Alderney Cattle in the County of Kent
A General View of the County of Kent; with Observations on the Means of its Improvement. Drawn up for The Confideration of the Board of Agriculture and internal Improvement, From the original Report trasmitted to the Board; with additional Remarks of several respectable Country Gentlemen and Farmers. By John Boys, of Betshanger, Farmer. London. Printed for G. Nicol, Pall-Mall, Bookfeller to his Majesty, and the Board of Agriculture; 1796.
Sect. I. - Cattle.
This not being a dairy or grazing county for cattle, we have no particular breed that may be allowed the appellation of Kentish Cattle. The sort bought in by graziers to be fattened for sale in the marshes of East Kent, are from North and South Wales, which are brought by the Welch drovers to Canterbury and other markets; and the chief part of the dairy-cows are selected from those droves: others are a mixture of those and home-bred cattle, of various sorts and shapes. The principal objects as to a cow here, is the giving a large quantity of milk. If a cow, though ever so ugly, is a good milker, and produces a cow calf, it is often reared for the dairy. There are no ox-teams used here; which is partly the occasion of ttere being but little attention paid to the size and shape of the cows.
It is somewhat extraordinary, and much to be regretted, that, in a county where agriculture is arrived at such great perfection, there should be so little attention paid to the breed of cattle.
In West Kent, the dairies are small, seldom exceeding six or eight cows, and those are home-bred, between those of Staffordshire, Wales and Sussex. Some of the small dairies of three or four cows, have the Welch sort only.
In the Weald of Kent, the cattle are of the Sussex breed, both for the pail and plough.
Some farmers are more careful in the choice of bulls and breeding-cows than others; but there is not that attention paid to this department of farming business as in the midland counties. The finest bull of this district would hardly fell for twenty guineas, although he may be very handsome in every respect, and weigh, if killed, fifty or sixty score. These cattle are almost invariably of a deep red colour, and remarkable for a kindly soft skin. Their bone, in proportion to their great size, is small. The best of them have a great breadth of loin, and length of sirloin and rump, with a small head and neck; their horns are short, and stand upwards. They have a ready desposition to fatten; and seem to deserve the attention of the curious in cattle, as much as any sort in the kingdom. If the same care was taken here in breeding them, as in done in other counties, the breed might be greatly iimproved; and probably some of the best might be found equal in value to a Shakespear [A bull-calf, so called, sold at publi auction, at the sale of the late Mr. Fowler`s livestoock of Rollwright, near Chipping Norton, for 29l. 8s. Since sold for four hundred guineas], or a Brindle Beauty [A cow, thus named, sold at the same sale for 273l.]
Within these few years, some cows have been brought from the islands of Alderney and Guernsey, for the use of the dairies of gentlemens families. These are a very small ill-made kind of cattle; but they are remarkable for giving milk of a very rich quality, yielding a greater portion of cream, and making more butter from a given quantity of milk, than any other kind of cattle; the butter too is of a beautiful yellow colour, and is highly esteemed for its fine flavour. Whether these kinds of cows will preserve their superiority in this respect many years, if bred and kept in this county, time only can discover; but it is most probable, that soil and climate will operate in the course of time, so that there will be no perceptible difference in the quality of the cream and butter between these and common English cows.
An experiment was tried here last summer between a large home-bred cow, of eight years old, and a small Alderney, two years old:
The home-bred cow in 7 days, gave 35 gal, which made 10 lb. 3 oz butter
The Alderney cow, in the same time, gave 14 gal, which made 6 lb 8 oz. Butter.
The cattle which are fed in Romney Marsh, are taken into keep chiefly from those farmers who keep lambs during the winter. Thus, by a temporary exchange of flock between the farmer and the grazier, each party is accommodated; for if the grazier could not put out his lambs in the winter, he must alter his present system of grazing; and the upland farmer would be very much distressed with his bullocks in the summer, when his pastures are reserved for hay, or fed with his dairy. The farmer keeps the lambs about thirty weeks from the beginning of September; and the grazier keeps the bullocks about twenty weeks from the middle of May.
Some graziers buy welch calves in the autumn, put them out to keep in farm-yards for the winter, and in the spring place them among their sheep, where they get fat in a few months, and weigh from eighteen to twentytwo score each.
A very few oxen are fattened, which are bought in from the plough-teams of the wealds of Kent and Sussex: they are very large, and have a reserve of the best grass to themselves. From their size, they require a longer time to get fat than the smaller sorts: they usually weigh from forty-five to seventy score each.
Before concluding this section, it may be proper to observe, that farmers at different parts of this county have been, and still are, in the habit of fattening oxen, and other cattle, in stalls, on potatoes and hay, or straw; others on turnips and cabbages, and hay or straw; and likewise on oil-cake and hay. By these means the cattle are frequently made very fat: but is is generally observed by the most experienced men, that this system is not profitable, the chief advantage being that of raising a supply of good manure for the arable lands: a consideration, which by some is not thought to be of sufficient importance to pay for the risk and touble of attending stall-fed oxen.