“I SHOULD have said you would be more humane,” observed a London friend to me, “ than to shut up your cows. I could not have believed you would be so cruel.” A few minutes’ conversation made a wonderful difference in this benevolent lady’s impressions. She was a thorough Londoner, and knew nothing of cow tastes and habits. With the ordinary human tendency to fetishism she regarded cow life from her own point of view, and pitied my Meggie and Ailsie for not seeing the lovely landscape as they lay ruminating.
The argument may be shortly given. Granting that the so-called “natural condition” of animals is the happiest, which may not be true in the quadruped any more than the human case, it is impossible at this time of day to put our domestic cattle under the conditions of the primitive life of their race. When they roamed our island wild they could shelter themselves from the noonday heat in the forest, and escape the flies by getting into the water; whereas, when once cows are domesticated, there is an end of forest shade, and of recourse to lakes and rivers; and the question is, whether something better is not given.
Taking the winter into the question, there can be no doubt about the matter. Lean cows were slaughtered in autumn, and salted down for winter food, in old times, because there were no means of feeding them during the interval between the late and early grass; and, as for those which were spared the slaughter, we know what their wildness from hunger was by the end of winter.
The cows on a small farm (or on a large oneeither) cannot have open woods and waters to
resort to; and, if sent out to feed, have a half and-half sort of life, the superiority of which to stall-feeding may be questionable. They have neither the natural nor the artificial protection from heat and flies, and their condition is less equable than that of the stall-fed cow.
In high summer they may be very fat and sleek ,—too fat to be perfect milkers; but in earlyspring they are meagre, ragged, and half dry, when the stall-fed animals are nearly as sleek and prosperous as at any other season.
Every observer remarks on the good plight of my cows when those of the neighbouring farmers are turned out upon the fells in spring: and, during the summer, if Meggie and Ailsie happen to be out towards noon, they turn into their stable of their own accord to escape the flies and enjoy the coolness.
The test is the health of the animals; and, by all I have been able to learn, stall-fed cows, properly managed, live longer, give more milk in the long run, have fewer illnesses, and are better tempered than those which are treated in the ordinary method of our old-fashioned farming.
When Cow Life Insurance societies become as numerous as they ought to be, their tables will soon show whether stall-feeding is favourable to life and health, or the contrary. Meantime, the world is grievously in want of agricultural statistics in that department, as in every other.
I may remark here, that the ladies who tell us of their four-acre farm, and all other farmers, largeand small, will be wise to insure their cows’ lives,if any well-established society for the purposeexists within reach. At this season last year, whenI lost a cow for the first time, I should have beenvery glad of such a resource. The few shillings per
year for each cow are worth paying, if neverwanted back again: for the peace of mind is a
main feature in the bargain, as in the case of life and fire insurance.
One of the finest and healthiest young cows I ever saw, which had calved prosperously a year before, calved last June in the midst of the thundery weather which then prevailed.
The storm burst just after; my poor cow sank down,and never got up again. This was a case of sheer accident: no management could have prevented it; and the appropriate consolation would have been receiving her value from an Insurance Society if I had had the opportunity.
Country residents who know how often thefamiliar petition comes round on behalf of the
cottager or small farmer who has lost a cow or two, can bear witness to the policy of establishing such a society in every rural neighbourhood, and taking care of its being founded on a safe basis.
The subscriptions now given on petition would be better bestowed on such a foundation. Good would be done, and ease of mind afforded, all round; and after ten years or so, the collective records would yield some very valuable knowledge as to the life and health of farm-stock.
The combined experience of a neighbourhood or district must surely lead to an improved medical treatment of animals. The greatest drawback on small farming is the helplessness of the proprietor when a cow or pig is ill. It requires to be on the spot to believe the nonsense that is talked on such occasions in retired villages, and what passions are called into play.
A few months after I began,I was told that my cow was ill. The local doctor was sent for, and he gave his verdict and instituted the treatment. But I could make nothing of the matter at all—neither what ailed the cow,nor whether it was serious, nor even whether she might die. By the bustle and solemnity, and my man being seen to brush away tears when my back was turned, I augured the worst; but I do not at this moment know how far she was in danger.
