Thursday, May 26, 2011

Manuring (Fertilizing) Practices in the United Kingdom 200 Years Ago

"The State of Husbandry in the County of Norfolk in the Kingdom of Great Britain . . ."

Almost 200 years ago, in the year of 1813, a presentation on the "state of husbandry" in the County of Norfolk in the kingdom of Britain was published by the Board of Agriculture -- the detailed research contained in the report commenced well over 200 years ago under the direction of Arthur Young. Norfolk was considered a very progressive agricultural County in the kingdom of Britain.

This painting is circa 1830 in Wales, and you can see what is most likely a true Welsh White cow on the river bank.   My thanks to Norman Morgan for bringing it to my attention.  Source:

There are countless interesting descriptions of a variety of farming practices in this presentation; but, it is Norfolk's 'manuring' of turnip fields, and barley and wheat fields that are explored here. Today, when we hear the term 'manuring' we automatically think of the excrement or dung of any of a variety of farm livestock, but most likely most having not actually heard the term 'manuring'. But 200 years ago, 'manuring' actually referred to any addition to the soil that served as a fertilizer; in fact, 'manuring' would be synonymous with 'fertilizing' today.

The correct method and substance to use for the most effective manuring of crops was hotly debated among farmers. As well, the geographic location of the individual parishes greatly influenced the traditional materials used for manuring. The cost of the various manures was of paramount importance in old Norfolk, as it certainly is today in England and the United States.

In regard to manuring, Mr. Young tells us: "This is the most important branch of the Norfolk improvements, and that which has had the happy effect of converting many warrens and sheep walks into some of the finest corn districts in the kingdom."  The various manuring substances made use of in the County of Norfolk included: Marle, Lime, Ashes, Soot, Gypsum, Malt Dust, Oyster Shells, Buck Wheat, Sea Ouze, Yard Dung, Sea Weed, Leaves, Pond Weeds, River Mud, Town Manure, and Oil-Cake.

Coastal farm in Norfolk on the beaches of Yarmouth
For the avid crop farmer, the 'crop' was the primary focus, with the livestock on the farm a secondary consideration. The livestock, whether it be cows, pigs or sheep, etc.. were actually tools used by many farmers to improve or produce a good manure for their crop fields -- such as the unique use of sea sand. In the coastal parish of Yarmouth, sea sand was brought in to farmers for manuring.

"There is a singular practice at Yarmouth, which has been common time out of mind, of littering all stock, such as horses, cows etc... with sea sand. A number of Yarmouth one-horse or one-ass carts, are employed to bring sand from the shore for this purpose, and it is done the more largely, that the quantity of muck to sell to the farmers may be the greater. Mr. Thurtell manures all his turnips with this dung, and it is excellent." 
"The sand ought to be ten days or a fortnight under the horses and cows, being gradually drawn back with hoes, and fresh supplied: many thousand loads are thus made annually; and great quantities are taken into the country by the sailing barges called keels. Ten large cart loads per acre are a good dressing, as much as three horses can draw. . . Mr. Thurtell brings it all winter long. He observes however that it is not durable, the chief force of it is exhausted in the turnips and following barley."

Ever Thought About Rolling out a Round Bale of Good Hay for your Cows to Trample or Tread?

Many farmers put up 'straw' from their grass lands; but, they would not feed this straw to their livestock. Instead, they layered the straw in the livestock paddock and the livestock would do what nature intends, urinate and defecate; and just as importantly, they would 'tread' on the straw and their own excrement and thus create an enhanced 'muck' or 'Yard Dung' for manuring from their own footsteps.

"Mr. Reeve is clear that all straw should be trodden into muck, and none eaten. He has kept a large dairy of cows, and thinks them the worst stock that can be on a farm, as turnips are drawn for them . . and more straw is eaten by them, instead of being trodden, than by any other stock. His expression was, "I would not have a mouthful eaten."

Early 19th century farm workers. Courtesy M. E. Brine (
 "Mr Dursgate would not have a bullock on his farm, except for treading straw into muck: he would have none eaten."
The resulting muck was cleaned out of the paddocks and stored in a heap, sometimes with additions like marle. Some farmers turned the dung pile periodically, some did not. The straw based muck was carted out to the fields, and was generally 'tucked in' to the soil to get the best results, not just scattered on the surface.

