[From General View of Agriculture, 1794]
THERE is not due attention paid to the rearing of the livestock in this island, either horses or black cattle, trusting to the importation of draught horses from Ireland, from which place young cattle are sometimes brought, the ancient stock of the country being of a small size
The usual number of horses allowed for husbandry, in the low land farms, is one team of two or three horses, from thirteen to fifteen hands high, to thirty-acres of tillage. On the upland, and smaller farms, double the number are used, they being of a much less size. Teams of six horses are now rarely seen, though twenty years ago they were the most common. It is yet not unusual for two tenants to join in making a plough team. The prices of four-year olds, and fifteen hands in height, is from twelve to eighteen pounds, and of the small sort from six to ten pounds. Formerly the poneys of this country were remarkable fort heir beauty, and were much in request in England and Ireland, to run in gentlemen's carriages; but now their numbers are much diminished, as larger horses are found to be more useful. The importation from Ireland does not promise now to be so great, as the high prices which have been lately got, have tempted many of the farmers to breed for their own use at least, and stallions have been procured from England.
The universal use of milk, for the diet of the inhabitants, causes the flock of horned cattle to be numerous; but the breed is not taken sufficient care of, rearing indiscriminately from all sorts of cows, few of the old country flock can now be found; they were short-legged, and thick bodied, and more remarkable for fatting than for giving a quantity of milk: Sixteen quarts per day, for three months after calving, being considered a very good produce, twelve quarts will be near the average return. The milk is of a rich quality, and is always set for cream before churning: twelve quarts of milk producing near two quarts of rich cream, will give one pound of butter of sixteen ounces. A few barrel churns are used on the larger farms, but the plunge churns are the most common. Butter is the chief object, as it meets with ready fare, and the milk an indispensable article in housekeeping On a few farms, having from twelve to twenty cows, cheese-making is practised. Fresh butter is sold in summer at five-pence per pound and in winter and spring as high as eight-pence; when fatted in crocks, it sells at six-pence and seven-pence. Between 800 and l000 crocks, containing 30 pounds each, on an average, are annually exported to England.
The cattle of this island are observed to require but a short time to fatten when either in choice pasture, or exported to England; but the country appears better adapted for rearing of stock than fatting. When fatted, their average weight is four score per quarter, and in proportion to that weight have forty pounds of tallow, and sixty pounds of hide.
Calving cows and heifers sell in the month of May from four to six guineas; dry cows and heifers, for fatting, from 31.15s. to 51; oxen from the plough, from five to six guineas, and usually leave with the grazier from 2l. 10s.to 31. 10s.
In October and November, the principal slaughtering months, beef fetches at market two-pence-halfpenny per pound, and gradually rises to four-pence in winter, and through the Spring till June, when the earliest grass fed beasts coming in, the price lowers again by degrees.
The Holderness breed hat been tried, but is not suited to the climate or grass. Cattle of a larger size than the stock of the island, have been imported from Scotland and Ireland; but on the whole, there are few well made cows, or capital milkers, in this country.
There being a great portion of heathy mountains in this island, a considerable number of sheep are kept; within these twenty years, one-third less than formerly, as the inclosed lands are more appropriated to cropping. Few farmers keep above one hundred, except on the uplands, as they are very difficult to prevent from climbing over the fences, which are in general made of earth. The ancient flock is very small and hardy, enduring the fevered weather with little loss; when fatted, their usual weight is from five to eight pounds per quarter, and the meat particularly well tasted. This is still the breed common on the upper farms and mountains, In the lower estates, the sheep, a mixture from Scotland and Ireland, are much larger, weighing, when fatted, from twelve to eighteen pounds. No choice flock of sheep is in the possession of any farmer in the country, and those whose weight would be about twelve pounds per quarter, seem to be the size best adapted to this island. The disorder called the Rot is scarcely known, but another prevails, occasioned by eating a particular weed, common in many pastures, called, in the language of the country, 0uw. The leaf of this herb destroys the liver, and causes the animal's death in the course of twelve months. On opening thesheep, this leaf is found attached to the liver, and transformed into an animal having apparent life and motion, and retaining its shape as an herb. Two pounds and a half may be the average weight of the smaller sized fleeces, and the larger rarely exceed seven pounds. It is not of the finest or longest staple, but the inhabitants make very strong cloth for their own clothing, As the custom of washing the sheep, previous to shearing, is not in practice, the wool is sold, far from being clean, from six-pence to eight-pence per pound. Almost every farmer reserves as much wool and flax as employs the female part of his family. There are sheep having wool of a colour thought peculiar to this island; a light brown, called in Manx Laughthon, Similar to the colour of Spanish snuff:: there are not accounted hardy, and are more difficult to fatten than the other sorts. The cloth manufactured of their wool, is liked much by the natives, and is the only reason why any of that breed is preserved.
Almost every cottager keeps one or two pigs, which makes their number considerable; they are reared on the offal of the houses, and run about the lanes, and are killed at ten or twelve months old. Potatoes and grains assist their keep in summer, and potatoes, whether boiled or raw, with some little corn, is the food used for fatting. Hams and bacon for the English market prove a great encouragement for this species of stock. The market price for fresh pork is two pence-halfpenny per pound, and for hams and bacon five pence. The average weight is fifty pounds per quarter.
Poultry is also numerous, not being annoyed by foxes, foumerts, or other vermin. Fowls fetch at market six-pence a piece, and weigh four pounds at an average. Geese are very common, but are considered disagreeable companions to cattle in pastures: where they can be conveniently reared, they are well attended to; their price is from one shilling to eighteen pence, and weigh fix or eight pounds. Turkeys and ducks are also plenty; a considerable quantity of poultry and eggs are sent to England.