Monday, December 21, 2009

Comments on Robert Bakewell's Approach to Cattle Breeding - 1856

We find the following in Rural New Yorker extracted from the London Quarterly Review for April 1856

". . . The cattle of ancient days were chiefly valued for dairy qualities or for draft, and were only fatted when they would milk or draw no longer. The greater number of breeds were large boned and ill shaped, greedy eaters and slow at ripening, while as very little winter food was raised except hay, the meat laid on in summer was lost or barely maintained in winter. Fresh meat for six months of the year was a luxury only enjoyed by the wealthiest.
      First class farmers salted down an old cow in autumn, which with their flitches of bacon, supplied their families with meat until the spring.   Esquire Bedel Gunning, in his Memorials of Cambridge, relates that when Dr Makepeace Thackeray settled in Chester about the beginning of the present century, he presented one of his tenants with a bull calf of a superior breed. On his inquiry after it in the spring,the tenant replied, "Sir, he was a noble animal, we killed him at Christmas and have lived upon him ever since."
      The improvement of the breeds of live stock is one of the events which distinguish the progress of English Agriculture during the last century. Prominent among those who labored to this end was Robert Bakewell of Dishley, the founder of the Leicester sheep. He also had his favorite long horn cattle and black cart horses, and though he failed in establishing these he taught others how to succeed.

     Surrounded by the titled of Europe, he talked upon his favorite subject, breeding, with earnest yet playful enthusiasm, there utterly indifferent to vulgar traditional prejudices, he enumerated those axioms which must be the cardinal rules of the improvers of live stock. He chose the animals of the form and temperament which showed signs of producing the most fat and muscle, declaring that in an ox all was useless that was not beef, that he sought by pairing the best specimens, to make the shoulders comparatively little, the hind quarters large, to produce a body truly circular, with as short legs as possible, upon the plain principle that the value lies in the barrel and not in the legs, and to secure a small head small neck and small bones.
        As few things escaped his acute eye he remarked that quick fattening depended much upon amiability of disposition, and he brought his bulls by gentleness to be as docile as dogs.

. . .  But fine boned animals were not in fashion when Bakewell commenced his career, and to the majority of people it seemed a step backwards to prefer well made dwarfs to uncouth giants.
 . . . In 1798 the Little Smithfield Club was established for exhibiting fat stock at Christmas time in competition for prizes, with a specification of the food on which each animal had been kept. This Society has rendered essential service by making known the best kind of food, and by educating graziers and butchers in a knowledge of the best form of animal.
      In 1806, in defiance of Mr Coke's toast, "Small in size and great in value," a prize was given to the tallest ox.  In 1856 a little ox of the Devon breed of an egg like shape, which is the modern beau ideal, gained the Smithfield gold medal in competition with gigantic Short Horns, and Herefords of Elephantine proportions.   In 1855 a large animal of Sir Harry Verney's was passed over without even the compliment of a commendation -- because he carried on his carcass too much offal and more threepenny than nine penny beef."

Charles Dickens - An Unusual Christmas Essay on the Grandeurs of Roast Beef - 1853

Exceprt: "If we neither ate beef nor drank milk we should have little room for oxen in this country, all the herds that have grazed upon our pastures, oxen and cows that have reposed so tranquilly and looked so much at home upon our fields, all those creatures and the whole sum of happiness they have enjoyed would never have been called into existence. Compare the ox and fox community. Truly it is a good thing for the cattle that man was created with a taste for milk and beef. Nothing can be shallower than the appeal made to humanity by Vegetarians. It is a fine thing for the ox that man is glad to eat him."

Note:  If you have difficulty with the small type, click the image to go to the source document, it's clearer reading.


Mr. Dickens' essay continues on another two pages or so. Click the linked image above and it will take you to the source document on Google Books. It's worth continuing to read, as Mr. Dickens gives us his impression of the various breeds at the cattle show, as well as good commentary on how feeding methods had changed from a hundred years prior, and improvements in the quality of the beef.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Transactions of the Natural History Society of Glasgow - Chillingham Cattle


???Doesn't exactly look like the Chillingham Cattle of today, does it? Perhaps they evolved on their own? Doubtful.......

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The U.S. Beef Breeding Herds Numbers are the Lowest since 1971..........

Dairy, Meat Prices Will Spur Food Inflation, Wells Fargo Says

By Jeff Wilson

Dec. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Rising milk, beef, pork and chicken prices will double the pace of U.S. food inflation next year as livestock supplies shrink and rebounding economies boost demand, said Michael Swanson, a senior economist at Wells Fargo & Co.

Food prices may jump as much as 6 percent in 2010, Swanson said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Nov. 25 forecast 3 percent to 4 percent food inflation next year, up from an estimated 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent in 2009.

Producers of cattle, hogs, dairy cows and poultry cut output after a jump in feed costs last year, reducing supplies as demand for meat is rising at home and abroad, Swanson said. Corn, the main source of animal feed, will rally next year because of record demand for grain to make ethanol, he said.

Beef Herd
The U.S. beef-breeding herd on July 1 totaled 32.2 million head, down 1.4 percent from 32.65 million a year earlier, and was the smallest since the government started collecting data in 1971, the USDA said July 24.
“Protein inflation is going to be much higher than people are anticipating,” Swanson said Dec. 9 in an interview from Minneapolis. “Corn is a proxy for feed costs, and right now the value of all meat and dairy output is below the price of feed on a long-term relative basis.”

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said in a Dec. 3 report that cattle futures will increase over the next year by the most since 1978, and hogs will gain the most in six years. Cattle futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange will reach $1.10 a pound by December 2010, Goldman said. That would be up 32 percent from 83.275 cents on Dec. 11. Hog futures will reach 80 cents a pound, the bank said, which would mean a 22 percent rally from last week’s close at 65.425 cents.

Sustainable Rally
“As we start a new decade with the global economy emerging from the worst recession of the postwar era, we expect the commodity supply-side constraints of the past decade to once again re-emerge, reinforcing the sustainability of higher long- term commodity prices,” Goldman analysts including Jeffrey Currie wrote in a note to investors. “Economic recovery suggests rising meat demand amid tighter supplies.”

Follow the title link to read the rest of this article.......

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Old Superstitions of the Highlanders of Scotland

Here are a few of these old Scottish Superstitions regarding Cows, the Moon, and be sure and take a head count when you sit down to Christmas dinner, and be sure and serve left to right!

Among the unlucky things it is unfortunate for a stranger to count the number of one's sheep, cattle, or children.

. . .This spirit was an innocent supernatural visitor that frisked and gambled about the cattle pens. Armed with a pliable reed she would switch all who annoyed her by using obscene language or who neglected to leave her a portion of the dairy product.

It is unlucky for an odd number to sit at a table such as 7, 9, 11 and 13, and unless changed one of the party is sure to die within that year.

It is unwise to drink the health of a company or to serve them round a table except from left to right as the sun goes . . .

To catch the first sight of a new moon through a window will bring ill luck.

The turning up of the horn of the new moon indicates dry weather.  (Somebody have a look at the new moon tonight, we could use some dry weather, but not through a window!)

Cattle, sheep and pigs must not be slaughtered in the wane of the moon because the meat would shrink in cooking.

A more common form of the TAGHAIRM was that of selecting some person and wrapping him in the warm side of a newly slain ox or cow and then placing him at full length in the wildest recess of some lovely waterfall. Here he remained for some hours and whatever impression was made upon his mind that was supposed to be the solution of the question asked.