A History and Biographical Cyclopaedia of Butler County, Ohio
History of Butler County Ohio
Pages 132 - 136

Agriculture

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The breeding and fattening of hogs is an important branch of the business of farming as conducted in this county. No county in the United States of equal area has produced so many hogs of a superior quality as the county of Butler. The breed which is here so highly esteemed is the result of careful and judicious selection, conducted by the best breeders in this county and the adjoining county of Warren, for the last Fifty years.

The precise history of the method adopted to produce this popular breed of hogs can not be given as fully and as reliably as its present value and importance demand. The best information of a reliable character which can be obtained gives us to understand that as early as about 1820 some hogs of an improved breed were obtained and crossed upon the then prevailing stock of the county. Among the supposed improved breeds of hogs there were the Poland and Byefield. They are represented as being exceedingly large hogs, of great length, coarse bone, and deficient in fattening properties. Subsequently more desirable qualities were sought for, and the stock produced by the crosses with Poland, Byefield, and other breeds underwent very valuable modifications by being bred with an esteemed breed of hogs then becoming known, and which were called the Big China. They possessed important qualities in which the other breeds were sadly deficient. At a later period Mr. William NEFF, of Cincinnati, an extensive pork-packer, and fond of fine cattle and hogs, made some importations of fine stock from England. Among them were some Irish Graziers. They were white in color, of fair size, fine in the bone, and possessing admirable fattening properties. Berkshires, about the same time, were attracting much attention, and both breeds were freely crossed with the then existing stock of the county. The result of these crosses was highly advantageous in the formation of a hog of the most desirable qualities. The Berkshires had obtained, with many breeders, great favor, while others objected to them because they thought them too short and too thick in the shoulder. Nevertheless the Berkshire blood was liberally infused into this stock of hogs, but in such a judicious manner as to obviate the objections urged against them, and to secure their conceded good qualities.

Since the formation period of this breed of hogs, as above stated, there have been no material or decided innovations upon the breed thus obtained. Breeders have carefully selected and judiciously bred from the best animals thus produced among us. Wherever defective points were apparent, they have been changed by careful breeding. There has been for many years no admixture of any other breed of hogs. This breed is now, and has for nearly fifty years been the stock predominant in this county. Breeders believe that they have a well-established breed of hogs, which is unsurpassed in the most desirable qualities of a good hog. This breed of hogs, although of comparatively recent origin, may be regarded as thoroughly and permanently established. They have been bred so long, and with such judgment and uniform success, that they may be confidently relied on as possessing such an identity and fixity of character as a distinct breed as to give assurance that they will certainly and unmistakably propagate and extend their good qualities.

For many years there was some diversity of opinion as to the proper name to be given to the popular and prevailing breed of swine. The subject was thoroughly discussed, and the name definitively and authoritatively determined by the action of the National Swine-breeders' Convention, held at Indianapolis in November, 1872. That convention settled on the name Poland-China. The action of the convention has been almost universally adopted by breeders throughout the country.

While we claim that Butler County has more good hogs than any county in the State, yet we do not desire to do our neighbors any injustice by appropriating all the credit for this breed of hogs to ourselves.

Warren County assisted in the formation and establishment of this breed of hogs. They continue to raise them in their purity and perfection, and take into the market as fine lots of hogs as have ever been raised and sold.

In verification of what we claim we propose to show the averages of hogs sold and delivered to packers-not isolated cases, nor single specimen hogs, but the lots of hogs raised by our farmers and sold in the market. These hogs are usually kept over one Winter, and are sold at ages ranging from eighteen to twenty-one months.

