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1865 Dept. Agriculture Table of Contents]


The supply of fine wool in the manufacturing markets of the world is yearly increasing, and the tendency in price is downwards. The demand for long wool is still unsatisfied, and the movement of prices for all the best styles is decidedly upwards. The English long wools bear quite as high a price as the finest of Australian merinoes, and much higher than those of the Cape and of South America, which have suffered a material decline within the past year.
The increasing manufacture of combing wools, the tendency towards which was noted particularly by the writer in his Condition and Prospects of Sheep Husbandry in the United States," in the report for 1862, is perhaps the most notable fact concerning the woollen manufacturing industry of the present day. New and beautiful styles of ladies' goods command the admiration and patronage of the fashionable world; and invention is almost equally rife in the production of fancy goods from long wools for gentlemen.
In 1865 the imports of woollen goods into this country amounted to $20,347,563. Of this one-fourth part was for woollen cloths and shawls. The remainder was mostly for long or coarse wools, including dress goods, blankets, carpets, and flannels. The delaines and dress goods far exceed other items, amounting to $7,817,139. This fact significantly illustrates our want of combing wools. In two years the imported dress goods of the United States have cost nearly eighteen millions of dollars in gold, while the same item for the two preceding years did not reach two millions, On the contrary, more cloths and shawls were introduced in 1862 than in 1865.
The wool quotations of commercial papers, wherever examined, test the correctness of these remarks. The following are the prices quoted at the present writing: Choice Saxony, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, 67½ to 73 cents; Ohio and Virginia, half to full blood merino, 55 to 62½ cents; Ohio and Virginia, common to half blood merino, 47½ to 57½ cents ; western merino, 45 to 57½ cents; Canada combing, 70 to 85 cents.
In connexion with these quotations, it is remarked that a change had occurred within the year preceding; that "then fine wool was in demand and the lower grades neglected. Combing wool, however, is in as good demand as it was a year ago, and commands as good a price.” An English journal, (the Farmer's Magazine,) in alluding to our want of worsted wools, says "that there is great danger that their" (our) "worsted factories will have to be closed for want of raw material."
The high price of Cotswold wool should not be deemed extravagant, in view of the fact that its shrinkage in scouring is but from 18 to 20 per cent, while the waste in merino wools ranges from 40 to 70 per cent. A pound of average Cotswold fleece will produce as much scoured wool as two and a half pounds of merino fleece which shrinks 68 per cent.
The breeding of long-wool sheep, especially of Cotswolds, Shropshire, and other Downs, is increasing perceptibly in this country, especially in Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan; and the advance in this direction will be still more rapid in the immediate future. The necessity for good mutton is quite as urgent as the want of combing wool, and farmers near the large cities, and many even in the interior, are finding a rich profit in mutton breeds.
A few facts from the correspondence of this department will aid in elucidating the vexed question of the comparative profit of fine and long wool sheep. Aside from speculative operations, the latter, in suitable situations and circumstances, appear to have the advantage in the comparison.
From Cooper Sayre, of Oaks Corner, Ontario county, New York, a statement concerning a flock of fifty Cotswolds, regarded as thorough-bred animals, and the recipients of State fair premiums, places the cost of keeping at $2 per year for ewes and $2.50 for wethers. ‘his includes five months’ winter feeding with hay worth ten dollars per ton, and cornstalks, with one bushel of beets per day, costing twenty-five cents, and a peck of oats daily for the lambs of the flock. His ewes average seven pounds of clean wool each, and his wethers eleven pounds. The minimum sales of the former are not less than twelve dollars each. His ewes average a yearly increase (of lambs) of 120 per cent. His principal buck weighed, at 18 months, 264 pounds. At the end of the first year he expects a weight of 140 pounds, 200 pounds at two years old, and from 200 to 250 at three years old, and an increase in three months feeding for market of 40 pounds. He estimates the cost of care and labor, exclusive of washing and shearing, at $3 each. It is an interesting fact relative to a flock of this size that the loss is but three per cent.