The report was: “’Tis the worm in thetail, that go all along her back and up into herhead, so that her teeth are loose, and she can’tproperly eat.” She was bled in the tail, dosed
with physio, fed with meal, and rubbed, and in a day or two she was quite well. Other alarms of the same kind have occurred since; and the sense of blank ignorance in one’s self, and of the quackery of those who pretend to know more,while the suffering animal is sinking before one’s eyes, is decidedly the most disagreeable experience of rural life in my case.
And then, if one asks a question, or demurs to bleeding (from which a cow rarely recovers completely), or proposes any simple method, or fails to send for the local oracle, or,worst of all, sends for a real veterinary surgeon too, there is an astonishing outburst of passions.
Doctor and farm-man quarrel: “The lady may cure her own cows”—“ Nobody will set a foot on the premises if new notions are to be tried ”-—and so forth. Happy they who live within immediate
reach of a qualified veterinary surgeon! In the absence of such a resource there is, I believe, no doubt whatever that the simple rules and facts of hommopathic practice are the greatest possible boon.
The operation of that method of practice in the case of cattle and horses is too remarkable to leave room for question, I understand, amongt hose most opposed to it in the human case.I have said all the harm l have to say of my first cow. She was a rather large but very pretty short-horn, of the local kind. It does not do for small farmers to try many experiments with different kinds of cows: and it is generally safest to be content with the local sort.
I live too far north for Alderneys, which ladies often incline to,to their cost in the long run; but I hoped much from a cheap, hardy little Kerry cow, such as I have known to be very profitable in the midland counties; but she did not answer. Meggie, however, my first experiment, served and pleased me well for six years. I gave 151. for her at six years old, and she was valued at W. when I exchanged her at the end of six years. Thus,
spreading her prime cost—viz., 81.-—over the six years, together with 4 per cent. interest on the151., she cost me, as a purchase, l1. 183. a-year.
The cost of her maintenance cannot be givenwith equal precision, because her food was as
various as we could make it, and it is impossible to estimate the value of every article we grew.But we can ascertain within a narrow margin how much Meggie cost, and how well it answered to keep her.
The proper amount of food for a milch cow is not less than 70 lb. per day — a fatting bullock requiring about 90 lb. For stall-feeding we must reckon the winter as lasting five months, in our northern counties. Each cow, therefore,must have four tons of roots and one ton of hay,with a few extras, such as I will presently mention.
Allowing for calving-times, exigencies,and indulgences, throughout the year, we purchase
about a ton of hay for each cow, in addition toour own crop. I pay a few shillings here and
there in the neighbourhood for grass and brewers’grains, and buy Thorley’s cattle-food, an occasional load of straw, and a little meal at calving times. In ordinary seasons, the bought food maybe set down at about 101. for each cow. Hershare of the man’s wages may be reckoned at one third, or 111., and of the cost of tillage at l1. 108.
The extra manure, beyond her own yield, is about l1. 58., and her share of the cost of utensils and their repairs, l1. 58., and of the interest of the capital invested in her stable and all the accessories by which she benefits, l 1. I08.
I think this is all that Meggie can have cost me.As for her produce, there was the annual calf,which brought, if a bull calf, only 58., and if a wye (cow-calf), a guinea at the end of a week.She gave us, on the average of the year, ten quarts of milk per day. After calving, she gave sixteen quarts or more for a time; to set against which there was the decline and dryness before calving; so that we reckon the average at ten quarts. Her manure is already set off against her food.
We have not here the London prices, which so brighten the accounts of the Four-Acre farm.We must reckon the new milk at 2 d. the quart,and butter as averaging l l d. per lb. Our lowest price is 8 d., and the highest ls. 3 d. Reckoning the produce as milk, it brings 301. 88. 4 d. per cow,for the year. I might magnify it by reckoning apart as butter; but I wish to be on the safe side,and will, therefore, put our sales and gains at the lowest.
cost or non cow. £ 8. d. Food bought . . . . 10 O 0 Attendance . . . . . ll 0 0 Tillage . . . . . 1 10 0
Manure . . . . . 1 5 0 Utensils and repairs . . . 1 5 0 Interest on capital . . . 1 10 0 Prime cost and interest . . 1 18 0 £28 8 0 raonuo E or men cow.
