Eleventh in point of area, Forfarshire occupies the same rank in the
percentage of its cultivated land, 44.5 per cent, as against 24.2
for the whole country.
Within the last century and a half much has been done both in the
reclamation of arable land and in the improving of such accessories
of farming as draining, fencing, the making of service roads, and
the erection of commodious buildings and steadings. Along the Braes
of Angus and amongst the Sidlaws, extensive reclamation was carried
out between 1870 and 1880; and thus the arable percentage of the
county was raised from 41.8 to 44.5, an increase that represents
something like 1246 acres each year.
In the following tables, which contain the returns for 1911, the
four chief Scottish counties are given. From this the position of
Forfarshire as a farming district will readily be seen:
Forfarshire is thus one of the four chief Scottish counties in
respect of no fewer that seven of the categories under which farming
statistics are arranged by the Board of Agriculture : it stands
first in two—barley and potatoes ; and second in three—wheat,
rotation grasses not for hay, and turnips.
The returns of the Board of Agriculture not included in the above
tables are those for rotation grasses for hay, permanent grasses,
cattle, sheep, and pigs. In these Forfarshire is lower than fourth
on each list, but yet in most has a high place. The county has
altogether 112,709 acres under grass, 53,683 cattle, 167,450 sheep,
and 8255 pigs. In the three last there is a marked increase as
compared with 1910.
For its importance as a grain-producing district, Angus is indebted
to the enlightened efforts of its great landowners and of various
agricultural associations. Its green crops, particularly potatoes,
are remarkably fine. The cultivation of potatoes is popular on
account of its speculative character, prices ranging from £1. 10s. a
ton in one year to £5 in the next : as one farmer put it— “I’ve sold
potatoes at 13 shillings and at £13 a ton!” The soil of the county
seems to be specially adapted to this crop. On many farms the tubers
are sprouted in boxes for the early market, and a heavy trade is
done in certain varieties.
In cattle Angus has had a reputation that may be said to be world
wide. The polled or hornless cattle are familiarly known as Angus
Doddies. They are also called Humble Cattle or Humlies. Probably the
earliest notice of the cattle of Angus is in 1684, which shows that
they have been carefully bred in this quarter for more than two
hundred years. But it was in the nineteenth century in particular
that this was carried to perfection. In the year 1865 the rinderpest
worked havoc on the Forfarshire breeding farms and thereafter some
of the splendid pedigree herds were finally dispersed. But by
crossings and importations much improvement was again effected, and
progress in breeding has on the whole kept pace with progress in
agriculture. The cattle of the county to-day are well-bred crossed
shorthorns ; but Aberdeen-Angus, and Herefords are rapidly becoming
favourites. As will be inferred, much more attention has been given
to the feeding than to the milking breed in Forfarshire, a
circumstance which differentiates the farming of the county from
dairy districts like Ayrshire. Prior to the nineteenth century, the
sheep of Angus were of the white-faced variety; but these came to be
superseded by the black-faced sheep of Peeblesshire, and Border-Leicesters
are now largely bred. Goats, once common, had to be exterminated
owing to the damage done by them to plantations.
Market gardens and orchards, though not a distinctive feature of the
Forfarshire countryside, are plentiful. In the neighbourhood of the
towns there are many highly successful nursery and market gardens.
On the western borders of the county, the cultivation of small
fruits is rapidly increasing.
In early times Angus seems to have been a densely wooded district,
but the primeval forest has disappeared. The royal forests of Angus
were celebrated. They included Drimmie, Kingennie, Kilgary (Menmuir),
Kingoldrum, Plater, and—largest of all—Montreathmont. Large tracts
of coniferous trees, mainly Scots pine, are common in the Sidlaws
and on the Braes of Angus ; but the most extensive is on
Montreathmont Moor to the south of Brechin. Oak trees abound in the
lower parts of Glen Isla and along the skirts of the Grampians, and
birches in Glens Prosen and Clova; while the splendid parks of
Kinnaird, Panmure, Glamis, Gray, and many others of less area are
beautifully wooded with mixed deciduous trees, particularly beech
and oak. Some of the noblest individual trees are to be found on
these estates. At Gray House there are three noteworthy trees, an
oak with a height of 65 and a girth of 26½ feet, an ash 110 by 18½
feet, and a sycamore 81 by 15½ feet.
About one-twenty-third of all Scotland is wood; of Forfarshire,
one-nineteenth—i.e. 30,068 acres.