« PreviousContinue »
It seems that in this state, so far as our experience goes, we are limited to a very few varieties of grasses for permanent pastures. I place at the
I head of these, blue grass, (poa pratense) then orchard grass, and for rich wet soils, red-top; which latter is a much better grass than is generally supposed by farmers. These three varieties have the merit of "staying; and they are, so far as I know, the only good varieties yet tried in Ohio, that will not run out.
In selecting the grass for pasture, as well as its management, of course very much depends upon the character of the soil. The blue grass will, and does grow in all parts of Ohio that I am acquainted with, though it
I does best usually upon the limestone soils; having a surface root, it is not adapted to light soils, and suffers great injury on any soil from hot, dry weather, if pastured close. In this respect the orchard grass is superior to it, the roots going much deeper. Indeed this grass stands dry weather as well as clover.
The orchard grass does not cover the ground as well as the blue grass, though when it is pastured it is much better in this particular than in meadow. The best pastures are produced by sowing both these grasses together. It is also recommended that red clover should be added, and perhaps timothy; not that either of these latter will remain in the pasture, but I have observed that the effect of the clover roots in loosening and enriching the soil, adds greatly to the growth af the blue grass. And the timothy will afford some pasture for a few years, and until the blue grass spreads so as to occupy the ground.
There has of late been considerable discussion as to the merits of perma nent pastures as compared with those that are frequently cultivated. The differences of opinion upon this subject probably arise from observations upon different soils. Undoubtedly a rich soil, well adapted to the produo tion of grass, like some of the black lands in the counties of Marion, Union, or Madison, or the bottom lands on any of our streams, will produce better grass, and in all respects more profitable returns as pasture lands, where they are never plowed; aud upon such soils the practice cannot be too highly recommended.
But upon heavy clay lands there can be no doubt but that an occasional breaking up, so as to expose the stiff sub-soil to the action of the sun and the frost, is absolutely necessary. I appreciate the force of the argument that these soils from the leaves and other vegetable matter that have been deposited for hundreds of years, have in their natural state a richer surface than we can ever give them after we have broken them up. All this is very true; but it is also true "that a soil that is not penetrated by air can never, however rich in the food of plants, produce a good crop.”
With deep cultivation, the application of manure and clover, most of our clay lands may be brought into condition, if drained, for permanent * pastures. And upon these soils, for the reason that our object must be in all our proceedings, to loosen the soil so as to admit the air, whenever we sow to grass, whether it be for meadow or pasture, we must add clover to our mixture of seeds.
It is surprising how much farmers lose by thin sowing. It is a common practice to sow but a bushel of timothy to eight acres; which is certainly not more than half the quantity that should be applied. Suppose this seed to cost three dollars, or if a proper mixture of seed, say five dollars; by adding as much more, we make the cost of the seed but one dollar and seventy-five cents per acre; which would be far less than the difference in value in a single year, between a thick crop of grass, covering well the ground, and such thin crops as we generally see. But should the seed, by procuring the best varieties and a suitable quantity, cost twice this amount, the sum, when a permanent pasture is to be established, would be a matter of no consequence in comparison of the benefits to be derived from proper seeding.
If from any cause the grass comes up thin, or we have bare spots, we must apply the harrow and more seed immediately, for it will never pay to wait until the grass spreads, for we shall thus lose many times the expense of the application of more seed, lose indeed more than it would be worth to plow up and sow over again.
I doubt the policy of top dressing old pastures, as practiced with us. On rich soils it is not necessary, on stiff clays, for the reasons already stated, if the pastures fail, they should be broken up; and the application of manure on the surface then, with the seed, will be productive of the best results. On light sandy soils the application on the surface is a good practice.
The advantage of keeping our pastures always up to a "full bite" for the cattle, cannot be overestimated. Without this the stock cannot be kept at the highest point of improvement, as they always should be to give the most profitable results. But a consideration equally important is the fact that a given quantity of land will produce far more pasture when the grass is thus up, so as to protect the ground from the heat of our dry summers.
The State of Ohio has about 2,000,000 of cattle, of which about 300,000 are annnally disposed of as fat cattle. If these latter were all pure bred or high grades, it is obvious that their aggregate value would be very largely increased; probably $10 per head would be a low estimate of the value of such improvement, which would give an aggregate annual value to the wealth of the State of THREE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS.
And yet notwithstanding the fact that cattle breeders could so easily add this immense amount to their annual profits, it is probable that efforts to accomplish this improvement are not as efficient now as they were a few years ago. We have fewer thoroughbred cattle now than we had in 1860.
A few spirited breeders in the Scioto and Miami valleys have, at different periods made large importations of the best cattle that could be procured: The liberality of these gentlemen furnished us ample means for the improvement of our stock throughout the State.
But for want of sufficient encouragement to make the breeding of these magnificent animals profitable, it has been to a great extent abandoned, so that the number of large herds of thorough bred cattle are very limited. It was not to be expected, nor did these importers anticipate, that all the farmers of the State would become broeders of thorough bred stock; but looking to the fact that short horn bulls could be profitably bred at about one hundred dollars each, and that if bred to 50 common cows at the price of-only $3 00 each, the price and expense of keeping would be made in two years, that all thrifty men who kept bulls at all would as a matter of self interest, procure thorough bred animals. As has been already shown, this price for the service of a bull would be returned three fold in the increased value of the progeny, even for breeding steers for beef.
