February 15, 2004
From the February 1919 National Wool Grower Magazine
The Danger in Over Emphasizing Quality
By W. C. Coffey
Technically, quality as applied to live stock, is a narrow term meaning freedom from coarseness. The buyer for the packer inspecting lambs for slaughter looks for refined head features, fine bone, smooth, thin pelt and when he finds all of these combined in the same animal he has what he calls a lamb of quality. If, in addition, the lamb is fat, he has found an animal of high quality, that is, will kill to a high percentage of carcass to live weight.
Breeders of purebred live stock are continually talking about quality. What do they mean? Do they have the same conception of it as does the buyer for the packer? To a certain extent, yes, but as a rule their conception includes more. With them quality is freedom from coarseness plus symmetry or balance, and carriage or style. They are just as quick to denounce a badly proportioned animal or one with crooked legs and low carriage of head as being deficient in quality as one that is coarse in head and bone. To them, then, quality is the stamp of breediness, the surety that the animal is not only bred pure but aristocratically bred. The skill of the fitter is tested by his ability to enhance quality. Therefore, quality to the purebred animal is somewhat as is to polish to the diamond.
Breeders of purebred live stock are men of ideals whose eyes are trained to make close discriminations. They are always on the lookout for the animal that is balanced, stylish and bears no resemblance to coarseness, a combination that so many times is perfect in the undersized animal with too fine a bone. No wonder then that they are tempted to make a fetish of quality, and it becomes a fetish pure and simple when it is emphasized to the point of producing over-refined animals. When this happens, the true purpose of quality is misconceived and breeders are in great danger of undermining the secure foundation upon which their breed should rest. For with over-refinement go loss of size, loss of hardiness, many times loss in fecundity, and loss in power to make the best use of feed.
Time and time again breeders have let quality run away with them. Bakewell was no exception to this statement. That he went too far in sacrificing fecundity and hardiness in his sheep is common knowledge. But he so impressed his fellow breeders that they, too, tried out the Bakewell blood largely for sake of refinement, early maturity, and easy keeping qualities. Many were benefited, but most of them came to realize that there was something in the old stock, coarse though it was, that they dared not entirely replace. In this experience, British sheep breeders seemingly learned their lesson well, for they emphasize substance and extreme masculinity in selecting rams for stud purposes.
With American sheep breeders generally, quality as characterized by refinement of head features, and fineness of bone, is easily obtained. A veteran breeder of New York state once told the writer that he had to guard against too fine bone constantly and after twenty-five years experience in sheep breeding in Indiana and Illinois, I can say that my experience is identical to his. I shall never forget a speech made to the ringside at the Ohio state fair in 1911 by the late John Campbell, the veteran Shropshire breeder of Ontario. He had just passed on the two-year-old Shropshire rams. He left at the foot of the class a beautiful ram but he was small. Campbell directed his remarks to this farm first and in substance said: ?Gentlemen, this is a beautiful little ram, anybody can breed a good little sheep but it takes a master to breed a good big one.? I was so impressed by what he said that I resolved to see his flock. When I saw his breeding ewes, I understood why he had long been in the forefront as a breeder. He had mastered the difficult task of combining quality with well-balanced form, size, and ruggedness of constitution.
In this country, breeders of Poland China swine lost their leadership in swine production largely through over emphasis on quality and fancy points. There was a time when it was useless to drive a Poland China into the ring if it did not present the maximum of tidiness, and carry six white points, i.e., white hair on snout, legs, and tail. What was the result? We all know. Loss of size, hardiness, and fecundity. The last mentioned became so pronounced that some wag took license to get off a ridiculous joke on the breed by saying that a Poland China sow in Ohio cast an afterbirth without giving birth to as much as one pig. Poland China breeders finally awoke to their mistakes ? they are breeding now along sane lines and are developing grand hogs.
Only a few days ago a man who knows the swine situation well said that in his opinion, swine breeders are emphasizing greater size than they were ten or fifteen years ago. He continued: ?I do not believe we see as many good hogs at our shows as we used to (meaning symmetrical, stylish specimens with outstanding quality), but I know that our hogs in general are better than they used to be.? What a splendid compliment that, to the hog breeders of America.
But the quality-fetish is a Pied Piper which not only sheep and swine breeders, but cattle and horse breeders as well, have danced after. For a time all has gone well, but eventually the mistake is sure to loom up too large to be covered and there is nothing to do but to right about face or quit.
A certain degree of refinement we need in our breeding sheep and we will have enough of it. There is absolutely no call for concern on this point. Nine out of ten breeders of purebreds have no use for coarse ?Elephantine? specimens of their breed. In this no one would disagree with them. But every breeder should see to it that while he is maintaining quality, he is also maintaining size, stamina, fleece qualities, and the ability to turn feed into meat and wool rapidly. If to retain these things somewhat larger ears, stronger face features, in sum, if a tinge of coarseness must be tolerated, please bear in mind that vigor, and the power of rapid growth are worth more to the man who produces lambs for the market than the small margin that fine-boned lambs will command over lambs with a trifle less refinement. Some of us breed to win in the show ring, it is true, and here is where extreme quality makes its strongest appeal, but we will fail if we do not produce the kind of sheep that will make money for the commercial grower, for some day he will quit us and it will take a long time to persuade him to come back.
Sales of Surplus Army Animals
The auction sales conducted by the War Department at various camps, for the disposal of surplus horses and mules of the army, are proving very successful. Reports received of sales held January 14 and the two or three days following show that the bidding was spirited, practically every camp selling their scheduled quota, and in many instances the schedule was oversold. Another encouraging feature was the excellent prices maintained. Other sales were held on the 21st and still others are planned for January 28.
