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A Year's Residence in the United States of America: Vol 2
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COWS, SHEEP, HOGS, AND POULTRY.
293. Cows. — With respect to cows, need we any other facts than those of Mr. BYRD to prove how advantageous the Swedish turnip culture must be to those who keep cows in order to make butter and cheese. The greens come to supply the place of grass, and to add a month to the feeding on green food. They come just at the time when cows, in this country, are let go dry. It is too hard work to squeeze butter out of straw and corn stalks; and, if you could get it out, it would not, pound for pound, be nearly so good as lard, though it would be full as white. To give cows fine hay no man thinks of; and, therefore, dry they must be from November until March, though a good piece of cabbages added to the turnip greens would keep them on in milk to their calving time; or, 'till within a month of it at any rate. The bulbs of Swedish turnips are too valuable to give to cows; but the cabbages, which are so easily raised, may be made subservient to their use.
294. Sheep. — In the First Part I have said how I fed my sheep upon Swedish turnips. I have now only to add, that, in the case of early lambs for market, cabbages, and especially savoys, in February and March, would be excellent for the ewes. Sheep love green. In a turnip field, they never touch the bulb, till every bit of green is eaten. I would, therefore, for this purpose, have some cabbages, and, if possible, of the savoy kind.
295. Hogs. — This is the main object, when we talk of raising green and root crops, no matter how near to or how far from the spot where the produce of the farm is to be consumed. For, pound for pound, the hog is the most valuable animal; and, whether fresh or salted, is the most easily conveyed. Swedish turnips or cabbages or Mangel Wurzel will fatten an ox; but, that which would, in four or five months fatten the ox, would keep fifteen August Pigs from the grass going to the grass coming, on Long Island. Look at their worth in June, and compare it with the few dollars that you have got by fatting the ox; and look also at the manure in the two cases. A farmer, on this Island fatted two oxen last winter upon corn. He told me, after he had sold them, that, if he had given the oxen away, and sold the corn, he should have had more money in his pocket. But, if he had kept, through the winter, four or five summer pigs upon this corn, would they have eaten all his corn to no purpose? I am aware, that pigs get something at an ox-stable door; but, what a process is this!
296. My hogs are now living wholly upon Swedish turnip greens, and, though I have taken no particular pains about the matter, they look very well, and, for store hogs and sows, are as fat as I wish them to be. My English hogs are sleek, and fit for fresh pork; and all the hogs not only eat the greens but do well upon them. But, observe, I give them plenty three times a day. In the forenoon we get a good waggon load, and that is for three meals. This is a main thing, this plenty; and, the farmer must see to it with his OWN EYES; for, workmen are all starvers, except of themselves. I never had a man in my life, who would not starve a hog, if I would let him; that is to say, if the food was to be got by some labour. You must, therefore, see to this; or, you do not try the thing at all.
297. Turnip greens are, however, by no means equal to cabbages, or even to cabbage leaves. The cabbage, and even the leaf, is the fruit of the plant; which is not the case with the Turnip green. Therefore the latter must, especially when they follow summer cabbages, be given in greater proportionate quantities.
298. As to the bulb of the Swedish turnip, I have said enough, in the First Part, as food for hogs; and I should not have mentioned the matter again, had I not been visited by two gentlemen, who came on purpose (from a great distance) to see, whether hogs really would eat Swedish turnips! Let not the English farmers laugh at this; let them not imagine, that the American farmers are a set of simpletons on this account: for, only about thirty years ago, the English farmers would, not, indeed, have gone a great distance to ascertain the fact, but would have said at once, that the thing was false. It is not more than about four hundred years since the Londoners were wholly supplied with cabbages, spinage, turnips, carrots, and all sorts of garden stuff from Flanders. And now, I suppose, that one single parish in Kent grows more garden stuff than all Flanders. The first settlers came to America long and long before even the white turnip made its appearance in the fields in England. The successors of the first settlers trod in the foot-steps of their fathers. The communication with England did not bring out good English farmers. Books made little impression unaccompanied with actual experiments on the spot. It was reserved for the Boroughmongers, armed with gags, halters, and axes, to drive from England experience and public spirit sufficient to introduce the culture of the green and root crops to the fields of America.
299. The first gentleman, who came to see whether hogs would eat Swedish turnips saw some turnips tossed down on the grass to the hogs, which were eating sweet little loaved cabbages. However, they eat the turnips too before they left off. The second, who came on the afternoon of the same day, saw the hogs eat some bulbs chopped up, The hogs were pretty hungry, and the quantity of turnips small, and there was such a shoving and pushing about amongst the hogs to snap up the bits, that the gentleman observed, that they "liked them as well as corn."
