added: "Providence put the sheep where we find them : Lincolns in Lincolnshire and Leicesters here; it is wrong to attempt to change them." The Lincolns do not thrive on the wolds, as they do on the level, flat, rich pastures of Lincolnshire to which they are so well adapted.
This is the land where American "cake" linseed and cottonseed is bought and fed. Mr. M. begins feeding cake in the fall and continues lightly to feed it until turnips are ready, when he may drop the cake for a time. Usually, however, he feeds it throughout the winter. Cake costs for cottonseed about $30 per ton, with linseed cake as high as $50. Mr. M. feeds more or less maize, mixed with broken cake. It has been found that the crops that follow feeding cake on the land are very much better than those following maize feeding.
The way they manage the turnip feeding is to make small enclosures temporary and movable on the turnip field, holding about 150 lambs each. In these "nets" are placed troughs, and turnips are cut in the troughs for the lambs. They also eat what they please of the turnips on the ground. The lambs are but one day on the ground, going the next day to a fresh enclosure, and ewes follow them to clean up the turnips that they may have left. If then cake is fed with the turnips, the land rapidly is enriched, since the sheep carry away nothing except what may be added to their weight. It is one of the best turnip-growing regions in England. Mr. M. practices the following rotation of crops : Grass, which is plowed and sown to oats or wheat, followed by turnips; then oats or barley, again with grass seeds. Red clover, white clover, yellow trefoil and Italian rye grass are sown. The meadow clover lies but one year; then the land goes again to wheat or oats, this because the nature of the soil is such that it does not hold grasses well, being shallow and calcareous.
His yields were : wheat, 32; oats, 56; and barley 32 bushels per acre. He applies for grain about 480 pounds of basic slag or 420 pounds of bonemeal per acre, or sometimes acid phosphate 480 pounds, and for the turnips adds a complete fertilizer containing nitrogen. "If we do not get roots on this land we get poor corn," said Mr. M. "The land must be trampled by sheep to give good crops. We plow only three inches deep, but then we plow three times. Our subsoil is practically entirely chalk. We must have the land solid for turnips here." Mr. M.'s great-grandfather was a tenant on this farm; in fact, it has been occupied by his family for more than 200 years. Rentals are less today than they were thirty years ago. During most years he lays by some money, but never any large sum. He has gone behind as much as $5,000 in one bad year. It requires intense and anxious care on his part to keep the men usefully employed, the sheep thriving and to make money enough to pay his rent and have a surplus.
Mr. M. has a comfortable big brick farmhouse with a delightful old garden in front. I could not but observe how his expense is increased by custom. For instance, the men were hauling grain to the stacks, using large and powerful horses, but the wagons were equipped with such small beds that they held not half an American load. The wagons were stronger than ours, yet so clumsily equipped as to destroy half their efficiency. The forks that the men used were also clumsy, compared with American forks, and I felt that I could have organized the equipment, changed the procedure of the men and secured an efficiency a half greater.
From Mr. M.'s very complete and practical everyday farm I went to Beverly, a beautiful country town, driving out from there to Robert Fisher's farm, where a sale of Lincoln sheep was in progress.
My chief memories of that place are of the intelligent, good-humored people who assembled and the rather spirited bidding for the sheep. The prices paid were not so large as was expected, reaching $150 to $200, but there was an absence of Argentine buyers. Thence I went to Hull, where I crossed the wide estuary of the river Humber, to New Holland, thence down a little way to Great Grimsby, ending in a pleasant inn what had been a happy and busy day. Let me quote :
"It is midsummer. A purple haze shrouds the distant forests. The meadows wave on the slopes and the fields of wheat and barley are whitening to the harvest. Up through the thin barley of the chalky soil on the hillside masses of scarlet poppies thrust their shameless heads. Mowers rattle drowsily behind the hedge; up in the field men and boys busily cock the long-cut hay. It is the harvest moon, but the fickle rain god lingers near, and experimentally sprinkles the wilting grass to see if it. cannot be revived again. Up on the swelling height a great windmill lifts its arms lazily above the trees and yawns and stretches itself as it deliberately turns the golden corn into snowy flour.
"The miller must be asleep just now, you avow; it is pleasing to think of his opportunities for rest and reflection. Young rabbits nibble the short grass beside the hedge. A wood-pigeon emits its harsh, . hoarse note. Under the trees great Lincoln lambs recline, and others are out feeding. It is a time of rare delight—not hot, not cold, not wet, not dry—a time rich, ripe, ready, when all things seem to say: `We are here; we are in our perfection; come see the depths and greenness and riotousness of my woodlands; come, lie on my sunny slopes; go where you will, you find me prepared for you.'
"And this is Lincolnshire, famous in song and story, rich in historic association; Lincolnshire of old Boston; Lincolnshire wrested from the sea in the fenlands; Lincolnshire famous as a cattle and sheep breeding country. And I am at historic old Grimsby town where the fishing boats make haven and the timber yards remind one of the forests of our own Northwest. Henry Dudding meets me in his hearty bluff way, and we go to the cattle market. It is Monday morning. Farmers have brought in to be sold some hundreds of sheep, fat from grass alone; lambs that have had some cake with their grass, and some dozen of fairly fleshed cattle, a few prime good ones. They are standing in the little pens of iron, on hard concrete floor. The auctioneers are working away; the cows and bullocks are sold separately at auction. It is a slow process, but there is time enough. Local butchers do the bid-ding and prices vary greatly, even more than they would with us for similar classes of cattle. Sheep were bringing as much as $13.20 each; cattle as high as $90.
"Mr. Dudding put me into his cart and bade me good-bye; he was off to the Lincoln show. The smart lad who drove me was dressed in immaculate knee breeches and gaiters—those wonderful English knee breeches that have so much room where it may be most needed. The lad was very proud of those `knickers,' and I was glad he wore them. It makes one rejoice that he lives to drive through an English country in summer-time and see all the richness and peace and tranquil beauty. We went a little out of our way to pass the farm where William Torr once lived and bred his cattle, and where he had his famous sale back in 1875, when he sold eighty-four Short-horns for $214,595. All the Torrs are gone from here now; some are stock-farmers in Africa, Australia and America. There were fine red steers feeding across the road from the old Torr house; it seemed as though the spirit of the old cattle might have come back there, and so I photographed them as they stood. Many cattle are grazed there now—some are good ones, too.