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VI. -- HINTS ON THE BREEDING AND
CARE OF CATTLE.
It has been suggested to me that I should add my experience as a breeder of Aberdeen and Angus stock to my observations on the feeding of cattle. It is with considerable hesitation that I have ventured to put upon paper my views upon a subject on which there is such diversity of opinion. It will, however, lessen the field of controversy, that my practice and observations apply only to the Aberdeen and Angus breed; although I presume what applies to one breed may apply in a great degree to all. My observations may be of some use to those readers who have not devoted much attention to the subject; they may prove of interest even to more experienced breeders, should I be able to adduce facts that may have escaped their notice, or in confirmation of their own observations. I can hardly speak with the same authority as a breeder, generally, that I can as a feeder; yet I have been a close observer now for many years, and devoted my earnest attention to the improvement of the Aberdeen and Angus polled breed of cattle, with respect to size, symmetry, fineness of bone, strength of constitution, and disposition to accumulate fat, sparing no expense in obtaining the finest animals from the purest stock.
Laying the foundation of a breeding stock will be the first matter under consideration. We are met here at the very outset by the advocates of blood and those of selection. Much may be said and volumes have been written in favour of both. My experience leads me to take a middle course between the two, and to keep in view both the one and the other. With respect to the qualifications of a successful breeder, Darwin writes : “ Not one man in a thousand has accuracy of eye and judgment sufficient to become an eminent breeder. If gifted with these qualities, and he studies the subject for years, and devotes his lifetime to it with indomitable perseverance, he will succeed and make great improvements; and if he wants any of these qualities he will assuredly fail.” Darwin's view will be found pretty correct. Many breed with a certain success, and even rush to the top for a time in the show-yard, but it is only those described by Darwin who will finally succeed. In laying the foundation of a breeding stock there is generally one of two objects in view : either, first, to raise up a herd the best of its race, with a view to competition in the show-yard and to improve it to the utinost; or, second, to breed commercial cattle for commercial purposes with the greatest possible profit. The first requires independent means; and, to secure success, skill, perseverance, and patience under heavy disappointments. The second can be attained by ordinary prudence. If the first object be the one aimed at, the selection should be made from the most established herds, and of animals of pedigree, and possessing the characteristics of the race you intend to propagate. But my attention will be more particularly directed to the second. There are few that have hatfuls of money to expend upon the purchase of high-bred animals; nor is this necessary in order to secure a profitable return from a breeding stock.
I would recommend the following method : I shall suppose a farmer wishes to buy twenty cows to stock his farm (Aberdeen and Angus cattle). His entry is, say, at Whitsunday. He must have a bull to serve his
cows. He should be selected from an established herd and from a race of good milkers. The farmer must be a good judge, or employ one in whom he has implicit confidence to act in his behalf. In his selection he must have a certain model in his eye, such as he wishes to propagate. I assume he has considered that his farm is adapted for the rearing of the Aberdeen and Angus breed of cattle, and is convinced of their hardihood of constitution being adapted to his soil and the climate. He ought to keep to certain ground in his selection; that, namely, where the polled breed are still in a state of purity, as in Angus, Aberdeen, Kincardine, Banff, and Moray shires. He ought to visit the Alford district, and all to the west of Alford. On the Spey he will find cattle well worth his attention. They are not of large size generally, but many of fine quality. In the neighbourhood of Dufftown, and west from Dufftown, there are many useful beasts. The Mearns and Angus he should carefully examine, visiting the farms where polled cattle are bred. The wealthy breeder, No. 1, may look to the honours of the show-yard ; but No. 2, with his limited means, must have regard only to his ultimate profit.
As it is a Whitsunday entry, he ought to have the lot made up, and the bull put to them in season, that he may not lose a year. The cows he buys will give milk to the house, and the two-year-old heifers will be easily kept on. I speak on the supposition that cows and heifers are bought, but the majority should be heifers. He ought to attend all the fairs in his power through spring, and be on the instant ready to pick up a suitable beast wherever it appears, which he can always do at market value. He ought to select the best heifers. or cows (duly informing himself as to their breeding) from the different districts I have named. The produce, after a first-class bull, will be astonishing. The cows that throw the best calves should be retained, while those that " cry back” should be dismissed, and their
places filled up with a new selection. By careful breeding for two years there will be a most useful profitable breeding stock established, and there is no doubt that even some good races may be secured. We have ample experience and proof of this in the good calves thrown by our worthless little black polled country cows, and it is on my experience of this fact that my recommendation is founded. For two-year-olds rising three, out of small cows, I have at Christmas got £40 from the butcher, even at the date of the first publication of this book. Purity of blood in the male will be found highly to improve inferior races. A herd of breeding stock without the risk of haphazard will be secured at a moderate cost-one that will be profitable to the owner.
The following remarks apply partly to a show-yard herd, and partly to one for commercial purposes. In the original selection, as I have already observed, the breeder must have in his eye the model he wishes to propagate. The animals selected should approach the desired type as nearly as can be obtained; and by careful and repeated selections the ideal may be reached. The selector must be well satisfied as to soundness of constitution, especially in laying the foundation of a show-yard herd. If male or female have hereditary defects of constitution, their progeny will inherit them. Show-yard stock, being pampered for exhibition, are more liable than the common stock of the country to be affected with hereditary diseases. Pedigree is of the most vital importance. We ought always to prefer a bull of high pedigree, with fair symmetry and quality, to another bull, though much superior in appearance, but of questionable pedigree. If the latter be turned to a herd superior in blood to himself, incalculable mischief may be done. Breeders have not given this subject the attention it deserves. I have paid dearly for my experience in the matter. But bulls, even from the purest herds, will not all produce stock alike. Some will give a majority of bull calves, others a majority of heifer calves; some will be famous for getting fine bulls, and others for getting fine heifers, while others produce little to boast of in the one or the other. No one can affirm that he has a first-class sire till he has been tested. If the result be satisfactory, money should be no temptation; he must not be sold. It must not be forgotten that the male has most influence in breeding; but without first-class females the descendants will not shine generally in the show-yard. Breeding for the show-yard must not be left to haphazard ; nor is the breeder likely to be successful if pride and conceit be his besetting sins. Take the following by way of illustration : At perhaps a distant sale a fine cow is bought, or it may be at market. Attention to pedigree is ignored; the age is perhaps considered of no consequence. On her arrival she is examined and applauded by friends and neighbours. The inspection may cost the owner gallons of whisky; but she is to prove a mine of wealth. Great hopes are entertained of her progeny. The calf is expected to be first-class. After days of care and nights of dreams and anxious watchings, with unnecessary aid in calving, the calf at last sees the light of day. The owner is disgusted at the result. The cow yields little milk, either for the calf or the family. She is sent where she should have gone years before—to the butcher. The disappointed owner in future buys the cheapest animals that come to hand. If pedigree be ignored, and the sire be of doubtful antecedents, except in an accidental case the progeny will be at the best of medium quality; but by ordinary precaution such loss may be avoided.
Breeding in-and-in has some advantages and many advocates. It is a knotty point to touch upon. At the commencement I stated that my own experience led me to adopt a middle course; that experience has not been in favour of the system. By adhering to it I found that quality was maintained, and even improved ; but size was reduced, and symptoms of delicacy of con