The influence of these importations in improving our stock has been very great, and if cattle breeders generally were to avail themselves, of the opportunity now within the reach of all, of using thoroughbred bulls, the improvement would soon become universal, and the breeders of this stock would be encouraged to maintain the excellence of their herds.
But without such encouragement there is reason to fear that in the course of a few years our thoroughbred herds will be all broken up. Should this take place it will not be long before all the benefits derived by the infusion of this Wood into our common stock will entirely disappear. “Blood will tell,” it is true, but only so long as we have pure bred animals to resort to; the blood in the grades will soon "run out,” if they are bred together and to common stock. It is much cheaper for a person engaged in the ordinary business of farming to purchase a bull, say at $100, than to breed him. To breed this stock and maintain its excellence, requires a peculiar taste and skill, very close attention and considerable capital. It should be a business by itself; and to succeed well at it, a man must, to a great extent, make it a speciality. The superiority of English stock has been established, and is now maintained by this practice We find breeders there who have been all their lives devoted to this business; and from these the farmers have purchased and hired breeding bulls, until a large majority of the good cattle of the kingdom have a strong infusion of short horn blood.
What are the small number who still continue the business of breeding thoroughbred stock in Ohio to do? I know they have been seriously con- . sidering the propriety of abandoning it entirely. In proportion to the amount of capital invested their profits have been much less than has been realized by those who have purchased pure bred bulls and bred them to good common and grade cows. Still I think a man who has thoroughbred stock, who breeds only for the common purposes of producing beef and milk, can make it pay to keep them. I do not say that the breed can be kept up to its maximum excellence without a larger expenditure than would be justified if sales were only made for these common purposes. For in order to keep up such a herd it will be necessary frequently to purchase the best bulls that can be had, and these, though there is very little general demand, are not obtainable at less than from $500 to $1,000. In a herd of this sort no cow should be retained that is not good in all useful points; and as the superiority of the short horns over all other breeds, consists in the combination of the two great requisites of excellence for beef and milk, no cow should be used that is an inferior milker.
Many of the calves, therefore, must be consigned to the butcher, and the best only retained as breeders. These until they arrive at maturity must be so liberally fed as to continue all the time in rapid growth, for this thrifty habit will, as we have seen, be inherited by the progeny. They should not be kept too fat, and especially should breeders be careful to guard against this in adult bulls. This condition is injurious to their health and vigor, and will be likely injuriously to affect their offspring.
Breeding ought not to be commenced until the animals, male and female, are nearly full grown, and should not be continued after age has began to effect their condition and to reduce their flesh. In-and-in breeding should be avoided.
It is better to breed to a good animal that is closely related than to breed to an inferior one that is not. But the practice cannot be long continued without producing the most injurious consequences.
A few eminent breeders in England adopted the practice, not however, as some modern writers now insist, that it was the better practice, but under the pretence that they could not get animals out of their own herds of equal excellence. The modern theory on this subject is opposed to com. mon sense and contradicted by experience. It is not true that the practice produces uniformity which is the main argument urged in favor of its
adoption. Many of the animals of C. Colling and Bakewell were striking illustrations of the truth of this statement, and their entire herds were less uniform than those of other good breeders who avoided the system, Whether the progeny of two animals that are bred together will inherit their characteristics will depend upon whether these characteristics have been for a long time exhibited with uniformity in the ancestors of each, and not at all upon their being related to each other. If the two be alike and of the same breed, and their ancestors have been of uniform characteristics, their produce will be more likely to be so, than if the parents were closely related.
Indeed long continued in-breeding will not only injuriously affect the constitution and tend to produce barrenness, but will frequently produce monsters, animals wholly unlike their parents, and exhibiting characteristics totally different from the breed to which they belong. I mention in illustration, the well known Longhorn bull Shakespeare. Mr. Bakewell's bull D. was got by a son of Twopenny, out of a daughter and sister of the same bull, she being the produce of his own dam. Shakespeare was got by D. out of a daughter of Twopenny. What were the characteristics of this animal thus closely in-bred? Mr. Marshall gives the following descrip
“ Though bred in the manner that has been mentioned, he scarcely inherits a single point of the longhorned breed, his horns excepted; his head, chop and neck remarkably fine; his chest extraordinarily deep; his brisket down to his knees; his chine thin, and rising above the shoulder points, leaving a hollow on each side behind them; his loin of course narrow at the chine, but remarkably broad at the hips, which protuberate in a singular manner; his quarters long in reality, but in appearance short, occasioned by a singular formation of the rumps. At first sight it appears as if the tail, which stands forward, had been severed from the vertebræ by the chop of a cleaver, one of the vertebræ extracted and the tail forced up to make good the joint; an appearance, which, on examining is found to be occasioned by some remarkable wreathes of fat formed around the setting on of the tail. *
His horns apart, he had every point of a Holderness or Teeswater bull. Could his horns have been changed he would have passed in Yorkshire as an ordinary bull of either of those breeds. His two ends would have been thought tolerably good, but his middle very deficient,” &c.
Many other instances might be given showing similar but not such remarkable results from this system of breeding. This system at first seems to increase the fattening qualities and to reduce the size of the bones-the produce appears in all respects finer and rather smaller ; but after several