-6 8. d. Milk . . . . . 30 8 4 Calf (average) . . . . 0 18 0 £51 1 4
Cost . . 28 8 0 £2 13 4
This small surplus may be set apart to meetaccidents; and thus Meggie just paid her own
expenses, leaving to me and my household the satisfaction of seeing man, wife, and animals maintained, the place rendered fertile, and ourselves supplied with rural luxuries which were not to be had for money.
Afraid of the responsibility of inducing any rash experiment, I have rather over-estimated than underrated the expenses, and made the very least of our gains ; and it must be remembered that in the neighbourhood of London, or any other large town, the expense of food and wages would be the same, while the sale of produce would bring in about one-third more.
The mode of life of a stall-fed cow is very simple.By 6 A. M., at latest, in summer, and 7 A. M., in winter, her stable should be cleaned out,—all liquids swept into the drain and tank, all solids barrowed to the large tank down the field, and powdered charcoal deposited where most needed.
A plentiful supply of air has been provided during the night by the opening of some of the windows,of which there are three. A small window in the roof, opened by a cord, secures the escape of foul air. The stable, being close to the cottage, is well warmed in winter. We find the cows do better without litter than with any kind we have been able to try. Coconut fibre mats were presented to me for trial, when it appeared that fern, haulm, and straw, tempted the cows to eat their litter; but the mats were too warm; and the animal’s hoofs grew long and became brittle.
A smooth surface of cement or asphalte appears to answer best, provided it is kept in thorough repair,and made sloping in the slightest possible degree,so as to allow liquid to run off, without fatiguing the cow by depriving her of a level standing place.
The cleaning of the place being done, the next thing is the milking ; and then the breakfast; and find that the cream rises better in the old cisterns, then the rubbing down of the animal. Her coat lined with lead or zinc, than under any other should be first curried, and then brushed every day, and her legs — particularly the hind legs — well rubbed. Her coat ought to be as glossy asthat of a horse ; and if she is not thoroughly freed
from dirt, she will be restless in her eagerness to rub herself against wall or post on every side.Duly dressed, she lies down to ruminate in calm content.
In summer, when the hay is growing, she hascut grass, more or less every day. We get it
from sundry patches on our own ground—from strips under the trees, from the slopes, the borders,and three-cornered bits in angles of the garden,and from the ditch, hedge, and road in the half acre; and also from any neighbour who will let us have it for the cutting, or a trifle over. There is some every day, till the cows can turn out after the hay-making.
Meantime, there are the last of the mangold roots, and there is chopped straw dressed with ThorIey’s cattle-food, which is a great comfort as a resource, when food is scanty or precarious. The tradition of our district, ofthe eagerness of the cattle of the monks of
Furness after the ash and holly sprays on the mountains, guides us to another resource.
A cow will brave many obstacles to get at the young sprays of the ash ; so we crop ours from the pollards. The same with nettles in their season. We must not suppose these things bad food, because we should not like them. Brewers’ grains are another resource.
Cows are very fond of them.When the roots are done, the cabbages are comingon ; and then many helps arise ; the thinnings ofthe growing turnips and mangold, and afterwards
their crops of leaves. These things, with the ever-growing grass, carry us on to November, when the last cabbage is eaten, and the pasture must be manured.
Then begins the winter routine. The cinders from the house, and a penny sack ofshavings from the bobbin-mill light the boiler fire,which keeps the food warm for the day. The
turnips are eaten first, because they do not keep so well as the mangold. A cwt. of turnips per day is rather more than two cows want, if there are carrots for them, or cut straw, with Thorley’s food.
The roots are sliced and boiled with thestraw. The secret of giving turnips without fatal
damage to the cream and butter is to pour off all the water, and give the roots dry, with fresh water to drink, of course. The hay is the dessert given dry if the cows prefer it so. To keep their teeth in use, they may have a mangold root or two in the course of the day — “to amuse themselves with,” as the man says.
They have three regular meals in the day, and something more during the longest days. In winter, they settle well for the night after six o’clock.Our dairy is in rather an odd place—under the library. It is the place of most equable temperature on the premises; the coolest in summer,and the warmest in winter; being a part of the cellar blasted out of the rock, and its windows nearly level with the garden ground outside. It is fitted up with slate-stone shelves, and leaded cisterns for the milk. We have tried various new devices-—glass, earthenware, and wood; but we circumstances.
