Feeding Sheep with Potatoes, and Soiling Cattle recommended.
I HAVE selected two extracts for insertion in the present month's Register, upon subjects, which I think are deserving the attention of every landholder.
The first, "On Feeding Sheep with Potatoes," shews that potatoes were particularly serviceable to ewes and lambs "at a trying season;" that bullocks and sheep, although they had plenty of good hay within reach, preferred the potatoes : which were given to the cattle raw, unwashed, and whole. These are valuable facts ; since they prove decisively that the extension of the potatoe culture is an excellent means of guarding against losses in cattle and sheep "in trying seasons;" (as seasons of drought undoubtedly are) against which it has not been the practice here, as in England, to make any provision.
The paper on feeding sheep further teaches, that five bushels of potatoes, given every morning to 100 sheep, and afterwards turning them out to pasture (instead of fresh straw twice a day) might be sufficient to keep them in good condition ; but as English sheep are much larger than those of this island, even half the above quantity might be a vast benefit : and in this case two bushels and a half would suffice for a hundred sheep ; being a daily allowance of about a pound and a half to each. At this rate, supposing an acre to yield, from the two crops annually, 400 bushels : these are equivalent to 16,000 daily rations ; or sufficient for more than 40 sheep throughout the year.
Surely this application of one acre of potatoes on a farm would be profitable in many points of view ; the sheep would no doubt be improved by an increase in flesh ; the milk of the ewes would be more abundant ; the lambs would of course thrive better ; and the practice of home-feeding would soon tame the whole of the flocks ; and particularly "the common sheep," which are, at present, a great nuisance throughout the island ; besides, by littering the feeding yard with coarse grass, or straw, &c. a considerable quantity of valuable manure would be obtained, that would amply repay the trouble and expense ; and would be of great value in restoring exhausted lands. When all these circumstances are considered, it must be admitted that the practice of feeding with potatoes would be extremely beneficial. If it were once introduced, it would soon convince the landholders, that however extensive the culture, there could never be any want of consumers, even should there be a disappointment in the sale. One of our potatoe farmers, some time ago, assured me he had lost five hundred bushels, which had rotted, as there was no demand for them. I did not pity him ; because if he had been in the habit of feeding his servants and cattle at that time, in the manner here proposed, or of lowering and suiting his prices to the market, such a loss could never have happened.
The paper in question further proves that potatoe grounds are an excellent preparation, as I have formerly noticed, for crops both of barley and wheat.
The second Paper "On Soiling Cattle," is at present not so applicable to the state of this island as the first : but it contains much useful information, and may possibly induce our cultivators to turn their attention, when husbandry is a little more advanced, to clover, rye-grass, and lucerne, which in England are esteemed valuable crops for this system of feeding. In the mean time, I again recommend the practice of green fodder crops from barley-wheat, oats, or common barley ; for all these have already been found the most certain, and most rapid in growth in this climate. Their produce is immense, being from 12 to 14 tons per acre in two months from putting the seed into the ground. It is indeed my opinion that these crops are preferable here to clover or ryegrass. The lucerne, however, thrives well, and certainly deserves attention ; because, when once established, it will last for many years without any other expense than harrowing and weeding ; which are necessary for the purpose of keeping it clear of weeds, and opening the soil for the admission of air and moisture.
Mr. Curwen's Paper also contains some useful hints on the subject of soiling, that are equally applicable to the crops I recommend as to those he made use of.
February 24th, 1813.