An interesting exhibit of the debtor and credit sides of a flock of South Downs is made by Ralph H. Avery, of Canastota, Madison county, New York. Taking the average yearly cost and produce of his flock as a basis, he estimates for a flock of ten ewes as follows, with $19 10 each as a comfortable balance:


Ten ewes, at $30 each.........................................$300.00
Interest on stock...................................................$21.00
Pasturing 6½ months, at $2..............................$13.00
Winter food 5½ months, at $3 ...........................$16.50
Salt, $1; washing, $1; shearing, 50 cents....................$2.50
Labor, for winter care.............................................$5.00
Average loss by accident or disease, 2 per cent .....$6.00


Ten ewes, worth same at end of year.................. $300 00
Fifty pounds of wool of ten ewes, at 50 cents ... $25 00
Fifteen lambs, at/$15 each...........$225 00
Value of manures............................... 5 00
   [Total]...............$555 00
Leaving a net profit of... .............$191 00

He writes further as follows: "My sheep are usually sent to pasture about the first of May, and put into winter quarters about the middle of November, making six and one-half months in pasture. During the summer and autumn I aim to prevent them from becoming too fat, which I find a very difficult matter. In this they differ from any other breed which I have kept. My only care during the season at pasture is to put tar upon their noses two or three times and give a supply of salt once a week. I deem it very essential that sheep have a constant supply of pure running water the year round. When put into winter quarters, which consist of a warm shed open on one side, a tight, warm, and dry stable, always well bedded with straw, and well lighted and ventilated, and an open yard in which there is a trough constantly supplied with water brought from a spring, they haying free access at all times to all the different departments, as their instincts lead them. They are regularly fed three times each day upon clover hay, cut when first in bloom and cured mostly in cock, so as to preserve the leaves, color, and flavor as entirely as possible. Occasionally at noon I feed on cornstalks, wheat, oat, or bean straw, for a variety. No grain or roots are fed at any time. I, however, think a few roots, regularly fed, would be beneficial to their health. My sheep, thus kept, are always healthy and in fine condition. I never lose any except’ by accident.
"After a thorough trial of several breeds of sheep, I consider the South Downs the most profitable for wool and mutton combined, for this section of country. For hardiness, early maturity, and easy fattening qualities, together with the superior quality of their mutton, they are not equalled. In other sections of the country other breeds might be preferred."
The hardiness. of the Cotswolds is well illustrated by the fact that they live and thrive as far north as the Ohio river without-other food, summer or winter, than the natural grasses of the meadows and forests. It is a common experience in the south, and a well attested fact in Missouri, Kentucky, and Virginia. Anthony Killgore, writing from Stewartstown, Missouri, of his flock near Maysville, Kentucky, says:
"From 1852 (the year I made my first importation) to this date, my sheep have never been fed, either in winter or summer, but live bountifully the year round on blue grass pasture alone. With this treatment I have suffered serious loss from the ewes becoming too fat for breeding and compelling me to consign them to the butcher. I have never owned a common sheep for breeding purposes; nor have I ever handled anything but Cotswolds, except a few Downs. and they only for a short time. All I know of other breeds is from observation in other hands, and from this I have been satisfied to breed the Cotswold sheep exclusively. The South Down is a great favorite with me, and has some advantages over the Cotswold, while laboring, at the same time, under some great disadvantages."
Another of the sheep-breeders of Kentucky writes: ‘I have not fed my sheep this winter, and they are in fine order. We never feed unless, the ground is covered with snow six inches or more.
Messrs. S. & S. W. Allen, Vergennes, Vermont, sends the following statement, embracing long and short wool breeds:
Interest on 10 ewes... $20 50.
Pasturing six months12 00
Winter feed six months:
2 tons of hay, clover, and herdsgrass20.00(2½ tons hay)25 00
6 bushels of corn..7 50
12 bushels of oats.6 00
12 bushels of carrots and beets3 00
Salt, ½ bushel50
Shearing1 00
Labor...2 002 00
Average per cent. annual loss by disease, dogs, &c10 005 00
119 00
Wool, 100 lbs.50 0080 lbs...52.00
10 lambs ......500 00
Manure (summer)2 00
Manure (winter)3 00
555 00
Profit436 00
First year’s average growth of lambs...--....50 lbs.
Second year’s average growth of lambs.
Third year’s average growth of lambs...........
Weight at 3 years old80 lbs..........125 lbs.
It will readily be seen that this flock of merinoes commanded speculative prices. It would scarcely be advisable to stop breeding American merinoes so long as purchasers eagerly demand them at the rate of $100 each for ewes and $50 for lambs. But when both breeds are sold at the same price, and held for wool and mutton alone, what will this comparison show? It is worth noticing, that the amount of corn, oats, roots, salt, and labor is the same, and that the only extra expense of the Leicesters is for half a ton of hay at five dollars, and three dollars more for pasturage ; ten merinoes costing, for feed and attendance, $4 90 each, and ten Leicesters $5 75 each—a difference of about fifteen percent in favor of the former. To counterbalance this, the wool of the Leicesters yields two dollars more per annum, and their superiority in mutton is equivalent to 45 pounds in three years, or 15 pounds per annum. For the purposes of mutton and wool, then, this showing decidedly favors the ten Leicesters, which produce nearly 150 pounds more of mutton, worth $15, and $2 more in wool, making $17, from which deduct $8 50 for extra cost of keeping, leaving a difference of $8 50 in favor of the Leicesters.