Long Dung or Short Dung? What is your opinion?

Probably the most hotly debated topic was the use of 'long dung' or 'short dung'. Long dung was relatively fresh dung from livestock; short dung had gone through the fermentation process during storage of less than a year in a dung heap. There was also 'over-year' dung, generally considered undesirable, and was simply dung heaps that were kept for over a year prior to use.

Long dung was more difficult to 'tuck-in' to the soil, but it was considered to have more lasting manuring properties-- beyond just one season of turnips and barley or wheat, which were primary crops of Norfolk. Short dung was the powdered residue left of the muck after the fermentation process; all the liquids had seeped out.

"Mr. Styleman, of Snettisham, carts out his yard muck on to platforms of marle, turns over, and lays it on for turnips. He thinks long muck might do well for strong land."

"Mr. Saffory ,of Downham, turns over the dung in the yard and then carts it for turnips, ploughing in directly. He has seen very long fresh dung spread and ploughed in directly for turnips, and it has answered well on strong, but not on light land."
"Mr. Porter, of Watlington, turns over dunghills, to have the muck short for turnips, not liking long dung at all; it makes the land scald."

"Mr. Goddison, Steward to the Earl of Cholmon-Deley ,at Houghton, considers rotten dung as necessary for wheat on light soils; (but). . . that if a fair comparative experiment were made he would bet on long dung against short."

"Mr. Dyele, of Scotter, makes platforms of earth, then a layer of marle, and turns over, then adds muck, and turns again, whether for turnips or wheat. Has on many acres carted long fresh stable muck for turnips, ploughing it in at once, and gained fine crops if the season proved wet; but not in a dry time."

A Pennsylvania Country Fair 1824, by John Archibald Woodside, Sr.
NOTE: There are white cows with black points in this painting, most probably Shorthorns

Ever Thought about Fertilizing your Home Garden with Cottonseed Cake or Meal? Or your pastures!

There were other very unique uses of natural materials for 'manuring' of crop fields. One particularly interesting was the use of 'oil-cake'. Generally, you think of oil-cake as a feed for cattle, heavily in use today in the modern version called cottonseed meal or cake. However, many farmers of Britain felt the oil-cake was an excellent choice for manuring their crops, rather than feeding their livestock, and it's use was a long tradition in some parts of Norfolk.

Mr. Young tells us: "From 40 to 50 years ago this was a very common manure in West Norfolk; 35 years ago I registered the husbandry of manuring there with oil-cake; then chiefly spread for wheat."

The oil-cake had to be broken up into chunks, "broken to the size of walnuts", or reduced to a powdery form. Apparently, the oil-cake of the early 1800's was not considered as good a manure as it once was due to the mills 'pressing' more of the good stuff out. It was generally considered by many farmers to be a great manure for growing wheat, with some residual fertilizing qualities for the follow-on crop of turnips; while other farmers swore by it as an excellent manure for turnips.

"Mr. Hill, of Waterden, has much doubt of the benefit of this manure, and thinks that it is often used (the great expense of it considered) to loss. For the last three years it has decreased in goodness, by reason of the increased power of the mills, exertions caused as he thinks by the great demand. It should not be used in less quantity than two tons to five acres, and always for turnips in preference to wheat." 

"Mr. England, of Binham, uses much rape-cake, and this year his turnips, thus manured, are his best. The cake-dust should be scaled in, early in May."

"Mr. Reeve, of Wighton, uses large quantities of rape-cake for his turnips, which in a wet season is an excellent manure. Mucked turnips come quicker at first than caked ones, but the latter exceed them afterwards: it is best applied three weeks or a month before sowing the seed. . ."
 "Mr. Syble, of South Walsham, feeds many bullocks with oil-cake, and finds that one load of the dung is worth two of any other:  This he thinks by far the best, and even the cheapest way, of getting a farm into condition, and laughs at the idea of buying rape-cake for manure, when compared with this superior practice. It is expensive to men who put lean beasts to cake, but if they are what is called fat before cake be given, it answers welI."

