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On Emigration and the State of the Highlands
Appendix I.


Dr. Smith, in his Survey of Argylleshire, drawn up for the Board of Agriculture, complains much of the effect of sheep-farming on population: at the same time he acknowledges its superior productiveness. That our mountains (h’ says) are better adapted for sheep than for black cattle, cannot admit of a doubt. Under the sheep system they make much better return both to farmer and to the landlord, and furnish in the wool of the sheep a large fund for manufacture and for commerce.’—p. 260.

Mr. Irvine, speaking of the new grazing system, says, till this system was adopted, our hills were little better than useless wastes to the owners and the public.’— inquiry into the Causes and Effects of Emigration, p. 34.

The fact is distinctly explained in an Essay on the Improvement of the Highlands, by the Rev. James Headrick.—’There are physical reasons which render black cattle an improper stock upon high mountains. In such situations they are always exposed to danger, and are seldom able to collect above one third of the herbage which could be gathered by sheep.... As the extent of mountainous pasturage far exceeding that of the arable laud in the valleys, cattle in such situations cannot be properly foddered and taken care of in winter, of course great numbers die of hunger, while the survivors are very much diminished in value.’

The same opinion is strongly expressed in the Agricultural Survey of the Northern Counties, p. 110.—’ For every pound of beef that a Highlander can send. to market, a shepherd can at least bring three pounds of mutton. This is besides the wool, which furnishes the staple for an useful manufacture that never existed before. Hence the shepherd is enabled to pay at once a double rent with ease; and it can hardly be questioned that in process of time Highland property would be tripled or quadrupled in value by sheep-farming.

Mr. Marshall, in his Survey of the Central Highlands, speaks of the increase of produce as so vast that he entertains a doubt whether a market can be found for it.

‘Where could be found a market for such a number of sheep as the entire Highlands produce? Hitherto the demand has been greater than the produce, and must continue to be so, until the country be stocked. Young sheep now travel northward from the central Highlands, and from the south of Scotland; but whenever the rage of stocking ceases, though it may happen before the entire Highlands be completely stocked, sheep of every age and sex will, in the ordinary course of things, return in myriads, and overflow ‘the central and southern markets; and unless some new market could be opened in England (a thing which under the present spirit of breeding sheep there is not likely to happen), the Highlands would be under the necessity of returning to the corn and cattle system.’

If, however, this very intelligent agriculturist had bestowed as much of his attention on Political as on Rural Economy, he could scarcely have failed to perceive, that the present spirit of breeding sheep in England will be no absoIute bar to the sheep of the Highlands finding a market there. There is no other management which in these mountains will bear a comparison with the rearing of sheep; and therefore, if the farmer cannot otherwise dispose1 of his produce, he must reduce his price, till he forces a market. The price will be very far reduced indeed before sheep-farming sinks to the level of the old management of the Highlands in point of profit.—The farmer who breeds sheep on the arable lands of England is in a very different situation: he can employ his land for many other purposes with nearly equal advantage. Independently of breaking it up for tillage, he may apply his pasture to the dairy, to fattening cattle, or even to feeding these very sheep from the Highlands. Whenever, therefore, the price of young sheep falls below a certain level, he will give up breeding them as an unprofitable business; and if the sheep which can be reared in the mountainous districts of the kingdom are found adequate to the full supply of the market, the practice of breeding them on fertile arable lands, however fashionable it may now be, must decline and fall into disuse.—At all events the progress of sheep-farming in the Highlands must tend to the diminution of this practice and of the lands which will thereby fall to be converted to a different purpose, it is reasonable to suppose that a great proportion at least will be employed for the cultivation of grain.


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