Domestic Encyclopædia (1802)/Cattle

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CATTLE are those quadrupeds, which serve either for tilling the ground, or as food for man. They are divided into black cattle, which comprise horses, oxen, bulls, cows, and their young; and into small cattle, that is, rams, ewes, lambs, goats, &c.

Having incidentally treated on some of the animals that are classed under this denomination, we shall confine our present account to the management of cattle in general; pointing out such vegetables, as may be given them with advantage, together with a few supplementary rules, to be observed in the breeding of these useful animals, and some observations on the most common distempers to which they are peculiarly liable.

I. With respect to food.

The first object in the article of food, is wholesomeness: wild cattle feed entirely on the green vegetables, which they find throughout the year. Similar nutriment should therefore, if possible, be procured for tame cattle, in all seasons; but such food can be found only among those plants, which are either constantly green, or arrive at maturity in the winter. Of all vegetable productions, the most exuberant, for this purpose, appears to be the cabbage, with its numerous varieties, of which we have already spoken: the disagreeable taste, which that plant is supposed to impart to milk, can be no reasonable objection to its use; as it may be obviated by boiling, or, still more effectually, by preparing it in certain vessels, of which we shall give a description, with a cut, under the head of Root-Steamer.

Turnips and carrots constitute the next article, and cannot be too forcibly recommended, especially as a winter food. So very great is the produce of the latter plant, that, according to the account of Mr. Arthur Young, twenty work-horses, four bullocks, and six milch-cows, were fed at Partington, in Yorkshire, for above five months, with carrots, the produce of three acres; nor did they, during that period, taste any other food, except a little hay. The milk, he farther adds, was excellent, and the refuse fattened thirty hogs, with very little additional food.

Potatoes and buck-wheat furnish a supply, equally excellent and wholesome. Horses are particularly fond of the latter, which also fattens poultry very speedily, while its blossoms afford a fragrant food for bees, at a period when the vegetable creation is, for the most part, stripped of its verdure. To these may be added, the plant, called whins, the utility of which, has but lately become generally known. They require, it is true, to be ground in a mill, before they are given to cattle, and do not materially ameliorate the ground, a circumstance considered as an objection to their culture; but, notwithstanding these apparent disadvantages, they produce an excellent and invigorating fodder, and constitute one of the cheapest articles of winter provision; as they continue green during the whole year, and will grow on the most indifferent soils.

Burnet, white beet, the Manged Wurzel, or root of scarcity, having been already mentioned, it is unnecessary again to point out their utility in feeding cattle.

There is another branch of the vegetable creation, usually denominated grasses, which contain a variety of species, that are particularly useful for this purpose, such as the Festuca ovina, or sheep's fescue; the Festuca rubra, creeping, or purple fescue; and the Holcus lanatus, meadow soft-grass; the physical properties of which, we shall notice hereafter. To this number belongs likewise the Astragalus glycyphillos, sweet milk-vetch, or wild liquorice-vetch, or milk-wort, as it is differently called; which, independently of its utility in affording a wholesome and nutritious winter-fodder, deserves every attention from the cultivator, as it will flourish luxuriantly on the most barren soil.— The Lathyrus Aphaca and pratensis, yellow vetchling, and everlasting tare; several species of trefoil and clover; the purple, or everlasting bush vetch, and the everlasting pea, all are most excellent fodder for cattle.—Fir-tops, that is, the tender shoots of firs, though not generally known, also constitute an useful substitute. A remarkable instance of this fact occurs in the fifth volume of the Bath Society Papers, where an ingenious correspondent mentions, that, being greatly in want of provender, having very little, or no hay, he was obliged to feed his cattle on fir-tops. And, though he had upwards of 400 head of horned cattle, yet he did not lose above four or five; while many farmers and graziers, who lived in the same county, lost one-half, and several of them almost their whole stock. Hence we seriously recommend farther trials to be made with this article, which, in our opinion, promises a wholesome and invigorating food, and might, in a short time, be procured without employing large quantities of land for the growing of winter provision.