Mr. David M. MAGIE has made the following sales:

One lot of63hogs,average weight,. . . . . . . . . . . .444
" 40 " ". . . . . . . . . . . .417
" 80 " ". . . . . . . . . . . .433
" 60 " ". . . . . . . . . . . .400
" 72 " ". . . . . . . . . . . .413
" 100" ". . . . . . . . . . . .408
" 43 " ". . . . . . . . . . . .467
" 35 " ". . . . . . . . . . . .451
" 120" ". . . . . . . . . . . .458

Thos. L. REEVES sold 39 head, 17 1/2 months old, averaging 459
Jeremiah BEATY "35 "averaging. . . . . . . . . . . .4382/3
L. MILTENBERGER
35 "". . . . . . . . . . . .449
Abraham MOORE"40 "" . . . . . . . . . . . .466
Wm. GALLAGER" 71 " " . . . . . . . . . . . .473
Wm. GALLAGER,
the first 22 head of same, averaging. . . . . . .528

These are individual lots, among many which have been noticed as remarkable for their high average. Although they have never been equaled, so far as the public know, yet some may regard another kind of evidence as more conclusive. To such we submit the following facts, kindly furnished by Mr. CHENOWETH, who, for many years, weighed the hogs packed by Jones & Co., at Middletown, in this county. The hogs there packed are mainly furnished by citizens of this county and Warren County. The following table will explain itself:

The Season When Packed.No. Packed.Whole average
In season of 1862 and 1863, . . . . 4,956 305 lbs
"                " 1863 and 1864, . . . . 5,538 276 "
"                " 1864 and 1865, . . . . 5,370 282 "
"                " 1865 and 1866, . . . . 6,003 345 "
"                " 1866 and 1867, . . . . 5,013 335 "

Such an average, for so many seasons, where so great a number has been packed, we believe to be equaled.

Below we give a statement of several lots of hogs packed at the above house during the season of 1867:

NO. IN EACH LOTAverage NO. IN EACH LOT Average
Lot of 32 head, . . .423Lot of 13 head, . . . 428
"         10 " . . . 461 "         21 " . . . 456
"         17 " . . . 426 "         26 " . . . 444
"         18 " . . . 478 "           6 " . . . 478
"         38 " . . . 492 "         50 " . . . 488
"         32 " . . . 433 "         12 " . . . 510

These figures, which are obtained from unquestionable sources, must decide the superiority of our breed of hogs over all others. To produce such averages, the stock must be of the best quality, and then care and judgment in breeding must be practiced, and good attention given in raising and fattening.

The course adopted in breeding, rearing, and fattening our hogs, as practiced by our successful breeders, is very uniform indeed. Young sows are usually preferred for breeders. They and the boar are carefully selected, so as to perpetuate good points and to avoid any that may be deemed either defective or unsatisfactory in their appearance. Breeders aim to have their pigs come between the 1st of March and the 15th of April. The sows, with their pigs, are carefully attended until weaning time, when they are duly separated, and the pigs are then abundantly supplied with slop and other feed, so as to prevent them from losing growth or flesh in consequence of their weaning. Whenever they attain sufficient age they are turned into clover, where they remain during the continuance of grass. During the ensuing winter, they are kept in a thrifty growing condition. In May of the second year, they are turned into clover pasturage, where they remain until August or September. This Summer pasturing upon clover is deemed essential to the proper development and growth of the hog. They increase rapidly in size, and become in the best possible condition for receiving fat-producing food, which is given to them with care and regularity until they are ready for market.

Some feeders deem it advisable to give the stock they propose to fatten a slop of meal or shorts during a part of August and September. Others rely upon nothing but corn, fed to them in the ear, or by “turning in“ upon standing corn. This latter mode would seem to be a very slovenly and improvident manner of feeing hogs. It is, however, not always so. When the weather is favorable there is economy of labor and no waste of grain in thus fattening hogs. If turned in early they consume a large portion of the stalks and all the corn. There is another reason in favor of feeding off corn by turning hogs early in the season upon the corn: The hogs take off but little from the land, and it is, therefore, less exhausting to the soil than feeding the grain produced in any other way. To feed hogs thus in a wet season is very objectionable. Grain is lost, hogs do not thrive so well, and the land is very liable to become injured by compacting and baking.