Great Yarmouth Wind Farm
 The Great Wealth of Rich Soils a Gift of the Seas:

Arthur Young reported well and in rich detail on the 'state of husbandry' in the County of Norfolk. At the same time, he shares with us his own thoughts and opinions on the 'why' of the richness of the soils of the kingdom of Britain. Mr. Young attributed this great wealth of rich soils as a gift of the seas:
 "As the sea still retires from this coast, it is easy to perceive in what manner all this country has been the gift of that overwhelming element . . .I observed that the whole country has been a present from the ocean: this is obvious from numerous appearances . . ."

Sadly, over 200 years later, our global seas are regularly and daily polluted by all sorts of hazards, including human waste, nuclear waste, and plastic garbage and more -- all changing the ecological dynamic of the oceans which contributed no doubt to our rich soils around the world. Rather than expend vast sums of money and time on the pursuit of a rapid and significant positive change in our care of the oceans of the world -- we are bombarded by governments and organizations with the doom of imminent Global Warming and revenue redistribution plans such as 'cap and trade' based largely on penalizing the production of air pollutants - both naturally occurring such as a cow's methane, and man-made.
Without the eco-system of our oceans in good 'health', what matters if the ozone layer is eventually compromised by air pollutants?  Why in the interests of carbon capture should governments attempt to exert control over whether a small farmer plows or no-till drills his pastures or cropland?  Why consider regulating a cow's methane production from belching?  Why? Which will occur first, and have the most significant impact ?  The permanent loss of the bio-diversity and 'health' of our seas, or the warming of our climate? 

Arthur Young, (1741-1820) Source: Wikipedia
I suspect Arthur Young would wish to see at least an equal concern for both our lands and our seas and the air we breath.  And can you just imagine the eyebrow raised over a discussion of whether turnips or potatoes fed to cows was causing global warming?

(1) ". . ." General View of the Agriculture of the County of Norfolk , By Board of Agriculture (Great Britain), Arthur Young, 1813

Friday, May 20, 2011

Calving Time for a Small American Cow-Calf Farmer - Originally Published March 2010

This is Donna, a Popeye daughter, and part of our original herd
Global Warming and Cows -- refuting the notion that "cows are the greatest contributor to climate change" has become the focus of so much of my time and energy for several weeks now. Today, my time was more occupied with my actual real British White cows, one cow in particular. She's a cow I nicknamed Donna long ago, in honor of an elementary school classmate who was quite the dominating child -- enough so that I actually remember her taking charge of the classroom when I was in the 3rd grade. She might have been full of honey do this and that in the first and second grade as well, but I was quite occupied in those years with standing in corners and defending my right to 'talk too much', with which my teachers heartily disagreed. Did you ever have to stand in a corner and keep your nose precisely within a small circle? 

This morning I went out to make my cow check, which always starts with a count of each cow in two herds I have by the house. All was well with the smaller group in the more confined pasture by the house. The larger group of cows are one pasture over from the house on about 20 acres that is edged with a deep thicket of woods and a steep ravine, typical terrain in this area of the Pineywoods of East Texas. Each day I count the girls in this big pasture to make sure they're all there, and then look at their udder and their vulva and make a judgment as to whether it's time for any of them to move over one pasture to the one right beside the house, so they'll calve in this more protected pasture.

Well, this morning I was one cow short. I counted about three times, squinted a lot, cursed my aging eye sight, wished I'd brought the binoculars, and deeply regretted I was in flip-flops and shorts as the stinging weed is in full swing. I had no desire to walk across that entire pasture in search of the missing cow with stinging weed slapping and stinging my bare toes.

The next thing I wonder about is just who is missing, and I think of Donna. A couple of days before I had a nagging thought that she might just be ready, she was packing a lot of milk; but, her vulva showed no signs, and in the days prior I'd not spotted any sign of her losing her mucous plug, so I'd left her with the big herd. Sure enough, I scan the cows and I do not see my Donna anywhere. It's actually pretty amazing how a cow person can look at their herd and identify a lot of times each and every one, we don't need an ear tag, we know our cows! 

