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Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland
The Improvement of Hill Pasture


THE IMPROVEMENT OF HILL PASTURE WITHOUT BREAKING IT UP.
By Alexander Macdonald, Sub-Editor, North British Agriculturist.
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Ten Sovereigns.]

Introduction.

A TREATISE on such a subject as the above requires no lengthened introduction. It is presumed that pastoral farmers do not require to be told at this time of day that the improvement of hill pasture is a matter of national importance. It must be as apparent to all of them, as it is to us, that a large extent of the thirteen million acres of Scottish mountain-land might be converted into useful and remunerative pasture. True, some good work has been done within the past ten or fifteen years in the direction of "making two blades of grass grow where only one grew before," but this only goes to show more forcibly the importance of further improvement. The land that has been drained and limed, and so increased in fertility and value, affords, by the additional support it gives to the sheep stocks of the country, sufficient foretaste of the good that would flow from greater enterprise in the improvement of pasture. Pastoral farmers have had and are having their share of the deep-seated and protracted agricultural depression, but they are not far removed from a lengthened succession of tolerably good and prosperous years. In view of this fact, it cannot be said that they made the most of their time for twenty or thirty years previous to 1880 in improving the value of their holdings. Though we venture this remark, however, it might be too much to assume that tenant-farmers are solely responsible for the neglect. Owners as well as occupiers—and in some cases the owners occupy their own land—are to blame, for it could hardly be expected that a tenant with probably only the security which the terms of a nineteen years' lease provides, would show great enterprise in the fertilisation of mountain-land. Such an operation involves a considerable outlay, and this outlay should, in our opinion, be mutually borne by landlord and tenant. By landlords advancing their tenants sufficient means upon stipulated interest, say 4 per cent., a powerful impulse would be lent to the development of pastoral resources of the country. The Agricultural Holdings Act (1883), defective though it is in many respects, will impart greater confidence to tenants in the expenditure of money in the fertilisation of pasture lands; but the low price of wool, combined with the recent fall of from 15 to 30 per cent. in the price of sheep, debars them from taking advantage of the security thus extended them. For the present they have difficulty in making ends meet with the utmost economy; and while this lasts there can be little hope of the increased attention being directed to the improvement of hill pasture which it so well deserves.

It may not be out of place to mention that there are at present (1886) close on a hundred pastoral farms unlet in Scotland—in addition to those in the owners' occupation—representing an acreage of about 52,076, a fact mainly attributable to the long-continued agricultural depression.

The primary consideration in the practical application of lime or drainage to land is the nature of the soil and climate and the plants the former produces. Another point to be kept in view— and if not known to be ascertained by practical experiment in each individual case—is the effects of the various agents employed for the improvement, on the different plants existing. It may be desirable, or in fact necessary, if possible, to retain certain varieties of grass and exterminate others. But how, it may be asked, is this to be accomplished? We do not profess to be able to give a direct answer to the query, but it is now pretty well known that lime when applied to certain soils has the effect of wearing out coarse varieties and promoting finer qualities of grass—a fact to which I can not only testify from personal experience, but which is borne out by the information I have gleaned from practical sheep farmers in all parts of Scotland.

The process of improving hill pasture, however, is so materially affected by local circumstances that a general recommendation as to the simplest and most effective course to pursue for its extension would be utterly impracticable. Difficulties arise peculiar to each individual case, and it is therefore incumbent upon farmers respectively to consider for themselves how these can best be overcome. But in all instances, and under all circumstances, experiments are synonymous in the one respect at least, that their results in a great measure depend upon the determination and wisdom of the initiatory steps—steps which must take their key-note from practical experience. By the initiatory steps I mean the first efforts in the direction of improving pasture land on a large scale ; but before attempting this farmers should have some knowledge of the effects of such agents as they mean to apply by having previously applied them to similar soils and grasses. Experiments in this way may be the means of preventing a waste of money ; while, on the other hand, their results might suggest other means than those intended to be used better calculated to effect the desired improvement.

It would be going beyond our limits, and needlessly occupying valuable space, to dilate upon the comparative merits and demerits of the numerous varieties of grass to be met with on hill pastures, farther than is necessary in showing the more important plants that may benefit or suffer from the systems commonly adopted for the improvement of hill land—that has been already fully discussed by Professor Wallace in the 16th volume of the Society's Transactions.

In dealing with the subject proper of this treatise, we propose to consider it under the following heads :—(1) Draining; (2) Surface Liming; (3) Heather Burning; (4) Shelter; (5) Fencing; (6) Mole-Catching; (7) Bracken-Cutting; (8) Spring Irrigation; (9) General Remarks; (10) Appendix.