The last vegetable that peculiarly merits attention, as affording a proper food for cattle, is the Trifolium Melilotus officinalis, L. common melilot, which frequently calls forth all the patience of the industrious cultivator; but which, from being a noxious weed, may become an inestimable resource. This plant has been given, both in a green and dry state, to horses, bullocks, asses, goats, and sheep, all of which have eaten it eagerly; it has also been allowed to pigs, which, however, relished it only while green. Let it suffice to observe, for the present, that, as the melilot grows on the worst soils, where it spreads like a shrub, and rises to the height of from three to five feet, great advantages may be obtained by planting it in desolate and barren places.

In enumerating the various vegetables which appear to be the most beneficial food for cattle, we have necessarily avoided entering into any particular details concerning their culture; because some of them have already been, and the rest will be, hereafter, noticed in their alphabetical series.

II. The breeding of cattle.

The English cattle are divided into several classes, or breeds, denominated from the different counties in which they are reared; as the Lincolnshire and Holderness, which are distinguished for their size; the Welsh and Norfolk breeds, which are as remarkable for their lean, and wretched appearance, as the Lancashire and Herefordshire are for their beautiful and healthy look. Besides these, there are several others, as the Sussex, Devonshire, or Somersetshire, which, though fine cattle, do not attract that attention, which is generally, and deservedly, paid to the Lancashire and Herefordshire breeds. The former of these is particularly celebrated for the improvements made by the late ingenious Mr. Bakewell, of whose mode of breeding we have already given a concise account, pp. 337 and 338.

There was a remarkable peculiarity in Mr. Bakewell's cattle; namely, their uncommon docility and meekness, which were so great, that a boy with a switch could, without any difficulty, conduct them from one part of his farm to another. This gentleness was the effect of management, and evinces the superiority of his mode of breeding. While we admire and acknowledge its excellence, we cannot but advert to the mischief which is frequently done by horned cattle, and doubtless arises from very contrary practices. Such injurious consequences, however, might be prevented by tipping, that is, by sawing off the points of the horns of cows, bulls, and oxen, and fixing on them small knobs of wood, about three inches in diameter; then boring a hole through the horn and wood, and clinching a nail on the opposite side. Although, by this precaution, the horns are in a manner despoiled of their beauty, yet, when compared with the advantage resulting from it, this trifling loss cannot be regretted.

Concerning that fatal disorder, the rot in sheep, Mr. Bakewell was particularly attentive to its origin and progress: he found, from experience, that it was generated solely by floods. When, therefore, particular parcels of his best breed were past service, he fattened them for the butcher; and to be certain that they would be killed, and not go into other hands, he used "to rot them" before they were sold. This singular practice appears to have been the offspring of jealousy: it was effected by overflowing a pasture, or meadow, in summer; as the soil thus inundated inevitably rots all the sheep that feed on it, the succeeding autumn.

In the breeding of stallions for obtaining cart-horses, Mr. Bakewell was also particularly successful; by observing the same rules of proportion as we have mentioned under the article "Black Cattle;" and making them in like manner docile and gentle. His economical plan of feeding the latter with turnips, cannot be sufficiently recommended to every industrious breeder. All these roots were carted to the stalls, by which one acre went as far as three. With respect to the saving of straw, he observed similar care; for, by giving it to his lean beasts in small quantities, he preserved their appetite sufficiently keen to make them eat clean, and thus prevented an unnecessary waste for litter; which is but too prevalent among agriculturists. Nor was his hay consumed in a careless and extravagant manner; the same economical management that was conspicuous in other departments of his agricultural concerns, also prevailed here; and the measures he pursued, to ensure as large a quantity as possible at all seasons, display an ingenuity and spirit of husbandry that rarely occur. This great object was effected by watering his meadows (which were situated near a small brook), by means of cuts that intersect them, and convey water to those parts which are at a distance from the brook; and by making others for carrying off the water, after it had flowed the land. These various works, which were completed at a considerable expence, notwithstanding the disdain and censure of his neighbours, enabled Mr. Bakewell to float from sixty to eighty acres of land at pleasure; and he found his labours crowned with the most ample success; as no other annual manuring was required. Instead of thistles, ridges, furrows, holes, hills, &c. that are a disgrace to any farmer, those ciumning meadows present fine level crops of hay, and beautiful verdure, redeeming the highest credit on his character, as an enlightened, and public-spirited agriculturist.