Our butter rarely gives any trouble in the making; and, since we fairly learned the art, it has had an excellent reputation. We do not often obtain so much as one pound from one quart of cream; and we are satisfied that this quantity cannot be got on an average of seasons and of cows; but on occasion we obtain it. The pig has the buttermilk and what skim-milk we do not use for our bread and cakes, nor sell.
The consumption of cream in the household is not small. We relish it with our fruit and otherwise. We like custards and trifle and fruit-creams and white soups; and, now it is understood to have the properties which make cod-liver oil so much the fashion for weakly people, we agree how far preferable the domestic article is to the imported,and indulge largely in the medicine, ill or well.
It should not be omitted that our keeping cowsis a social benefit. The troop of children comingfor milk, morning and evening, is a pretty sight.I have added to the advantage of the supply thatof requiring ready money for it. In old-fashionedplaces, where money matters are irregular, andlong credits cause perpetual mischief and frequentruin, and where some of the gentry give awaymilk to people perfectly able to pay for it, it is
a social service to insist on both paying and receiving ready money.
My cook is therefore charged with the dairy concerns, and upheld by her employers in giving no credit. Before we learned the ways of the place, customers who could afford strong drink and fine clothes went into debt to us for milk up to nearly 11., and then
went to another dairy.
It was no better kindness to them than to ourselves to allow this: and, now that our rule is inflexible, as to paying and being paid, we have no difficulty, except when, at times,
our cows are to calve at too short an interval, and the supply runs short, and the customers “are fit to tear us to pieces,“ as cook says, for what we have to sell.
There is not much to tell of the pig. We bespeak one of a good breed each spring and autumn,bringing him home at from six to ten weeks old old enough to keep himself warm and comfortable.His cost is then from 158. to 25 s., according to the state of the world in regard to pig-keeping.Before the potato-rot, one might get for “)8. such a pig as afterwards cost 208.
Our pig’s house is a substantial stone edifice, cool in summer and warm in winter, with a paved yard for eating, exercise, and basking in the sun. The pavement should come up every few years, and the soil below should be removed for manure, and new laid. A liberal use of powdered charcoal will be repaid by the health of the pig and the content of the neighbours; and there is no more valuable manure than the charcoal which has done its
work of purification.
The house and yard must be kept swept and clean, and the straw frequently renewed, and then the animal itself will have good habits. Pigs are not dirty when they haveany encouragement to be clean. Ours is washedevery week, in warm soap and water, and well
scrubbed behind the ears and everywhere, to its great ease and comfort.
A highly economical remark of my man about this part of his work was, that he scrubbed the pig on washing days, because the soapsuds did just as well for manure after the pig had done with them, “and that,” saidhe, “ makes the soap serve three times over.”Buttermilk, skim-milk, refuse vegetables, kitchenstuff bought for sixpence per week, grains nowand then, and any coarse food rendered nutritiousand delectable by Thorley’s food or malt dust
being sprinkled over it, keep our pig in health and happiness till he has accomplished the first six or seven months of his life.
Then he must be fattened for three weeks. The more he is induced to eat during that time, the more profitable will he be; and his food must be of the best kind. Opinions differ as to whether oatmeal or barley meal answers best. Our belief is that a mixture is the true thing. The barley is cheaper, and requires a month to produce its effect: the oat is dearer, but requires less than three weeks.
It is the better, however, for being qualified with the barley; and we use them half-and-half, till the pig has had sixteen stone, costing £1 48. His weight when killed is, on the average, twelve stone, which has fetched, within my experience, from 58. to 78. per stone. Our money gain, after all expenses are deducted, may thus vary from £1 to nothing on the pig; but the privilege of well educated bacon, and hams of high quality, is no contemptible one, as will be owned by doubting and scrupulous purchasers of pork in towns.
We and our friends can enjoy our sausages, pork-pies,hams, and bacon without drawback; and the value of the two latter in the commissariat in a region where the very legs of mutton in the butcher’s shop have to be divided between urgent petitioners in the season, cannot be described.No party is better pleased than the man in charge,—unless it be his wife.
He buys half the pig at wholesale price; has his bacon cheap; and can, if he chooses, sell the ham at a great profit in the season. We kill our pork in the first days of
November and the last of March.
There remains the produce of the poultry-yard to make out our bill of fare. That story is too long for this place, and must be told another