Draining.—In improving hill pasture on certain soils, draining, if the land be wet, is essential to the successful achievement of the object in view. There are soils — notably very wet land—which would lose instead of gain vitality from draining on any principle. For example, the effect of draining upon loose, mossy soil, where the surface is green, cannot be overestimated; but in the case of solid peat moss overrun with heather (Erica vulgaris), deer hair (Scriptus cæpitosus), draw-moss (early moss), or cotton-grass (Eriophorum vaginatum), and stool-bent (Agrostis stolonifera), the results invariably prove adverse in the extreme. During the bleak and " hungry*" months of spring, these grasses—known in some parts of the north of Scotland as "month" or draw moss—constitute the principal food of hill stocks. Sheep can subsist on such soils, when, at this early season, they would starve on others, and it is therefore unwise in most cases to endanger the vitality of its produce by draining the land. As the season advances, this soil becomes dry, and the pasture consequently parched and unpalatable ; but as it deteriorates, other portions of the hill-range improve, and the sheep, if left to look out for themselves, readily discover this. They rarely need to be transferred to other portions of the pasture, provided there is a supply of fresh grass to induce them to "make shift" for themselves. In short, except with the view of removing stagnant water, advantage can seldom, if ever, be derived from draining solid moss land.

Soil composed purely of stiff clay, with a sloping surface, covered by the coarser grasses and " bents," may be susceptible of amelioration from widely separated drains; but it is also liable to be injured by too close draining. Where such soil rests on a subsoil of stiff, retentive clay, and is flat on the surface, draining is indispensable. "This land," says an intelligent writer, "improves by close draining; the sprett diminishes, and in some situations, where the soil can be thoroughly dried, it disappears altogether, its place being occupied by a thick covering of fine grass mixed with white clover (Trifolium repens), and affording pasturage of the best description." These remarks we fully indorse. Another variety of soil that invariably benefits inestimably from close drainage is loose, loamy land, which is usually productive of rush and sedge (Carex),—food that is invaluable in spring in eking out the scanty subsistence of highland flocks. Other compositions of soil in certain situations may also be drained with advantage, but the foregoing form the principal soils underlying hill pastures.

Even those soils which, as a rule, require close draining are very liable to be overdrained; each farmer has to be guided by his own judgment in estimating the extent to which this system of improvement should be carried out. Overdraining has its attendant evils, not only as regards the deterioration of the pasture, but also the health of the sheep.

The same observant writer from whom I have already quoted, says:—"In laying down general principles for the drainage of a sheep farm a serious error might be committed, if special reference was not had both to the extent and quality of the dry, steep land that may be upon it. Where there is a large proportion of dry hard ground, whether covered with heather or green lea land overrun with moss and coarse grass, and upon which the growth is late in spring, the wet land should never be so thoroughly dried as upon farms where there is either a wider extent of deep and damp soil, or where the lea land is good and sharp, the plants finer, and the growth comparatively early." The truth of this statement cannot be doubted. The elevation of a farm, its exposure, and 'the nature of the climate, are important points to be kept in view. Farms situated, for example, in western districts of Scotland, from the rainy character of the climate, require a more efficient drainage than those in naturally drier parts of the country. Three systems of draining have been adopted, hut one of them is comparatively new. Less than half a century ago the prevailing method was to lay the drains almost straight across the land. At a more recent period a system of laying them right up and down the hill was introduced; while at a still later time farmers struck them out exactly between the two extremes. This later method is, as a rule, the most serviceable; still it was long in becoming a general practice. Even yet the old systems of draining exist to some extent, although they have been largely superseded by the newer methods on the more important farms. In the old drains stones were used, and are so still to some extent, but are being largely replaced by tiles, which are found to answer the purpose more efficiently, and to involve less labour and expense in maintenance. Tiles were first introduced into extensive use in Peeblesshire, and have been growing in public favour for the past twenty-eight or thirty years. An objectionable feature in tile-draining in Scotland, however, has been the use of too small pipes. When under-sized, tiles are apt to become stopped, and to require frequent cleaning. They should never be less than 2½ inches for tributary drains, and 4 inches for "leaders." By procuring large tiles at the outset, a considerable subsequent expenditure may be obviated, and a more satisfactory and durable drainage secured. The size of surface drains, like their distance apart, has to be regulated by the nature of the soil, the elevation, and the character of the surface of the farm. A common size for shallow drains on stiff clay land is 20 to 22 inches wide at the top, 8 inches at the bottom, and from 16 to 18 inches deep. But where the soil is mossy, drains are cut 3 to 4 inches deeper, and some 6 inches wider at the top, than drains on stiff clay and tilly land. On the latter the distance between the drains varies from 30 to 50 feet, and in some cases more. The cost of cutting drains depends to a large extent on the character of the land. The ordinary cost of cutting surface drains ranges from 1d. to 2d. on soft ground; but where picking is necessary, the expense runs as high as from 2d. to 4d. per rood of 18 feet. Tile drains are much more expensive, the depth in this case varying from 2½ to 3 feet. Open and close drains are both used on almost every holding, but the latter is undoubtedly the preferable system; and it would doubtless be more universally adopted if landlords gave their tenants more liberal help and encouragement,—advancing cash, as we have already suggested, on interest. Open drains require frequent cleaning out—generally every six or eight years —and thus involve a considerable outlay.