The Herefordshire breed above-mentioned, appear to be a mixture of the Welsh, and a spurious race of long-horned cattle. Mr. Campbell, of Charlton, in Kent, however, is of opinion, that the true Herefordshire cattle, with respect to kindly disposition for feeding, or delicacy of flesh, is not more than enual to the true-bred Sussex; though the former are more complete in their make, generally wider and fuller over the shoulders or fore chine, and the breast or brisket, also in the after-part of the rump, which is much oftener narrow and shelly in the latter. In short, the cattle of Herefordshire are, in the opinion of the most experienced farmers, considered as the best in England for oxen, the dairy, and for fattening.

Besides the rules we have already stated, under the head of Breeding, we shall in this place observe, that cattle may be much improved by crossing the strain, or breed; which is said to be attended with the most beneficial consequences. This practice, though ridiculed by some prejudiced farmers, is nevertheless sanctioned by the opinion and long experience of many successful breeders, and especially the late Mr. Bakewell; who has recommended the propagating from the old breed, only, till a better could be procured.

In keeping live-stock on grain, as well as grass-farms, their kinds, size, and number, in proportion to the means of subsistence, deserve unremitted attention; as likewise the modes of keeping them, and saving their manure. It is asserted, that English cows require, in general, from one to two acres of pasture: this is mostly made, by sowing grass-seeds after the ground has produced crops for many years, being both ameliorated and exhausted under manurings and good tillage. Such land continues several years afterwards in grass, which is carefully cleared of brambles and strong weeds. During this time, the cows drop their dung, which is exposed on the ground, to be exhausted by the united effects of the sun and wind; and which, according to the old system, is supposed to benefit the soil in a considerable degree. But the good effects of this irregular method of fertilizing our pastures is, in a great measure, counteracted by the continual treading of the cattle; and we have every reason to hope that such wasteful and unprofitable modes of manuring will sooner or latter be relinquished, and better practices be generally adopted.—See Irrigation.

The plan which prevails at present, is attended with this advantage, that rich grass-pasture will keep grown cattle at the rate of 1 1/3 of an acre per head, during the six warmer months; and common pasture, at the rate of two acres each. Thus, they require very little attention; and, as they range at pleasure, and drop their manure on the held, the expence and labour of heaping up, carting out, and spreading it, are entirely saved. On the other hand, by the cattle treading on the grass and pasture, the value of the latter is much diminished. Besides, pastures require expensive fences; the dung being scattered on the ground, is exposed to exhalation and waste, by the joint action of the sun and weather, and is thus greatly reduced: to this must be added the time and trouble bestowed on driving horses and oxen to the field, and thence to the stable or stall. These inconveniencies may, however, be obviated, and the cattle supported at less expence, by soiling them, a practice now becoming general in this country, and which cannot be too strongly recommended. By this means, very few or no division-fences are required: instead of 1 1/3 of an acre, one-fourth part will suffice for the subsistence of a beast during the six warmer months; the whole of their manure is well preserved, and given to the soil, where it is most wanted, and in the best condition; the land is not trodden in, and the cattle always ready for immediate rise. They are also kept more cool, are less tormented by flies than if pastured, acquire good coats, and full flesh; though they consume a much smaller quantity of food. Many persons, however, may object to the laying aside of division-fences, that bad seasons will happen, when no grass can be cut and carried in, on account of heavy rains, or cold winds which retard its growth; and, consequently, that it will be requisite to have some fields divided off, in which the cattle may find pasturage. To these it may be answered, that it will always be found a more safe and profitable plan to keep a quantity of hay in store, to meet the contingencies of unfavourable seasons, and to feed beasts in the manner practised in towns, where they frequently are kept on hay and straw, during the whole year, and thrive exceedingly well.

Much, however, depends in the fattening of cattle, on their "thriving disposition:" singular as it may appear to many of our readers, the tendency of animals to become fat, is not a little promoted by what is called, sweating them; a practice which has been attended with uncommon success. This has been particularly experienced by the ingenious Mr. Moody, who asserts, that the hotter cattle are kept, the better they will fatten. He, therefore, shuts them up in an ox-house, and for some time admits no air to enter through the holes of the doors. The breath of so many beasts, and the heat of their bodies, soon make them sweat exceedingly, and when this is at its highest point, they most speedily fatten. After sweating two weeks, all the hair falls off, a fresh coat appears, and they sweat no more: but those beasts which do not sensibly perspire, seldom grow fat.