From Newborn to Handsome Young Bull Calf - Video Taken March 25th, and this Good-Lookin' Youngster was Ten Days Old (Halliburton Arlene is AKA Donna for Most of her Life) 

Dancing with Donna
So began the day of finding Donna, and then checking on my Donna's progress in having her much awaited baby calf. Donna was precisely where I did not want her, or any other of my cow's to be, when they were getting ready to calve. She had gone deep in to the wood thicket that edged the pasture, where most cows instinctively feel they can safely calve and protect their young. And you know, Donna may have been exactly right, but me being a know-it-all human herdswoman -- I disagreed.

Coyotes are an enormous threat in this neck of the Pineywoods of East Texas. They wake you up from a deep sleep with their shrill screaming, and you jump up and run to the door and flip on all the outside lights, and they instantly silence. You then know they are very close and they are looking for food -- and when your cows are calving you know what food they most prefer.

So, for about three hours, Donna and I had a bit of a dance. I located her and made myself a comfy spot where I could keep an eye on her -- that lasted about an hour. She wasn't quite ready to have the calf, and she certainly didn't like my intrusion -- I would look up from my book and through my binoculars see her looking straight at me, so of course she checked out better spots burrowed in ever deeper vines and briers.

I had a choice to make -- let her calve where she chose, or go into the woods and try to bring her out and hope like heck that it didn't have a detrimental impact on her putting a healthy calf on the ground. After about an hour of stressful watching and re-locating of Donna, I made the choice. I went in to the woods and got in behind her, briers slapping and scratching my bare legs, fortunately not my feet, as by then I'd at least had the sense to change my flip-flops in favor of my favorite LL Bean pasture shoes.

Success! Donna headed back to the open pasture with me trailing behind her and moving from side to side to direct her path as best I could through the nest of old briers and vines and trees in this native thicket. The rest of the herd were on the crest of the hill above the woods by then and noticed Donna coming out of the woods, and they came in closer to see what was up. I headed back to the pasture gate and gave the herd my regular call of "Hey Girls!", and like the good girls they are they followed me, and Donna came along as well, bringing up the rear of course, as she had a baby that was ready to come in to this world.

I easily sent the big herd into another adjacent pasture (these British White girls are very gentle and easy to move, and it is always good to have an adjacent pasture that is not occupied), and cut off Donna as she came with interest along with the herd. I directed Donna into the pasture beside the house, and felt the first relief I'd had all day. But, some consternation as well; after all, I had interrupted her calving regimen, something I try to never do. But, I had been remiss in not already pulling her into the 'calving' pasture, and I have no doubt it is the safest place for my new mama cows -- so yes, I interrupted her.

Donna and her newborn Elvis sired bull calf
Another Photo of Donna and her Bull Calf:

Yes, I Talk Too Much!

This account of my day is getting lengthy! I still tend to 'talk too much', but no longer have a teacher around to chastise me to shush -- apparently I didn't have to hold my nose in a circle in a corner of the school room nearly enough! So I'll leave off the rest of the details and tell you the ending. After 6 and a half hours of finding her, watching her, moving her, and then checking on her repeatedly, Donna had a healthy bull calf. Besides my own interruption of her calving ritual, another calf, a 6 week old precocious heifer, provided constant irritating curiosity about just what Donna was doing. Despite all this, a healthy calf was born.

My day is what cow-calf farms or ranches are all about. Raising cows in rural America is not about Global Warming -- has no impact on Global Warming. They are about new life and a calf's first steps, they are about watching a calf dashing about the pasture when they realize they can run -- when they feel just plain good to be alive -- and someone like me is around to feel the joy and look after them and give them as good a life as I am capable - regardless of their ultimate end.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Quincy 230 Compressor on a Water Well

Quincy 230 Compressor, late 60's/early 70's model, operating a water well with a 3HP Baldor L1408T motor. 

This is a short video of our old Quincy 230-32 Compressor, Serial Number 722418 . The tag on the unit also says it is a size 3 1/2 x 3.

