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1865 Dept. Agriculture Table of Contents]


THE AMERICAN MERINOES OF VERMONT.

The increasing interest manifested of late in the breeding of pure blooded fine-wooled merino sheep indicates that the progress in sheep husbandry, which has been most remarkable during a quarter of a century past, is destined to continue, and that the growth of fine wool is to become one of the leading interests of this country.
Nowhere has there been felt so much general interest in this subject as in the State of Vermont. The Spanish merino was introduced here early in the present century, and by the judicious and careful breeding of more than forty years has become a far more perfect animal than when first imported, combining a heavy fleece of fine texture with a vigorous and healthy constitution, adapted to a northern climate, which the less hardy Saxons were unable to withstand. The flocks of such gentlemen as Edwin Hammond, of Middlebury, William R. Sanford, of Orwell, Rollin J. Jones, of Cornwall, E.S. Stowell, of Cornwall, Geo. Campbell, of Westminster, John T. Rich, of Richville, and others in Vermont, have made the thorough-bred merino sheep celebrated throughout America. Animals from these flocks are eagerly sought from all portions of the country, and at prices almost fabulous to those not familiar with the facts. Rams from one to three years old are sold at from $1,000 to $5,000, and in some cases $10,000 has been refused for a single animal. The owner of a superior ram frequently received from $2,000 to $3,000 for his services in one season, besides using him in his own flock. Ewes are sold at from $100 to $1,000. Hon. Rollin J. Jones, of West Cornwall, Vermont, sold his entire crop of ewe lambs in the season of 1865 at $100 per head when five months old. The subjoined statement shows the weight of fleece and weight of carcass, respectively, at a public shearing of these lambs, given by the purchaser, at West Cornwall, Vermont, May 23, 1866:
NumberWeight of fleeceWeight of carcass
lb.oz.lb.oz.
19106912
21114 56 4
3 11 8 46 4
4 9 8 60 14
5 12 6 62 6
6 10 6 49 14
7 10 9 59 10
8 11 6 71 4
9 12 6 46 6
10 11 10 52 6
11 10 8 46 0
12 10 12 61 4
13 10 6 46 10
14 9 10 47 4
15 12 6 68 14
16 12 8 57 14
17 11 6 53 0
18 11 65 4 4
19 9 12 66 4
20 11 6 66 2
21 12 8 49 4
22 12 8 45 0
23 11 14 46 12
24 12 8 53 4
25 11 14 46 2
26 10 12 56 14
27 9 6 60 0
28 12 10 48 0
29 10 14 57 6
30 9 12 48 10
31 9 4 50 8
32 10 2 64 0
33 13 0 61 8
34 11 10 58 14
35 13 0 61 8
36 11 14 54 14
37 12 12 56 4
38 9 14 61 15
39 12 12 54 2
40 11 2 62 10
41 11 2 68 14
42 11 4 56 14
43 11 8 42 14
44 12 0 67 4
45 11 4 59 6
    Total 508 10 2,515 3
Gross weight of carcass after shorn, forty-five ewes, 2,515 pounds, 3 ounces.
Average weight per head after shorn, 55&frac89; pounds.
Average weight of fleeces, 11 pounds 5 ounces.

These lambs, like most of the principal flocks of pure bred merino sheep in Addison county—the leading sheep-growing county in the State—were descendants of the Spanish merinoes of the importation of Stephen Atwood, of Connecticut, and now generally known as the Infantado stock.

The ram lamb Ophir is a most perfect specimen of what long continued effort at improvement can accomplish. He was but ten months old when his portrait was taken. The ewes of the best flocks, when matured, shear from ten to fifteen pounds each; the ram from fifteen to twenty-five pounds, unwashed, and they are generally shorn in April or May, when the weather is cool and the fleece less oily than it would be later in the season, at the ordinary time of shearing.
The number of breeders of fine sheep is rapidly increasing. Competition is keen, and we may look for a still further advancement in the excellence of flocks and a more general dissemination of the American merino through the United States during the next decade. The addition to the material wealth of the country in this event can scarcely be estimated, as, with the requisite protection by a judicious tariff, the American breeder can be confidently assured of ample and gratifying remuneration.
The people of Texas were becoming considerably interested in sheep husbandry and the breeding of improved stock when the late unhappy rebellion terminated their intercourse with the north, and even since the close of that struggle have again commenced visiting Vermont with a view of purchasing stock and engaging anew in the prosecution of the enterprise. The soil and climate of Texas are favorable to the breeding of sheep, and we look to see the “Lone Star” become one of the leading wool-growing States of the Union.
Several of the best flocks of Vermont will be represented at the exposition at Paris in 1867, and a still greater triumph for the American breeder than that achieved at Hamburg a few years since may be expected. We hope to see it fully demonstrated that the pure bred American merino has no equal on the face of the globe.

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