300. In paragraph 134 I related a fact of a neighbour of mine in Hampshire having given his Swedish turnips, after they had borne seed, to some lean pigs, and had, with that food, made them fit for fresh pork, and sold them as such. A gentleman from South Carolina was here in July last, and I brought some of mine which had then borne seed. They were perfectly sound. The hogs ate them as well as if they had not borne seed. We boiled some in the kitchen for dinner; and they appeared as good as those eaten in the winter. This shews clearly how well this root keeps.
301. Now, these facts being, I hope, undoubted, is it not surprising, that, in many parts of this fine country, it is the rule to keep only one pig for every cow! The cow seems as necessary to the pig as the pig's mouth is necessary to his carcass. There are, for instance, six cows; therefore, when they begin to give milk in the spring, six pigs are set on upon the milk, which is given them with a suitable proportion of pot liquor (a meat pot) and of rye, or Indian, meal, making a diet far superior to that of the families of labouring men in England. Thus the pigs go on 'till the time when the cows (for want of moist food) become dry. Then the pigs are shut up, and have the new sweet Indian corn heaped into their stye till they are quite fat, being half fat, mind, all the summer long, as they run barking and capering about. Some times they turn sulky, however, and will not eat enough of the corn; and well they may, seeing that they are deprived of their milk. Take a child from its pap all at once, and you will find, that it will not, for a long while, relish its new diet. What a system! but if it must be persevered in, there might, it appears to me, be a great improvement made even in it; for, the labour of milking and of the subsequent operations, all being performed by women, is of great inconvenience. Better let each pig suck its adopted mother at once, which would save a monstrous deal of labour, and prevent all possibility of waste. There would be no slopping about; and, which is a prime consideration in a dairy system, there would be clean milking; for, it has been proved by DOCTOR ANDERSON, that the last drop is fourteen times as good as the first drop; and, I will engage, that the grunting child of the lowing mother would have that last drop twenty times a day, or would pull the udder from her body. I can imagine but one difficulty that can present itself to the mind of any one disposed to adopt this improve ment; and that is, the teaching of the pig to suck the cow. This will appear a difficulty to those only who think unjustly of the under standings of pigs: and, for their encourage ment, I beg leave to refer them to DANIEL'S RURAL SPORTS, where they will find, that, in Hampshire, Sir John Mildmay's gamekeeper, Toomer, taught a sow to point at partridges and other game; to quarter her ground like a pointer, to back the pointers, when she hunted with them, and to be, in all respects, the most docile pointer of the finest nose. This fact is true beyond all doubt. It is known to many men now alive. Judge, then, how easily a pig might be taught to milk a cow, and what a "saving of labour" this would produce!
302. It is strange what comfort men derive even from the deceptions which they practice upon themselves. The milk and fat pot-liquor and meal are, when put together, called, in Long Island, swill. The word comes from the farm houses in England, but it has a new meaning attached to it. There it means the mere wash; the mere drink given to store hogs. But, here it means rich fatting food. "There, friend Cobbett," said a gentleman to me, as we looked at his pigs, in September last, "do thy English pigs look better than these?" "No," said I, "but what do these live on?" He said he had given them all summer, "nothing but swill" "Aye," said I, "but what is swill?" It was, for six pigs, nothing at all, except the milk of six very fine cows, with a bin of shorts and meal always in requisition, and with the daily supply of liquor from a pot and a spit, that boils and turns without counting the cost.
303. This is very well for those who do not care a straw, whether their pork cost them seven cents a pound or half a dollar a pound; and, I like to see even the waste; because it is a proof of the easy and happy life of the farmer. But, when we are talking of profitable agriculture, we must examine this swill tub, and see what it contains. To keep pigs to a profit, you must carry them on to their fatting time at little expence. Milk comes from all the grass you grow and almost the whole of the dry fodder. Five or six cows will sweep a pretty good farm as clean as the turnpike road. Pigs, till well weaned must be kept upon good food. My pigs will always be fit to go out of the weaning stye at three months old. The common pigs require four months. Then out they go never to be fed again, except on grass, greens, or roots, till they arrive at the age to be fattened. If they will not keep themselves in growing order upon this food, it is better to shoot them at once. But, I never yet saw a hog that would not. The difference between the good sort and the bad sort, is, that the former will always be fat enough for fresh pork, and the latter will not; and that, in the fatting, the former will not require (weight for weight of animal) more than half the food that the latter will to make them equally fat.
304. Out of the milk and meal system another monstrous evil arises. It is seldom that the hogs come to a proper age before they are killed. A hog has not got his growth till he is full two years old. But, who will, or can, have the patience to see a hog eating Long-Island swill for two years? When a hog is only 15 or 16 months old, he will lay on two pounds of fat for every one pound that will, out of the same quantity of food, be laid on by an eight or ten months' pig. Is it not thus with every animal? A stout boy will be like a herring upon the very food that would make his father fat, or kill him. However, this fact is too notorious to be insisted on.