Linseed oil-cake remarkably contributes to the fattening of cattle, and renders their dung much richer than any other vegetable aliment; but, as this article is advancing in price, and difficult to be procured, it has lately been superseded by linseed-jelly, which is incomparably superior, and, when given with hay or meal, makes an excellent mixture for stall-fattening. It is prepared as follows: To seven parts of water put one of linseed, which has been previously steeped for 48 hours; then boil it gently for two hours, stirring the mass continually, to prevent it from burning. It should afterwards be cooled in tubs, and mixed with meal, bran, or cut chaff. Mr. Moody gave two quarts of this jelly every day to each large bullock, which amounts to little more than one quart of seed in four days, and is a great saving in the article of food.

Having already, in the articles Black Cattle and Bullocks, stated the most proper method of fattening cattle, we refer the reader to those heads, and proceed to discuss the last section of this subject.

III. The Diseases of Cattle.

No distemper is perhaps more common among these useful animals, than that of being swoln, that is, blown or hoven, as it is termed by farmers. It arises either from their being exposed to damp situations, or from eating too greedily of any succulent food, such as turnips, clover, particularly red clover, which is a dangerous food for horned cattle; for, when wetted by dew or rain, it may prove a destructive poison. For this fatal malady, various remedies have been tried, with more or less success, of which we shall select the most effectual and expeditious. The general practice is, to make an incision with a penknife in the body of the affected animal, in order to give vent to the confined air: the wound is then covered with a common or adhesive plaster, to prevent external cold from penetrating it; and thus the danger, in general, is speedily removed. But, where it is practicable, it surely behoves us to employ more gentle remedies for the alleviation of this disorder: we, therefore, extract with satisfaction, the following recipe from the 33d volume of the Annals of Agriculture; where it is announced as a specific for hoven cattle, even in the most desperate cases; effecting a cure within the short space of half an hour.—Take three quarters of a pint of olive oil; one pint of melted butter, or hog's lard; give this mixture by means of a horn or bottle; and if it does not produce a favourable change in a quarter of an hour, repeat the same quantity, and walk the animal gently about. For sheep attacked with this malady, the dose is, from a wine glass and a half to two glasses.—Besides these remedies, instruments have been invented for the purpose of relieving blown cattle: two of these contrivances we shall describe, as being particularly distinguished for the ingenuity of their construction, and the speedy relief they afford. The first is a flexible tube, invented by the celebrated Dr. Munro, Professor of Anatomy at Edinburgh: it consists of iron wire, about one sixteenth of an inch in diameter, twisted round a rod three eighths of an inch in diameter, and made of polished iron, in order to give it a cylindrical form; the wire, after being taken off the rod, should be covered with smooth leather. To the end of the tube, which is intended to be passed into the stomach, a brass pipe two inches long, of the same size, or rather larger than the tube, is to be firmly connected: and to prevent the tube from bending too much within the mouth, or gullet, an iron wire, one eighth of an inch in diameter, and of the same length as the tube, is put within it, but afterwards withdrawn, when the tube has entered the stomach.—As Dr. Munro has ascertained, that the distance from the foreteeth to the bottom of the first stomach of a large ox, is about six feet, the tube ought, therefore, to be at least two yards long, that it may operate effectually in the largest oxen. When the instrument has been introduced into the stomach, it may remain there for any length of time, as it does not obstruct the respiration of the animal: the greater part of the condensed air will be speedily discharged through the tube; and, should any ardent spirits, or other liquor calculated to check the fermentation, be deemed necessary, it may be safely injected through this pipe. In short, the flexible tube here described, has been found of infinite service in saving the lives of cattle, and especially of sheep, when subject to similar disorders, or any other swelling peculiar to these creatures.

Domestic Encyclopedia 1802 vol1 p499.jpg
Another Instrument for relieving hoven cattle and sheep, is that contrived by Mr. Richard Eager, of Graffham farm, near Guildford. Its peculiar simplicity, and great utility, have induced us to subjoin the following representation.

A, A, is the knob of wood, and part of the cane to which it is fastened, of a proper size for oxen: the length of the cane should be at least six feet.

B, B, is the knob of wood and part of the cane, calculated for sheep, and the length of which ought to be about three feet.