As yet, no carefully conducted experiments have been made in this county to test the advantages of cooking food for fattening hogs. Farmers estimate that it requires from eighteen to twenty-five bushels of dry corn to fatten each head of a fair lot of hogs. In two instances the experiment of fattening hogs with corn boiled on the ear was tried. One gentleman, some years ago, fattened some twenty-five head on boiled corn, and stated that he had done so by using about seven or eight bushels per head. Another gentleman claimed to have produced the same results by using half the usual quantity of corn. There is but little question but what an immensive saving would be effected by cooking all our corn used for fattening purposes.

The pervalence of that fearful, and usually fatal disease, the hog cholera, has done its work with us as with others. It does not prevail as extensively now as heretofore, nor is the disease as virulent. Farmers now watch the condition of their stock with more care than heretofore. While there is no reliable remedy known for curing the disease, yet careful attention to the health and growth of stock, and the use of some supposed preventives may be efficacious in staying the ravages of the disease, and saving us from great losses.

For the purpose of showing the capacity of Butler County for raising hogs, and making pork for the market, the following statement is submitted, showing the number and value of hogs assessed for taxation purposes:

YearsNo. cattle. Value
Years No. cattle. Value.
1836,.. 8151 $65,208
1862,.. 15848 $173,714
1843,.. 8671 $69,369
1863,.. 16236 $200,479
1844,.. 8608 $68,864
1864,.. 14470 $232,438
1845,.. 9077 $72,617
1865,.. 12623 $311,673
1846,.. 12946 $103,568
1866,.. 14781 $395,197
1847,.. 11751 $107,063
1867,.. 18724 $421,308
1848,.. 12838 $103,358
1868,.. 17238 $457,993
1849,.. 12420 $107,329
1869,.. 15732 $429,008
1850,.. 12618 $112,861
1870,.. 17236 $461,324
1851,.. 13044 $122,718
1871,.. 17493 $441,710
1852,.. 15360 $135,226
1872,.. 16800 $346,568
1853,.. 20095 $219,045
1873,.. 16522 $339,552
1854,.. 20913 $257,057
1874,.. 17989 $375,000
1855,.. 20914 $227,198
1875,.. 16054 $313,089
1856,.. 19829 $256,881
1876,.. 15630 $336,183
1857,.. 18252 $248,182
1877,.. 15388 $317,228
1858,.. 17050 $245,999
1878,.. 16404 $357,757
1859,.. 17765 $239,283
1879,.. 16882 $328,025
1860,.. 16558 $230,726
1880,.. 16906 $356,401
1861,.. 16431 $211,774
1881,.. 16519 $331,092


YEARS. No of hogs. Their value. YEARS. No. of hogs. Their value.
1846, . . . 54076 . . . . . . .
1864, . . . 39629$153,506
1847, . . . 60604 $159,190
1865, . . . 27886$180,932
1848, . . . 64067 $97,514
1866, . . . 29959 $233,906
1849, . . . 63425 $116,446
1867, . . . 40527 $239,712
1850, . . . 52467 $86,688
1868, . . . 38083 $198,702
1851, . . . 41515 $87,720
1869, . . . 39034 $227,303
1852, . . . 51362 $165,360
1870, . . . 36490 $264,620
1853, . . . 66249 $225,901
1871, . . . 43036 $286,751
1854, . . . 66695 $184,765
1872, . . . 44856 $180,149
1855, . . . 53137 $118,504
1873, . . . 41352 $272,311
1856, . . . 47399 $163,845
1874, . . . 41455 $193,101
1857, . . . 49566 $201,739
1875, . . . 39524 $236,730
1858, . . . 49655 $182,162
1876, . . . 36704 $276,433
1859, . . . 42012 $132,524
1877, . . . 44242 $244,095
1860, . . . 40279 $154,018
1878, . . . 52706 $196,020
1861, . . . 49992 $208,367
1879, . . . 46079 $157,388
1862, . . . 56306 $142,127
1880, . . . 32367 $134,709
1863, . . . 42012 $126,672
1881, . . . 28255 $133,072