Finally, it is proved beyond doubt that by a judicious process of draining, hill pasture might be substantially improved. Draining has already done good work in Scotland, especially over the southern counties. Its beneficial effects are not only shown by the luxuriant herbage with which it displaces coarse innutritious grasses, but also in the general health and constitution of the sheep. In this respect draining is known to have a marked influence especially in diminishing rot, to the prevalence of which wet land is unquestionably conducive.

Surface Liming.—A large proportion of the permanent pasture before it can be advantageously limed must necessarily be drained. Applying lime to wet land is an error into which farmers are liable to fall. If the soil is of a boggy nature, draining is the first step to be taken towards improvement. A very large extent of pasture has been limed within the past thirty years over the southern counties of Scotland, notably the counties of Lanark, Dumfries, Selkirk, Peebles, Ayr, and Roxburgh, with, it may be said, profitable results. Lime has a wonderful effect when properly applied to light lea land, except where land has been cropped, as well as to all soils that are naturally dry. It tends to exterminate ,moss and noxious weeds, and it brings into action the dormant surface of the soil, and thus encourages the growth of nutritious grasses. By a process of liming, instances could be mentioned of hill pasture having been raised 10s. per acre in value.

The duration of lime in the soil is unequalled by that of any other manurial ingredient. Farm-yard and certain classes of artificial manures—when applied after the land has been dressed with lime—have more immediate action when thoroughly incorporated with the soil, but neither of them—not even bone manure—are so lasting in their effects. I have seen on several farms, strips of pasture limed 20, 25, and 30 years previously, much greener and richer than adjacent patches that had not been top-dressed in this way, and I have come to the conclusion that judiciously applied lime is the most effectual top-dressing hill pasture can receive. Its expense is, however, a very great hindrance to its universal use. On farms situated near to railway-stations or in proximity to limekilns, no more beneficial stimulant can be employed in the improvement of pasture lands; but where there is a high carriage to pay in addition to the cost of the lime, it is too expensive to use extensively. As to the cost of liming it would be difficult—indeed impossible—to estimate the average outlay per acre, inclusive of expenses connected with its application, but it may be mentioned that the present value of lime at the kiln varies from 7s. to 10s. per ton. The average allowance per imperial acre is as nearly as possible 5 tons.

Diverse opinions exist as to the best system of applying lime to the soil. Many farmers, in fact the majority, empty it in small uniform heaps here and there over the soil and then spread it as equally as possible; while others gather it into large heaps, containing perhaps as much as 16 to 18 tons, before spreading it. The latter plan is supposed to enable farmers to spread the lime more uniformly than it is possible to do through the small-heap system, while it is alleged in favour of the We heaps that the lime "falls" more thoroughly than when in small heaps. In some cases farmers economise the expenditure in lime by mixing it with good rich soil subjecting it to the action of the air, and applying it in the shape of compost. This however, involves an enormous amount of labour, and the expense of doing the work is almost equal to the saving of lime.

Lime gives still another advantage when applied to soil. It has been conclusively proved by some of our most intelligent and observant flockowners to exercise a beneficial influence on the health of stock. At one time "pining" was very common in several of the counties already mentioned. Since so much of the pasture has been improved through the agency of lime, however the loss from this disease has been greatly diminished. This is doubtless due to the fact that more succulent grass is available on almost every farm than was the case at one time, and that it is thus more digestible than the coarse, hard, unpalatable grasses which have been destroyed by liming.