When any beast is blown or hoven, Mr. Eager directs a person to lay hold of it by the nostril, and one horn, while an assistant steadily holds its tongue with one hand, and pushes the cane down its throat with the other. Care, however, should be taken, not to let the animal get the knob of the cane between his grinders, and also to thrust it down far enough; because its whole length will do no injury. As there will be found an obstacle at the entrance of the paunch, the cane must be pushed with additional force; and, as soon as a smell is observed to proceed from that place, and the animal's body sinks, the cure is performed, and Nature will complete the rest.

Mr. Eager justly attributes this disorder to the superabundance of air introduced into the stomach, by eating too large quantities of succulent food, which occasions a greater than natural portion of wind to ascend from the paunch of the beast. This forces the broad leaves before the passage, at the entrance of the stomach; and these leaves prevent the wind from passing upwards in its regular course. Thus the paunch immediately begins to swell; the heat of the body rarefies the air, so rapidly as to impede the circulation of the blood, and the animal, whether bullock or sheep, unless instantaneous relief be procured, expires in half an hour.

In justice to Mr. Eager, we cannot omit to mention, that the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, &c. in 1796, voted to him a reward of fifty guineas, for communicating to the public his simple, yet effectual, method of relieving cattle thus dangerously affected; and that the Earl of Egremont has candidly testified his conviction of the propriety of the principles on which Mr. Eager's opinion, relative to the cause of that distemper, was established. In short, several respectable persons have farther attested, that the practice, also, has been attended with complete success.

There are various other distempers, to which the farmer's live-stock are frequently subject; such as the worms, or botts in horses (see p. 318), the mildew, murrain, quarter-evil, rot, scab, &c. among different species of cattle. With respect to the nature and cure of these, we refer to the order of the alphabet: such of our readers, however, as may wish for more minute information, on the subject of cattle, will probably be gratified by the perusal of Mr. Culley's "Observations on Live-Stock," (8vo. 4s. 6d.); a small work that was published a few years since, and is believed to possess considerable merit.

Before we conclude this interesting article of national importance, we shall add a few general remarks, tending chiefly to preserve the health, and improve the physical properties of cattle. It is admitted, by all enlightened breeders, that cleanliness is one of the most essential requisites to the prosperity of those animals; and we may venture to add that, in this respect, a degree of attention ought to be paid, little inferior to that bestowed on the human frame. Hence, frequent washing, especially after hard labour; friction with proper brushes, and curry-combs, gentle walking after a fatiguing journey; and the immediate removal of litter, both from the stalls, and farm-yards, should not be neglected. But, alas! let us look around, in the vicinity of London, and inspect the filthy situation of cows, in general, which are kept in a state worse than hackney coach-horses, for the sole purpose of giving the greatest possible quantity of milk, without regarding its quality—every judicious person will shudder at the picture. And yet, we derive from these beneficent brutes a considerable part of our daily sustenance, especially for children, and those persons whose organs of digestion have not been impaired by the habitual use of fermented, spirituous, or intoxicating liquors. See Milk.

In a preceding part of this work (p. 276), we have pointed out the great necessity of supplying Black Cattle with sufficient quantities of common salt; and, for the reasons already stated, we are of opinion, that all kinds of cattle, especially sheep, would be much benefited by the continual use of this simple and natural spice, which eminently conduces to the digestion of succulent vegetables, and is almost a specific for preventing the effects of flatulence. Salt cannot be given in excess: it is affirmed, that it enables the farmer to increase his live-stock; as it augments the nourishment of the food eaten, in proportion to the quantity of saline matter. It is also said greatly to improve the wool in quality, as well as quantity. Hence it ought to be freely given to sheep, and cattle of every description: but, to imitate Nature, it should be previously dissolved, and then mixed with a pure, fine clay, in a mass, which is to be placed under shelter, so that animals may lap it at pleasure: such is the process which the unprejudiced grazier will be disposed to adopt.—Lastly, Mr. Bordley, the American, relates a fact worthy the attention of British farmers. About sixty years ago, he learnt, from a country farrier, that, "once or twice a week, giving salt to horses, effectually secures them against botts;"—ever since that period, he has experienced the good effects of this management; and adds that, during twenty years residence on his farm, at Wye, in Maryland, he always kept upwards of fifty horses on the banks of a river, containing salt-water, and never met with a single instance of that disease.