This table shows the increase and decrease of numbers, as well as their aggregate values, for the last thirty-six years. It will be seen that the number of hogs reported has undergone decided changes. The largest number was 66,695 in the year 1854, and the lowest number was 27,886 in 1865. While our population was increasing at nearly the rate of 550 per annum, amounting in 11 years to about 6,000, the number of hogs decreased in the same time about 55 per cent. The variableness in price has been remarkable, They were worth, in 1848, $1.52 per head ; in 1855, $2.23 ; in 1863, $3 ; and in 1866, $8.

SHEEP.--At a very early period in the agricultural history of Butler County, John REILY, Daniel MILIKIN, and possibly one or two others, strongly imbibed the mania, which prevailed at that time, for raising Merino sheep. This variety of sheep was not generally introduced among our farmers, owing to the high prices they then commanded. They therefore constituted a very small portion of the few sheep then in the county. “Common sheep” as they were called, were the predominant breed. They possessed no very desirable quality, save that of a high capacity to endure excessive bad treatment. Their wool was coarse and hairy, and only suitable for the manufacture of such goods as were denominated “home-spun.”

From the introduction of the Merinos, a few years previous to 1820, some change in some localities were affected in the quality of the wool. A very few appreciated the value of having a better grade of wool than that furnished by the common sheep, and hence the introduction of the Merino blood was very limited indeed.

Subsequently new breeds of sheep were sparingly introduced, and were received with greater favor. Some Southdowns were introduced as early as 1830, and subsequently Leicesters, Cotswolds, and their crosses were occasionally seen. At this time we have creditable flocks of “improved Spanish Merinos,” of Southdowns, of Leicesters, and Cotswolds. Considering the little interest which had existed for many years in sheep husbandry, the present prospect for increased attention to that interesting and profitable branch of the farmer’s business is very encouraging indeed. Our contiguity to the Cincinnati market, and the rapidly increasing consumption of choice mutton, which exceeds the increase of population, has induced many farmers to give more attention to raising sheep which are esteemed to be best for mutton, quality and quantity considered. Here, as elsewhere, great difference of opinion exists as to the best breed of sheep for making mutton. Some prefer the Southdowns, while others prefer the larger breeds.

Those who prefer the Merino rely upon the superior quality and quantity of wool, claiming that for a given quantity of food they realize more money on their small sheep than can be made with the larger breeds. It is probably best that this diversity of opinion should prevail as to the relative value of the several breeds of sheep. It excites more interest, and a rivalry that is neither unpleasant nor unprofitable, and thereby our manufacturers are furnished with a better variety of wool, and our markets are more abundantly supplied with mutton of an improved quality.

Recently a new breed of sheep has been introduced, which attains a mammoth size, and which promises to be a great addition to the stock of this county. It is known as the Oxfordshire Downs.

The condition of sheep husbandry in this county can be seen by an examination of the following table, giving their number and value in the years named:

YEARS. Number. Value.
YEARS. Number. Value.
1846, . . . 23535 . . . . .
1864, . . . 10684 $40,399
1847, . . . 19923 $11,278
1865, . . . 13628 $63,658
1848, . . . 17358 $9,683
1866, . . . 15834 $52,046
1849, . . . 16262 $8,986
1867, . . . 13470 $47,666
1850, . . . 12447 $7,597
1868, . . . 13630 $36,557
1851, . . . 9515 $6,043
1869, . . . 9559 $24,878
1852, . . . 8298 $8,918
1870, . . . 7652 $21,849
1853, . . . 9095 $12,730
1871, . . . 6005 $17,224
1854, . . . 10253 $17,145
1872, . . . 5488 $20,895
1855, . . . 10073 $14,745
1873, . . . 5992 $21,860
1856, . . . 7958 $13,323
1874, . . . 10043 $29,571
1857, . . . 6364 $10,287
1875, . . . 7009 $24,932
1858, . . . 5356 $9,121
1876, . . . 6653 $23,584
1859, . . . 5320 $8,830
1877, . . . 7712 $26,975
1860, . . . 5500 $8,523
1878, . . . 9448 $28,307
1861, . . . 5135 $8,474
1879, . . . 10180 $34,115
1862, . . . 5568 $10,086
1880, . . . 11328 $44,775
1863, . . . 7114 $23,025
1881, . . . 13091 $54,186