Heather-Burning.—It is the belief of many practical sheep-farmers that no law connected with the agriculture of Scotland is more defective than that regulating the burning of heather. It is indisputable that certain portions of hill pasture might be more efficiently improved by the use of a lucifer match than by the most expensive process of manuring or draining, but for the restrictions as to the legal time for heather-burning. Under present regulations a tenant farmer is only allowed to burn heather to the 11th of April, and it must be perfectly evident to all that heather is not in a proper condition, after a severe wet and protracted winter, for burning so early. There is a clause in the parliamentary Act that enables a tenant, provided he gets the consent of his landlord, and pays one shilling to the sheriff of the county for registration of such consent, to burn on to the 25th of April but this is a very unsatisfactory system. [It would be useless to expect that heather burned much later than 11th April would be of much value as food that year, but the time might be extended a couple of weeks with impunity and advantage.] The impression that rank heather is essential for the protection of game has been found to be incorrect It is prevalent in many quarters, but it is now generally allowed that short and young heather is more conducive to their healthful propagation.

Grouse nests are seldom to be found amongst very rank old heather, and it is universally known that after the young birds are hatched, they invariably go for food to the newly-burned moors, and where they can bask themselves in sunshine.

The great objection to the prohibitory regulations as to burning from a flockmaster's point of view is, that they prevent the consumption of old heather when it is desirable to destroy it. For grazing purposes, as well as for grouse, heather and "deer hair" should be burned periodically. That young heather is essential to the well-being of sheep and game cannot be doubted. After it becomes old and largely developed into woody fibre, it is not only inedible, but deleterious to the land on which it grows. The latter becomes barren, and after its covering is burned, it is less productive than if the heather had been earlier consumed. It is not advisable, however, to keep heather too much down in low-lying parts where sheep are accustomed to be kept during the severest days of winter, because rank heather or whin—(whin-growing is resorted to in not a few cases for this purpose)—enables the animals to break the surface of the snow more easily in search of food, or have it broken for them by means of harrows or drags.

Shelter.—It is an important matter, especially on exposed pastures, to provide adequate shelter for sheep. In this respect there is great room for improvement. On many farms little or no attention has been directed to this matter. It is an old but true saying, that " shelter is half meat for sheep," and this being so, the importance of protecting the weather-beaten flocks from the severity of winter storms cannot be overestimated. The more advanced farmers have erected stone dykes or "stells" on various parts of their farms, while on the farms belts have been planted. The "stells" are usually round in form, built of stone, and unroofed. The idea of planting clumps of trees here and there over the pasture is favourably entertained in some quarters, though opposed in others, and will probably be more generally appreciated in the future. The plantations are usually grown on dry heathery ground adjoining pasture, rough and suitable for wintering sheep, such as moss, bent, spretts, or rough heather.

Fencing.—Unless sheep have absolute freedom, which is indispensable for their healthy and muscular development, there is little hope of farming with profit; and to secure this, nothing is more necessary than the enclosing of pasture. It is not many years since the fencing of hill pastures was adopted to any extent, and it is still very imperfectly carried out. The better class of farms are, as a rule, pretty substantially enclosed, but the majority in Scotland are neither enclosed, subdivided, nor laid off so completely as could be desired. The first thing to procure in the direction of fencing is a complete enclosure of the holding from all surrounding pastures and farms; then it would be well, in order to carry on sheep-breeding successfully, to subdivide the pastures into parks for convenience during the rutting, lamb-weaning, and fattening seasons. [In suggesting this, however, we would impress upon farmers the importance of seeing that the subdivision does not deprive their stock of variety of food or shelter. Where there is the remotest likelihood of such a result, we should tender them the advice that Punch offered to those about to marry—don't.] As a rule, wire constitutes the principal fence, but several of the important farms in the south of Scotland are to a large extent fenced with dykes. The expense of fencing is, doubtless, very considerable, but, from its effect upon the sheep, it soon compensates the farmer for the expense thereby incurred. Moreover, it prevents animals from straying away from the flock. And what is of still greater importance, it resists the invasion of strayed sheep from other flocks, and may thus be the means of preventing an attack of contagious skin disease or "foot-rot," from which much injury invariably flows. Where there is an abundance of stones at hand, dyke-fencing is, if anything, preferable to wire-fencing for more reasons than one. For one thing, it is less liable to suffer from heavy snowstorms or frost than wire, while, as a matter of course, it affords more shelter to sheep. Dyke-fencing is specially commendable on exposed ground, and if it cannot be raised to a sufficient height conveniently, a wire or two could, and in innumerable instances are, run along the top of it in order to prevent the sheep from leaping over.

Mole-Catching.—To many this operation may seem trivial in the improvement of hill pasture, but such is by no means the case. Moles are generally very destructive on pastures extensively intersected with open drains, and a considerable expense is annually involved in keeping them down. They do not work in all soils, but are plentiful, as a rule, in good land in want of draining. And they even work havoc occasionally to close drains by displacing the tiles, except where these are pretty deep. Unless moles are destroyed, where numerous, it is needless to expect that "sheep-drains" will dry the land sufficiently. Water from them is diverted in all directions through mole-holes, besides, the gentleman in velvet often does mischief in breaking down the sides of drains, and thus interrupting the flow of water.