The old compressor has been operating with a new 3 HP Baldor motor (that was the size and model on it originally) to pull water from a 600 foot water well. The motor starts the compressor up fine, but when the float valve shuts the unit down, it is 10-12 hours before the motor can successfully start the compressor again. The motor would either do nothing when I attempted to get the compressor going, or it would try and the compressor would stop and start, the belts moving then pausing. Also, when the compressor was idle in these periods, you could attempt to turn the belts by hand and they would stop with very little play in the pulley, like there was pressure preventing movement?

This burned up the new 3 HP Baldor replacement motor within about 2 weeks.

There is not an unloader on the top of this unit. Various photos I have found online indicate there ought to be. Could this be part of the problem? Or is an 'unloader' only required when this compressor is used as an AIR compressor?

Oil has been checked, it is fine, that's about all I can clearly see how to do on the compressor.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Plucky British White Bull Calf - Lucky Dan Learns to Walk

British White First Calf Heifer, J.West's Vanity Fair,  with 'Lucky Dan'
 This winter brought an unusual experience to our British White cow herd.  Early in the morning on January 27th, we found one of my heifers exhausted with trying to calve, clearly worn out and in distress.  My first concern was for her, she was that tuckered out.  She was laying on her left side just kind of splayed out and her energies clearly spent, eyes just buggy and staring.  A quick exam told me the calf was tilted half again sideways in the birth canal and she had tried all she could try to have that boy.

Her name is J.West's Vanity Fair -- she was just that pretty when she was born. Vy, as we call her, is an El Presidente daughter that had a birth weight of 51 lbs and has matured in to a Frame 2 cow.  (Vy is pictured at a few weeks old below.)  I had been quite anxious about her first calving experience, and fortunately had pulled her in to the main corral where she could be easily helped if needed.  Anyway, a brand new set of soft nylon obstetrical straps received their first use that morning.

J.West's Vanity Fair and her dam, Billie Jean, in November 2008
The calf appeared to be dead, the tongue extruded and swollen and cold, but I've seen that before in calves that do survive.  The right leg was still quite recessed, the left leg was up top with several inches showing and easily grasped.  It was slippery work to get the right leg in the strap working blind, but I managed after several frantic tries. 

With me working at her vulva to help ease the head on through, Mike pulled the calf with these new straps, and perhaps too hard, but I was quite insistent that he pull the calf as quickly as possible as Vy was just not breathing well at all, way too quiet.  We still made sure the angles were right for the pull as best we could considering the odd position of the calf.  In hindsight, it just wasn't a real difficult pull, as it was accomplished within minutes, but again, perhaps too fast and/or hard -- isn't hindsight 20/20!

The newborn bull calf was actually DOA upon birth, quite lifeless in my arms. But, I had read several months before about the oxygen deprivation a calf endures in a hard pull. Even when they are born alive, they can die within minutes if you do not give them oxygen as they are quite stressed by the whole experience. So, this plucky little bull calf, seemingly quite dead in my arms in to which he was born -- received my own immediate oxygen via careful, yet forceful, mouth to mouth and mouth to nostrils breathing on my part.  I didn't actually put my mouth on his mouth or nostrils, just got as close as I dared, which was pretty close.

A "Calf-Saver" purchased from
Mike ran back to the house for a gizmo called a 'Calf Saver', pictured left.  It has a tube you pass down their throat, and is intended to keep the human out of direct contact with the calf while trying to revive them.   Before he made it back I was rewarded within just a couple of minutes of his little body jerking and clear signs of life.  I almost passed out from hyper-ventilation breathing my air in to him, but nothing could have stopped me continuing beyond pure passing out.  By the time the Calf Saver was there, the calf was breathing like a miracle to me and I was dizzy and gasping and laughing and happy like you can't imagine, it was a truly memorable experience.

This Calf Saver appears to have been made for a really big calf, or I was just too hesitant to really push it firmly inside his mouth -- that's most likely the case.  Regardless, I used it as best I could as soon as Mike brought it, and we took turns continuing to give the calf oxygen via the Calf Saver until we were confident he was okay.  And yes, we tickled his nose along the way and I do believe that helped as well once he was initially revived.  We didn't hold him upside down or anything like that, as I'm of the opinion that isn't what a distressed calf needs at all.