305. Then, the young meat is not so nutritious as the old. Steer-beef is not nearly so good as ox-beef. Young wether mutton bears the same proportion of inferiority to old wether mutton. And, what reason is there, that the principle should not hold good as to hog-meat? In Westphalia, where the fine hams are made, the hogs are never killed under three years old. In France, where I saw the fattest pork I ever saw, they keep their fatting hogs to the same age. In France and Germany, the people do not eat the hog, as hog: they use the hog to put fat into other sorts of meat. They make holes in beef, mutton, veal, turkeys and fowls, and, with a tin tube, draw in bits of fat hog, which they call lard, and, as it is all fat, hence comes it that we call the inside fat of a hog, lard. Their beef and mutton and veal would be very poor stuff without the aid of the hog; but, with that aid, they make them all exceedingly good. Hence it is, that they are induced to keep their hogs till they have quite done growing; and, though their sort of hogs is the very worst I ever saw, their hog meat was the very fattest. The common weight in Normandy and Brittany is from six to eight hundred pounds. But, the poor fellows there do not slaughter away as the farmers do here, ten or a dozen hogs at a time, so that the sight makes one wonder whence are to come the mouths to eat the meat. In France du lard is a thing to smell to, not to eat. I like the eating far better than the smelling system; but when we are talking about farming for gain, we ought to inquire how any given weight of meat can be obtained at the cheapest rate. A hog in his third year, would, on the American plan, suck half a dairy of cows perhaps; but, then, mind, he would, upon a third part of the fatting food, weigh down four Long Island "shuts" the average weight of which is about one hundred and fifty pounds.
306. A hog, upon rich food, will be much bigger at the end of a year, than a hog upon good growing diet; but, he will not be bigger at the end of two years, and especially at the end of three years. His size is not to be forced on, any more than that of a child, beyond a certain point.
307. For these reasons, if I were settled as a farmer, I would let my hogs have time to come to their size. Some sorts come to it at an earlier period, and this is amongst the good qualities of my English hogs; but, to do the thing well, even they ought to have two years to grow in.
308. The reader will think, that I shall never cease talking about hogs; but, I have now done, only I will add, that, in keeping hogs in a growing state, we must never forget their lodging! A few boards, flung carelessly over a couple of rails, and no litter beneath, is not the sort of bed for a hog. A place of suitable size, large rather than small, well sheltered on every side, covered with a roof that lets in no wet or snow. No opening, except a door-way big enough for a hog to go in; and the floor constantly well bedded with leaves of trees, dry, or, which is the best thing, and what a hog deserves, plenty of clean straw. When I make up my hogs' lodging place for winter, I look well at it, and consider, whether, upon a pinch, I could, for once and away, make shift to lodge in it myself. If I shiver at the thought, the place is not good enough for my hogs. It is not in the nature of a hog to sleep in the cold. Look at them. You will see them, if they have the means, cover themselves over for the night. This is what is done by neither horse, cow, sheep, dog nor cat. And this should admonish us to provide hogs with warm and comfortable lodging. Their sagacity in providing against cold in the night, when they have it in their power to make such provision, is quite wonderful. You see them looking about for the warmest spot: then they go to work, raking up the litter so as to break the wind off; and when they have done their best, they lie clown. I had a sow that had some pigs running about with her in April last. There was a place open to her on each side of the barn. One faced the east and the other the west; and, I observed, that she sometimes took to one side and sometimes to the other. One evening her pigs had gone to bed on the east side. She was out eating till it began to grow dusk. I saw her go into her pigs, and was surprised to see her come out again; and therefore, looked a little to see what she was after. There was a high heap of dung in the front of the barn to the south. She walked up to the top of it, raised her nose, turned it very slowly, two or three times, from the north-east to the north-west, and back again, and at last, it settled at about south-east, for a little bit. She then came back, marched away very hastily to her pigs, roused them up in a great bustle, and away she trampled with them at her heels to the place on the west side of the barn. There was so little wind, that I could not tell which way it blew, till I took up some leaves, and tossed them in the air. I then found, that it came from the precise point which her nose had settled at. And thus was I convinced, that she had come out to ascertain which way the wind came, and, finding it likely to make her young ones cold in the night, she had gone and called them up, though it was nearly dark, and taken them off to a more comfortable birth. Was this an instinctive, or was it a reasoning proceeding? At any rate, let us not treat such animals as if they were stocks and stones.
309. POULTRY. — I merely mean to observe, as to poultry, that they must be kept away from turnips and cabbages, especially in the early part of the growth of these plants. When turnips are an inch or two high a good large flock of turkeys will destroy an acre in half a day, in four feet rows. Ducks and geese will do the same. Fowls will do great mischief. If these things cannot be kept out of the field, the crop must be abandoned, or the poultry killed. It is true, indeed, that it is only near the house that poultry plague you much: but, it is equally true, that the best and richest land is precisely that which is near the house, and this, on every account, whether of produce or application, is the very land where you ought to have these crops.