Bracken-Cutting.—Many sheep farms are overrun with bracken, which does nothing more or less than encumber the ground. As food, bracken is valueless, except as silage, [Bracken has this year been tried as silage, in which form it is well relished by cattle.] while the benefit derived from its use as bedding for stock, for which it is generally used, is not equivalent to the loss of pasture caused by its extensive growth. This being so, and in view of the fact that the same land cannot produce both grass and bracken simultaneously, because the latter checks the growth of the former, it is desirable to exterminate bracken, if possible, or at least to keep it in check. How to wear it out effectually has not yet transpired, but various methods of keeping it down are tried. Some farmers destroy the plants when young by the application of link-harrows, while others, the majority, cut them with scythes about the end of July, and remove them to the farm steading or sheep cot, where they are used in the manner already mentioned. Others believe that cutting in spring for two or three successive seasons destroys bracken; but on a large scale, and on uneven ground, the expense is prohibitory.

Spring Irrigation.—On hill pastures abounding with springs, or what is proverbially termed "well-eyes," good work is done by irrigation; that is, by diverting or spreading these springs, where practicable, over hard and barren ground in their vicinity, and thus promoting a supply of fresh nutritive grasses. Such overflow water has a wonderful influence in fertilising sterile ground, and this system might, we think, be more widely adopted. Of course, it is not practicable on every farm on which these springs are found, but it is necessary in most cases to have them removed or drained by some means. Where they exist there is invariably a good supply of fresh vegetation, which sheep are naturally fond of, and in going into them many animals have been drowned, as the depth of such springs is very deceptive. Conduits should be cut sufficiently deep to drain away the water as it rises, unless in cases where some advantage may be derived from retaining a certain volume, with a view to insure a more uniform supply of water for irrigation purposes. These springs have long been considered conducive to rot in sheep when numerous and undrained, and it has also been found that irrigated pasture, though good as hay, is not always safe grazing for sheep.

General Remarks.—So much has already been written regarding the various systems of improving hill pasture, that there is little remaining to be said here. But there are still one or two points which we may appropriately allude to. One of these is the grazing of cattle on hill pasture with a view to keeping down the excessive growth of "sprat" and other inferior plants. There are several farmers in Scotland whose experience has led them to attach considerable importance to this mixed system of grazing. I am aware of one instance at least, in which an enlightened Perthshire agriculturist, who has been in the habit for more than a quarter of a century of turning cattle on to rough hill pasture in the end of May or beginning of June with good results. The sheep grazed after cattle were not only healthier, hut a larger number of them could consequently be kept. Instances of the successful grazing of cattle on hill pasture early in summer are also available in various other parts of the country, but many, if not indeed the majority, of south country farmers disapprove of this practice. But great diversity of opinion exists on this point.

There have been loud complaints in recent years about the deterioration of hill pasture, which has been attributed to various causes. It is difficult, indeed impossible, to speak with any degree of certainty as to the real cause, but it is evident to all concerned that bad seasons have had a hurtful influence on pastures. Cold wet summer seasons, in the absence of sufficient sunshine, are blamed for the supposed deterioration, and we believe justly enough. All kinds of crops suffer from such adverse meteorological circumstances, and we are therefore inclined to homologate an intelligent Inverness-shire farmer's opinion, who writes:—"I attribute the deterioration of pasture chiefly to a succession of cold wet summers;" and adds, "heavy rainfalls have a strong tendency to encourage the growth of fog in green pasture. Take, for instance, a farm of arable land in the west of Scotland, which, though it is laid out with clovers and ryegrass, or other grasses, in a year or two the clover will disappear, and only the grasses indigenous to the soil and climate will remain, along with a thick sward of fog. A farm laid out in this manner in Badenoch, or in almost any inland or east coast district, will retain the clover and other fine grasses for years, and it is only when grass becomes very old that fog appears." It was long a common impression among sheep farmers in the north of Scotland that the most effective course of improving hill pasture, without breaking it up, was to pasture the sheep on rich arable grass for the greater part of the day, and turn them away to hill ground during night, as if the animals, like so many mechanical machines, could be controlled to retain and deposit their excrement as farmers desired. This course, however, cannot be regarded as either efficacious or economical; and though at one time common, is now practically obsolete.