Vy actually remained quite still throughout the pull, very minimal efforts at contractions, and still quiet afterwards as we worked on her calf, but she was alive and seemed more comfortable.  Once the calf was actually sitting up on its own and looking around his new world, made his first incredibly wonderful mewling sounds for his momma, Vy perked up and got straight away to her feet to check out her new boy.  As she had calved him in a small shed with a dirt floor, we moved the little bull out on to grassy ground several feet away, then left the pair for an hour or so to clean ourselves up and catch our own breath -- as I was now quite tuckered out!

We discovered when we went back out to check on things that Lucky Dan was just not able to stand up and suck.  His two front feet buckled at the ankle every time he tried, and he was definitely hungry and intent on standing, so it wasn't for lack of trying hard enough.  So I fed him colostrum throughout the day, he only took about a pint at most with each attempt.  The next morning we hoped to find him all better, not so, he still could not stand.  Long story short -- he simply could not stand and we had to figure out just what to do to help him, it was a totally new dilemma for us.  (Oh!  And within a week or so I settled on that name for this little guy, his registered name is J.West's Lucky Dan, his sire is Tom Sawyer, and his birth weight was 64 lbs, and I think he just may make a bull.)

Lucky Dan, Trying to Keep his Balance
In the first photo above, and the one to the right, you see Mike's second try at making braces for Lucky Dan's legs.  He used PVC pipe and duct tape, a particularly good grade of duct tape with lots of staying power.  The first try he put short braces on both legs just below the knee all the way down to the tip of the hoof.  That worked well on the right leg, but he still couldn't use his left leg, so Mike devised one long enough to stabilize the knee as well.  These photos were taken when he finally stood on his own (after being helped up) for the first time.

After about 10 days or so, Mike removed the tall brace and tried a short one again on that left leg, and he was able to not only stand up on both legs, but get his own self up on those legs.  With the tall brace, I had to stand him up regularly and encourage him to move around, I just didn't think it was healthy for him to sit all day.  It was quite a sight, he would try to do that baby calf hop of joy and sometimes hold steady on landing, sometimes fall right down, and in hind sight maybe I should have named him Captain Cook or something as he walked with a peg leg so long, but I kept thinking about Dan in Forrest Gump.

During all this I bottle fed him regularly, sometimes with his dam's milk, sometimes with milk replacer.  Although he could stand, he would easily stumble and fall down if he got in too big a hurry, or Vy irritatingly bumped him, so there was no way he could manage nursing.  It was beginning to get really cold here in February, so we moved them to a pen right by the house.  That made it easier for me to check on him regularly, but no way was I going to be able to daily get her back to the chute to milk.   So I gathered up my courage and attempted to milk her in the pen -- with no halter, no rope, nothing. 

After lots of stops and starts and kicks and charges, I realized I needed a very tasty distraction for her.  Right in the barn I found my secret weapon, Peanut's (one of my horses) sweet feed.  It was like giving a kid ice cream, as of course I don't let my cows have any grain. 

J.West's Lucky Dan at 3 months of Age

I was actually able to milk her as long as she had her head in that bucket.  Towards the end of this experience, I would stand Lucky Dan up on one side of her and encourage him to learn to suck, and I would quickly milk her from the other side.  Those were actually the most calm milking moments, Vy seemed to like it better that way, I know I sure did.  Finally the day came when I went out to give a bottle to Lucky Dan and he just didn't want it anymore, he had learned to suck and already had his belly full.

We periodically removed his braces to see how he was progressing throughout these weeks.  His right leg healed the fastest and we were able to remove it first, then it took about a week for the left leg to finally be strong enough for him to stand fully on his own -- and that was a happy day indeed.  Lucky Dan is now just over 3 months old, and is pictured above in early May.

Note:  We were fairly confident that Lucky Dan's leg problems were strictly from the pull, not a nutritional deficiency as apparently is the case with this type of issue as well.  Given his odd position in the womb, it was the left leg that received the brunt of the pulling, and it was the left leg that was more damaged and took the longest to heal.