From this statement it will be seen that the number of sheep decreased from 23,535 in 1846, to 5,135 in 1861, and that their average values have fluctuated between 55 cents and $4.74 per head. These extreme fluctuations, in numbers and in price, are not credible by those who have not bestowed immediate attention upon such questions. Precisely why such remarkable fluctuations have taken place, it would be difficult to determine to the satisfaction of many. Causes have existed which legitimately would tend to affect not only the number but the price of sheep. Yet no adequate reason can be assigned for such extreme changes in numbers or price. The figures show that men have been influenced in their movements as sheep are-the one follows the bell-wether, while the other regulates his business by the movements of his neighbors. There has been nothing which should have produced these violent changes. Sheep husbandry, for the last fifteen years, has, upon an average, been as profitable as the ordinary business of the farm for the same period.

Present pecuniary profits should not be regarded as the only motive which should influence the operations of the careful and considerate farmer. The cleanliness of his farm, the preservation, if not the increased productive capacity, of his soil should not be lost sight of in deciding in what manner he should conduct his farming business. If experienced English farmers are content to fatten sheep for the butcher, only asking the manure made as their clear profit, then surely our farmers ought to consider whether they will not be able to enrich their farms to so great an extent by feeding sheep that they will be content with a small profit for the grain and labor expended.

Our sheep bear no proper proportion to the number of acres of land which we have, nor to our population.

These comparisons show that we in Butler County are greatly behind in the number of sheep. Our population, our acreage, and our ability to raise and keep sheep, all suggest that we should give more attention to sheep husbandry, and should speedily increase our flocks. If other countries, or other parts of our own State, less favorably situated, find itprofitable to keep so large a number of sheep, surely this county, in such proximity to Cincinati, where good mutton always finds ready sale at a fair price, can find abundant warrant for increasing their flocks of sheep, and for improving their quality.

Thus far no serious disease has prevailed among our sheep. They have been exempt from ailments of almost every kind. Their only enemy has been found in the four thousand ravenous dogs which infest the county, and which not only annoy and disturb the quietude of whole communities, but which do, annually, injuries exceeding in value all the dogs of the county one hundred fold.

Butter and cheese must not be passed unnoticed. As to the latter article, neither the quantity made nor its quality give it any special claims upon our attention. We do not aim to make enough cheese for domestic use. The amount manufactured is consequently very inconsiderable, and its quality is not such as to give it a high marketable value.

Butter making, however, has grown to be an important business. In no branch have we made greater improvements than in this domestic department. Formerly good butter was a rare commodity in our markets. Now they are pretty well supplied with a fair quality, in many cases a superior quality, of butter. Our housewives, in this department, as in most others over which they have special supervision, have made most commendable progress in improving the value of their products.

There are other topics connected with the agricultural interests of this county which most probably should have received attention. In considering the multitude of the more important questions, they have been overlooked.

In conclusion, it affords us great pleasure in being able to bear favorable testimony to the general progress which has been made in the intellectual, moral, and social culture of our agricultural population. This improvement has been more general and more marked among females than among males. In substantial educational attainments, in moral culture, and in social accomplishments, our young women of the county are far in advance of our young men. Even in the same families, the daughters have more refinement and more propriety of deportment than the sons. It is greatly to be desired that there will be no abatement of effort on the part of our young women to attain a high position, and that, by increased manly exertions, our young men may make more rapid progress, so that they may soon occupy a like honorable position in the good opinion of worthy men and women everywhere.