The unanimous opinion of all concerned in hill pasture is obviously in favour of draining, liming, heather-burning, and fencing, as the four great essentials to its improvement without breaking it up; and that these, combined with shelter for sheep, form the only means by which any substantial improvement in that direction can be effected. That is certainly the inference to be drawn from the whole tenor of my treatise ; and seeing that such operations are conducive not merely to the success of individual flockowners, but to the welfare of the

nation at large, it is very desirable that improvements of this nature should be—as they are in many, though not in all cases—achieved at the joint expense of landlord and tenant. There is as yet need for an extension of operations in this respect, and much additional good work would doubtless be accomplished if landlords advanced sufficient means to their tenants at moderate interest. An influential Mid-Lothian farmer, writing in reference to this point, says:—"The expense of such permanent improvements should not be borne by the tenant, but performed by the landlord at a fair rate of interest, and the landlord should be empowered to burden his estate with the expense of liming in the same way as he can at present legitimately do with the expense of draining."

The system of feeding sheep with artificial food, such as cake, is adopted on several important farms, and pastures are vastly improved in this way. Of the success of such a course we have a good illustration in the skilfully managed farm of Corshope, Mid-Lothian, tenanted by Mr George Riddell. Some fifteen years ago Mr Riddell abandoned cropping, and commenced to lay down his farm in grass. Since then he has extended the acreage of permanent pasture to close on 800 acres. In breaking new land, lime was liberally applied, which was followed by 7 cwt. to 10 cwt. per acre of bones sown along with turnips. The turnip crop was consumed on the field by sheep, along with a considerable quantity of cake, and then after being thoroughly prepared the land was sown with grass, on which cake has been eaten every year. Land that had been cropped before Mr Riddell entered the farm was limed after being laid down to permanent pasture, with good results. Mr Riddell also applied dung to pasture, and tried top-dressing on a small scale, but he does not think top-dressing with artificial manure profitable. The effects of his liberal treatment are not only durable, but most salutary in bringing up grass of a richer kind than is to be found on almost any other farm. Writing to us on the subject, Mr Riddell concludes thus:—"I have no hesitation in saying that the result is far superior to any top-dressing I have seen on the surface of hill pasture, but the expense is far too heavy for a tenant farmer, and should not be borne by a tenant alone."

Appendix.

Supplementary to what I have written from several years' personal experience and information gleaned from reliable sources, I give below the results of practical experiments and systems of improving pasture adopted on some of the more important farms in Scotland.

On the extensive pastoral farm of Overshiels, Mid-Lothian, the process of improving hill pasture has been going on for many years. The Messrs Archibald have been liberal and judicious in the management of their pasture. They recommend the application of lime to hill land, at the rate of from 4 to 6 tons per acre. The practice on Overshiels in applying lime has been different from that on many other farms. The lime before being spread is put into large heaps on the ground, each of which is calculated to lime three acres. The Messrs Archibald object to lime being emptied into small heaps in the belief that it cannot be equally spread. Nor does lime "fall" so thoroughly as it does when there is a large quantity of it in one heap. Some twenty years ago the top-dressing used by the late Mr Archibald consisted of a compost of earth and lime, but the process of mixing them, though simple, involved an enormous labour. A piece of land was first ploughed, and the lime then distributed over it, and worked into the ploughing by horse labour, after which the compost was carted over the adjoining pasture. With the view of testing the effects of top-dressing in this manner, a strip of land was kept in its natural conditions between parts that were limed. The improvement in the colour and quality of the pasture from the influence of lime became very apparent. The sheep took better to the limed than the unlimed pasture, which was decidedly the most productive. The Messrs Archibald recommend the use of larger tiles in draining than have hitherto been laid on the majority of farms. The distance apart has to be regulated by circumstances, but they consider 10 yards a good serviceable distance. The depth of such drains should not be less than 3 feet.

The farm of Glenbuck, Lanarkshire, which carries one of the finest sheep stocks in Scotland, has been vastly improved through liming and draining by its enterprising owner and occupier, Mr Charles Howatson. The greater part of it has been intersected with tile drains, most of them 18 feet apart, and others 36 feet. Between each of those, 36 feet apart, a shallow tile drain is sunk, and is found to do good work. The size of the tiles used is 2½ inches, and the open drains, of which there are a great many, are 20 inches wide at the top, 18 inches deep, and 9 inches wide at the bottom. The cost of laying the drains 18 feet apart, and at the ordinary depth, was about £9 per acre. Mr Howatson recommends in cutting open drains that all stones or tree roots which may impede the spade should be extracted, and that the earth taken out be removed 3 feet off the side of the drain. Lime has been applied to the pasture at various times, costing, as a rule, 50s. per acre. By this system of top-dressing, the character of the pasture has been materially enriched and improved, and parts of it, which were limed some thirty years ago, are still green and vigorous, while the adjoining land that got no lime is perfectly bleak and sterile. With a view to compare the results of an experiment in breaking up hill pasture, in trying to improve it, with the liming and draining of it without breaking it up, Mr Howatson trenched 2½ acres, gave it 2 tons of bone manure, and sowed it down with grasses and clover, but it is not likely to prove successful. It cost nearly £17 per acre. Mr Howatson finds that ploughing, before top-dressing hill pasture, is no advantage whatever, while it incurs a considerable expense. The Glenbuck pastures are well fenced, chiefly with dykes, surmounted by a couple of wires.

