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Little variety in system of management—Practice of various breeders– Mr Bowie, Mains of Kelly; Mr William Fullerton; Mr Ferguson, Kinnochtry; Mr Whyte, Spott; Mr Smith of Benholm; Mr Anderson, Wellhouse; Mr Reid, Greystone; Mr M'Combie of Easter Skene: Mr Auld, Bridgend; Sir George Macpherson Grant, Bart., of Ballindalloch; Mr Hannay of Gavenwood; Mr Tayler of Glenbarry-Ex periments in crossing by Mr Wilken, Waterside of Forbes—Summary of system of management—Methods of breeding—Desirability of establishing a few line-bred families—Natural characteristics of breed should be maintained.
THERE is not much variety in the general system of management pursued by breeders of polled cattle. As a rule it is simple and natural. In the preparing of showyard animals high feeding has of course been freely resorted to, but the great bulk of the breed has received little “pampering” or unnatural treatment of any kind. It cannot be doubted that to this last fact the exceptional fecundity, general soundness, good health, and hardiness of polled cattle is in a large measure attributable. No race of animals can long withstand unnatural treatment, no matter how skilful it may be pursued. Breeders, as a rule, aim at having their calves dropped between the first of December and the end of March. Many come later and some earlier, but these are not in favour. There are important advantages in having early
calves, and breeders are now endeavouring to obtain as many as possible before the end of February. Mr Alexander Bowie, Mains of Kelly, the oldest living breeder, says the best calving season is from December to the end of April. Early calves generally bring most money when sold to the butcher. Mr Bowie rears most of his calves by the pail or “cog,” giving daily at the outset one pint, and gradually increasing the quantity till it reaches seven or eight quarts. Small quantities of cake, corn, and turnips are ultimately given along with the milk. The better sorts, perhaps intended for showing purposes, are allowed to suckle their dams for longer or shorter periods, and when weaned are shut up in loose boxes and treated to all sorts of good things. Mr Bowie keeps his breeding cattle in moderately lean condition. He does not think it wise to serve heifers until they are two years old, as too early breeding checks their growth. Few breeders of polled cattle were more methodical in the management of their herds than the late Mr William Fullerton. Writing in reference to the principles of selection which should be observed in a pure-bred herd, he says: “I would say breed in line of course. Study the docility of bulls and cows, and breed from goodnatured beasts. You will know good nature in a calf— it is frank, so to speak, even as calf. A full eye is a fine sign of a beast too; also plenty of hair if not over fine : flightersomeness I don't like, nor a bull that needs two men to lead him. The touch of a beast's skin should be mellow and easy, and need not be very remarkably thin. Both cows and bulls should stand well on their legs. Over crooked hind legs are not pretty, neither are knockknees. Very wide hooks are not an Angus point, still they show off a beast. Depressed loins used to be an Angus fault, but this is now greatly mended. As to the head, who can describe it ! You know it when you see it good, to be good; but the neck has so much to do in showing off the head, that both must be judged together, keeping an eye to a full neck-vein and brisket. A full thigh is good, but the animal should not be doublehipped — a fault that has worn out. A neatly-laid-in tail is a point of great beauty, but boxing-gloves at each side of the tail-head is not good, and is not Angus. A full rib is good, but it should not be like the side of a drum. When a beast is in condition, if the point behind the shoulder is low and naked, a prize by that beast is not easily secured. The top of the shoulder is a splendid piece of meat, and should be full; while the top all along should be broad and level, and well covered, especially over the sirloin, the roast of roasts. The ears should be large, hairy, and not over wide set.” Mr Thomas Ferguson, Kinnochtry, states that his calves suckle their dams till from six to eight months old; and that after being weaned they get straw, turnips, and cake or bruised oats, in covered courts. He feeds the bull-calves in the same manner all the winter after weaning, and generally sells them in spring when they are a little more than a year old. After Mr Ferguson's heifers are ten months old, they get little food, excepting straw and turnips, until put upon the grass. Bulls are used when about twelve months old, and heifers mated when about two years old, seldom sooner. He feeds liberally the bulls that are in use, but he keeps his cows rather lean than fat. In winter his cows before calving are fed in covered courts, with about 30 or 40 lbs. of turnips per day along with barley-wheat or oat-straw, generally either of the two former, as oat-straw is scarce. After calving, they get three times as many turnips as before; and in summer they are kept solely on the grass fields. Mr William Whyte, Spott, Kirriemuir, informs us that his cows get a few turnips in the morning, and if the weather permit they are sent out to a hillside during the
day, being treated in this fashion till near calving time,
with plenty of shelter. When within two weeks of calving, they are put in stall and kept there with the calf until the weather is mild enough for them to be again turned into the court. In summer they are day and night in the grass field. Show cattle are treated the same as the others, with the addition of a little cake before being exhibited. Mr Smith mentions an experiment in feeding. At one of Mr Hannay's sales he bought a very small heifer calf at £10, 10s. When she got to be nearly two years old, he did not think she would make a good cow; so, to see what she would do as a feeding animal, he bought a two-year-old Shorthorn heifer, and a very good one she was, being better when bought than the polled. They were kept together under the same treatment until the Christmas following, when they were showed at the fat show at Dundee. They gained the first prize, although under three years old, against all of any age. When killed, the polled heifer weighed 66 stones 6 lbs. Imperial, and the Shorthorn 60 stones. He always thought the Shorthorn consumed more food than the polled. Mr Smith thinks polled cattle should all be fat, and sold when three years old. If sooner, so much the better. He believes they can easily be made fat at that age with grass and turnips, and a little extra feeding the last three or four months. Mr William Anderson, Wellhouse, Alford, gives his experience as follows:—“I have been a breeder and a feeder of polled cattle from a conviction that they are the best beef-producing breed in existence. The polled animal produces beef of the best quality, and has the best cover of meat—more than crosses or any other breed —on the most valuable parts of the animal. You will get cross animals to stand higher on their legs, and bulk more largely to the eye than the polls; but compare them closely, and especially the rump, loins, and along the well-padded back of the latter, and you will soon find out