A. L. Graves, Ottumwa, Iowa, with a flock of 160, makes the average cost of feed and care of ten ewes and ten wethers $41 40, and of the same number of cross-bred sheep—South Downs and native—$42 40, The merinoes yield 100 pounds 10 ounces of wool, and the cross-breeds 96 pounds 14 ounces. Thus far the merino has the advantage in point of profit; but the mutton aspects of the case are immensely in favor of the South Down blood. The crossbred attains its growth in two years, two-thirds of it the first year; the merino in three years, one-half the first year, and one-fourth each year of the remaining two years. In addition to earlier maturity, the size is larger and the price er pound greater in the market. These points increase, very materially, the disparity in mutton production, while the cost of keeping is very moderately enhanced, Recent speculative prices of merino lambs constitute the only element of superiority, in point of profit, which may temporarily counterbalance the superior profit from mutton production in the cross-breds.
Several statements have been received from owners of merino flocks, (most of them thorough breds,) which exhibit a wide range of expenses and balances of profit, depending upon the price of feeding material, the length and severity of the winter, and somewhat, also, upon the liberality of the feeder.. They represent the different sections of the country, and a wide range of prices of sheep. These exhibits, averaged, give the following results: Average price of ewes, $16 40; wool of ewes, 64 pounds each, worth $3 86; average cost of keeping per annum, $2 65; percentage of lambs to ewes, 80. This is about the average prolificacy of this breed throughout the country, while Cotswolds will probably average 120, and South Downs still more. So far as indicated by statements received at this office from American breeders, founded on their own experience, South Downs would average 150 per cent. Probably the actual average throughout the country would be somewhat less. The exhibits of long-wool flocks, as shown in the preceding statements embracing both long and short wools, and in many others of a general character, indicate a smaller difference in their cost of keeping than is generally believed. Long wool sheep, of course, require more feed than small breeds, but they are of earlier maturity and more easily fattened, retaining the fat in the carcase instead of excreting it in the wool.
The original data, briefly analyzed above, illustrate conspicuously the favorable influence of the milder climate and abundant herbage of the central bluegrass regions upon the thrifty long-wool breeds. So suited are they to this climate, that in Kentucky, for instance, South Downs and Cotswolds are the favorite breeds, and many of the best farmers could scarcely be induced to exchange for fine wool sheep, however great the temporary advantage promised. To illustrate this difference in expense of feeding in different sections, and to show the money value of climate to sheep breeders, the following statements are given, each presented as the actual quantity and value of feed consumed. by ten merino ewes:
G. S. Center, South Butler, Wayne county, New York, pastures six months, at a cost of $15, and feeds six months, clover and timothy hay, worth $20 per ton, and corn at $1 50 per bushel, costing $50; salt, 50 cents. Total cost of feed, $65 50.
Charles M. Clarke, Whitewater, Walworth county, Wisconsin, pastures six months, and feeds six months upon clover and timothy hay, at ten dollars per ton, and corn and oats at forty cents per bushel, costing for the year, $46 80.
E. Findley, Ottawa, Illinois, pastures eight months, at a cost of $4 60, and feeds four months six bushels of corn, worth $1 80, and one pound of hay each per day, worth $8 per ton, or $4 80 for what is required—altogether costing, including salt, less than $12.
Facts like these are directing the attention of wool-growers to the milder climates of Maryland and Virginia, as well as to Kentucky and Missouri, and to the mountains of Tennessee and the plains of Texas. The entire Alleghanian region is unsurpassed for profitable sheep husbandry. The writer of this, in his volume upon "West Virginia," refers to the fact, that in Hancock, Brooke, and Ohio counties, in that State, there were in 1860 as many sheep as acres of improved land—a proportion to acreage eight-fold greater than in Ohio, the first wool-growing State in the Union; and says of the highlands: The mountain regions are unexcelled as sheep walks, and are beginning to be improved as such, * * * The mildness of the climate and excellence of mountain pastures are conditions favoring the production of the best quality of wool.
For sweetness and flavor, the mountain mutton of Virginia is deservedly celebrated. he production of fine spring lambs, of South Down or Cotswold blood, for the markets of the eastern cities, would prove here a most profitable business."
This mountain-fed mutton, fattened upon grass alone, has long been noted in Washington and Baltimore. In a private note from Paul McNeel, of Pocahontas county, (near the summit of the Alleghanies,) whose flocks formerly numbered 900, mostly common sheep, and who acknowledges sheep husbandry to be more profitable than the production of cattle, horses, and mules, the following illustration of the above fact occurs:
It began with 500 or 600 sheep about the year 1830. In buying, I bought such as I could fatten the next year for the White Sulphur Springs. I suppose I furnished from 300 to 500 head each year for more than twenty years; and Mr. James Caldwell, the proprietor, told me the best muttons he bought were purchased from me. Old General Wade Hampton and Mr. Singleton, of South Carolina, built summer residences at the springs. I frequently met them, and they always asked me about my sheep, and what I did to make them so fat and the flavor of the mutton so good."
Thousands of merino sheep have recently been introduced into Virginia from the north; but the long wools, among provident and thrifty farmers, are preferred ; and it is evident that the central and southern latitudes will compete successfully with-more northern locations for the supply of the worsted wools of the country.
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