On the farm of Listonshiels, tenanted by Mr Thomas Aitken, some 80 acres of wet, boggy land were drained at a cost of £7 per acre,—the drains on the wetter parts being 12 feet apart, and on the drier ground about 18 feet. This being done, about 30 tons of farm-yard manure were applied to the parts overrun with fog, while the less foggy portions got only about 20 tons per acre. This mode of top-dressing has given satisfactory results, though it is obvious, as Mr Aitken observes, that its effects are not so durable as those of lime. For a certain length of time, however, it answered as well. The dung was carted out and carefully spread in the months of October and November, and was thus exposed to the frosts of winter, which broke it down. This system of top-dresssing was preferred to liming, in consequence of its comparative cheapness. In the higher districts of the country, such as that in which Listonshiels is situated, cropping is not extensively carried on, and hence farm-yard manure is of less value than it is where arable farming prevails. On this account it is less expensive than lime, which costs about 18s. per ton before it is spread on the ground. The highest lying land has been drained with "sheep-drains" 4 yards apart, and running direct down the hill. Generally these open drains require to be cleaned once every six years. They are cut 14 inches wide at the top, and gradually get narrower towards the bottom, which is usually about 8 inches wide, the depth of the drain being about a foot. Mr Aitken tried an experiment on about 14 acres of hard, heathery land, some 1400 feet above sea-level. On it he enclosed 60 wethers with sheep-nets, and gave them about 1 lb. of corn and cake each per day. This made a great improvement on the pasture, but the sheep did not thrive, and he stopped it. The impression on the pasture was observable for a year or two, but it has now almost entirely disappeared.

Mr Moffat, Gateside, Sanquhar, Dumfriesshire, secured a more abundant supply of pasture for his sheep by draining and straightening water-courses to prevent the flooding of low-lying flat land, which he considers are the first steps to be taken in improving hill land. Next in importance to the above, says Mr Moffat, and what should never be omitted, is the enclosing of the whole farm. The improvement of hill pasture has received far too little attention in the past. Liming, if there is a kiln on the ground, or within easy distance, has a very beneficial effect; but if there is a heavy railway carriage to pay for lime, and a long cartage besides, Mr Moffat, speaking from experience, discourages its use. He tried, by way of experiment on a portion of his farm, 1 ton of half-inch bones in lieu of lime, which, however, proved a failure. Their influence upon the pasture could only be traced for a year or two, and, moreover, the sheep did not seem more fond of the pasture so stimulated than of that which got no treatment. Draining, fencing, and burning heather and withered grass, Mr Moffatt considers the most effectual means that can be adopted for the improvement of purely hill pasture.

Mr Milligan, Hayfield, Thornhill, has improved his pasture chiefly by surface-draining. Of these he has cut over 80,000 roods. The land drained consists of strong loams, such as clay, growing sprat or rush, and black-topped land intersected with gravel beds. The drains range from 8 to 10 yards apart, and are not less than 20 inches deep. The price of cutting the drains on the land where no picking was required, in order to have them at a uniform depth, ranged from 1d. to d. per rood; but where picking was required, the rood of 6 yards cost from 2d. to 4d. Mr Milligan has limed pastures both in Dumfries and Inverness shires with advantage, but does not recommend this process of top-dressing unless tenants are prepared to extend it over a considerable breadth of their farms.

The system of improving hill pasture adopted on the farm of Skelfhill, Hawick, by Mr Grieve, was as follows:—About 5 tons of gas lime was allowed per acre, costing about 6s. per ton at the railway station. Where the land was overrun with fog, the lime has done valuable work in converting this unpalatable sward into grass of much finer quality.

Mr Whyte, Hatton of Eassie, Meigle, finds properly laid surface drains to act powerfully in improving pasture,—making it richer, more tender, and capable of carrying a larger stock of sheep. He has occasionally made a durable impression on it, where practicable, by a process of irrigation. The hills in his locality abound with springs, and where these could be diverted on to hard sterile ground by means of small drains, they invariably had a very beneficial effect upon the pasture. Mr Whyte does not abide by a regular width in cutting drains. The distance apart varies from 8 to 20 yards, being regulated by the nature of the land. They are cut broader and deeper where the ground is soft than where it is hard; the width varies from 18 to 24 inches at the top.

On West Loch, Eddleston, Peeblesshire, tenanted by Mr P. Melrose, about 300 acres of hill pasture were improved by tile-draining wet and boggy places, and liming at the rate of 15 bolls per acre. Of these, some 150 acres were broken up and put under a rotation of crops, consisting of one crop of oats, one of turnips, all of which were consumed on the land by sheep, and the land was then sown down with rape. The other 150 acres were not broken up, and appear to be greatly benefited by the lime, though the fog is still there. It wears a healthier tint than the pasture that was not limed. Several hundred acres have been drained with surface drains, which Mr Melrose accredits with having wrought an improvement in the health of the sheep He is more in favour of tile drains where the ground has a good declivity, but good deep surface drains are observed to suit better where the land is level, and interspersed with "ochre" or red water.

Mr Samuel Davidson, manager for Lord Tweedmouth, Guisachan, says he has heard of some farmers in Inverness-shire who have top-dressed hill pasture with lime with very poor results. He considers draining and heather-burning the more effective agents in the improvement of hill pasture, without breaking it up, and recommends the following system, should partial breaking up be resorted to:—First, drain the land thoroughly with surface drains, then, if practicable, harrow the surface well with pointed iron harrows; top-dress with compost of lime, bone meal, and good soil, followed by a mixture of permanent grasses, which require to be carefully and properly rolled in.

Mr Gordon of Arabella, Ross-shire, has improved his hill pasture chiefly by surface draining, fencing, burning, liming, boning, and feeding with cake, &c. Very little land has been broken up.

Another Mid-Lothian farm, on which the improvement of hill pasture has been extensively carried out in recent years, is that of Hatton Mains, Wilkieston, occupied by Mr George R Glen-dinning. The plan adopted by Mr Glendinning, like that of some of his neighburing farmers, is simple, and involves comparatively little expense. In the first place, where the land, which was principally old, rigged off with big furrows, ranging from 6 to 9 and 10 yards apart, was drained with a 4 feet deep drain in every alternate furrow, this making the drains from 12 to 18 yards apart. By this the land had been sufficiently dried, excepting about a yard or so at each side of the furrows that have no drains in them. To have drained every furrow, Mr Glendinning considers, would have ruined the land with expense, finding that it will not pay to drain such land—worth originally from 4s. to 6s. an acre—if a charge of 6½ per cent. has to be paid on the drainage outlay, 4 per cent. is the highest interest that should be charged on such land. About a year after draining he limed the ground with from 5 to 6 tons of limeshells per acre, keeping the lime out of the undrained furrows which were still too wet. Draining, including tiles, cost from £5 to £6 per imperial acre, besides the cartage of tiles performed by the tenant free of cost. The lime cost 10s. at the kiln, and with the expense of carting it 5 miles and applying it to the land, it involved a total outlay of about 15s. per ton, bringing the cost of liming up to from £3, 15s. to £4, 10s. per acre, according to the nature of the ground. Mossy ground required less liming than stronger land. Mr Glendinning recommends that no smaller tiles should be used than 2½-inch pipes, while in most cases 3-inch tiles should be used for ordinary drains, and probably from 5 to 6-inch tiles for main leaders. Where the land was naturally dry, and did not require draining, Mr Glendinning applied lime with equally good effect as to land that had been drained. He has improved from 200 to 300 acres of his farm, and calculated that the return for his outlay is not so much in the way of his being able to keep more stock, as in the consequent improvement in the quality and value of his sheep. He indulges the belief that the annual monetary returns for produce of his flock sold are now from 10 to 20 per cent. greater than they would have been with the land in its natural state. On the whole, the effects of the improvements carried out on Hatton Mains are simply marvellous, and are likely to prove of a permanent character.

Mr Stewart, Chapelpark, Kingussie, gives his opinion of top-dressing with lime as the only reliable means known of improving hill pasture. Liming is so expensive, however, that it does not pay a tenant to use it extensively, except with a very long lease. A top-dressing with bones might do as much good as lime for a short time, but lime is more lasting in its effects. Referring to moorland and heather, Mr Stewart considers no means of improvement more salutary than draining and heather-burning; the latter, he thinks, is greatly neglected, especially in the Highlands, causing a considerable loss to both shooting and grazing tenants.


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