Horses referred to as cavalry represent the lighter type of army horses weighing up to 1,150 pounds; artillery represent a draft horse above 1,150 pounds. Mules have been divided into draft, which includes both wheel and lead mules, and pack, which are the blocky class of mules used in the army pack trains. These sales present an excellent opportunity just at this time to anyone interested in the purchase of good, sound, serviceable animals, at the attractive prices; and the commanding officer of any of the camps mentioned will gladly give any information desired regarding the animals offered at his particular depot.
Retailers Still Profiteering
A Chicago man took two Eastern guests to his club on New Year?s Day for lunch. It was one of those clubs where atmosphere counts, but shortage of sustenance is conspicuous in the dining room.
The menu quoted ?English mutton chops? at seventy-five cents per dose. The party ordered three sets preparing its joint appetite for a gastronomic triumph. When the waiter brought two ragged pieces of meat hanging to bones on each plate, the host made what is vernacularly known as a ?holler.?
?They?re English mutton chops,? insisted the waiter.
?You?re a liar,? retorted the Chicago man who, by the way, was acquainted with the game. ?Take 'em away and fetch us a steak for three. We came here to get something to eat.?
They got the steak. It cost $2.50 and made a square meal, the incident explaining why the average diner out avoids lamb and mutton as he does not get a run for his money. Not only do restaurateurs and club stewards penalize this meat, but retailers levy outrageous charges invariably falling back on the stereotyped excuse that they must get their money out of the chops and legs as the rest of the carcass is unsalable, whereas these cuts sell relatively higher than chops when intrinsic value is taken into the reckoning.
From the February 1920 National Wool Grower Magazine
Wool Growers Publish Booklet
With a pamphlet entitled ?Whetting Uncle Sam?s Appetite for Lamb,? the National Wool Growers? Association begins a campaign to encourage the public to ?eat more lamb, the most healthful meat.?
The association emphasizes the low consumption of mutton in the United Sates by showing that for the 5 pounds eaten per capita annually we consume 7 of veal, 67 of beef and 71 of pork. Seventy-five per cent of mutton is eaten in the section east of Pittsburgh and north of Washington, where not more than five per cent of the mutton of the country is grown. ?The West produces the lamb and New England and the East eat it,? well expresses the situation.
Pointing out that ?fewer lambs are condemned under government inspection than any other class of meat animals,? the association makes claim that lamb is the most healthful of meats.? The pamphlet just issued gives directions for the choice of cuts of meat and states the advantages of each; methods of cooking are discussed, and special recipes are listed.
It is an attractive publication, full of information. A limited supply is available for distribution by the National Wool Growers? Association, Salt Lake City.
John Brooksby of Arizona writes us that a law has recently been passed in that state making it necessary to procure a license before trapping coyotes. The object of this piece of legislation does not seem clear. Possibly it is based on the theory that the coyotes are necessary to kill off the jack rabbits or that the high price of their pelts makes it advisable to conserve their numbers. It may be that the professional trappers are not getting catches large enough to be profitable and they need further encouragement in the way of added numbers of lamb killers. Will this act of the legislators who make it possible for two coyotes to thrive where one preyed before be appreciated by the Arizona sheepmen? We think so. Moreover, their united influence should be sufficient to repeal this senseless bill.
Secretary Houston?s Successor
The vacancy caused by transference of Secretary of Agriculture Houston to the Treasury Department has been filled by the appointment of E. T. Meredith of Iowa to the portfolio of Agriculture. Secretary Meredith is the owner of ?Successful Farming,? a well known agricultural publication, issued at Des Moines. The well-directed energy that has characterized Mr. Meredith?s career as a publisher should serve the Nation well in this new field.
Heart?s Delight Lambs Dress 52.7 Per Cent
The grand champion carload of fat sheep at the recent International was fed by Heart?s Delight Farm, Chazy, N.Y., and purchased by Armour and Company at $37 per cwt. These were grade Southdown lambs, sired by a pure bred Southdown ram from grade ewes and bred on Heart?s Delight Farm. The majority was fed from sixty to ninety days, but some of them were in the barns for only a few weeks. The average age of these lambs was 275 days and their weight at Chicago was 92 pounds each. They were fed a mixture of oats, barley, corn and a little bran, together with clover hay. However, the grain mixture was not the principal element in finishing them, as they were given all the cabbage, turnips and rape they would normally eat, with the grain and hay additional. They dressed 52.7 per cent of carcass to live weight.
Last October when lambs were a drag on the market both sheepmen and commission men were a unit in predicting that high prices for fed lambs would not become effective until well on towards the middle of March. However, December was only about half gone until lambs started their upward climb and before January 20 they had passed the $20 mark. They still continue to creep upwards and some are now enough to predict that they will reach the $24 mark before the middle of May.
Texas Sheep Premiums
The premiums offered in the breeding classes at the Southwestern Exposition and Fat Stock Show, Fort Worth, Texas, March 6-13, have been increased to $206 for each breed. In the fat sheep classes liberal premiums are offered. Swift & Company offer $300 in specials on fat carload lots. Write M. Sanson, Jr., manager Southwestern Exposition and Fat Stock Show, for further particulars.
J. M. JONES, Texas
Chicago?s 1919 Sheep Trade
According to M. F. Horine, statistician of the Chicago Stock Yard Company, the 5,243,957 sheep and lambs reaching that market in 1919 were worth $59,214,006. He valued the 4,629,763 head, reaching that market in 1918, at $57,273,848.
Malady Killing Pea Fed Lambs
A strange malady has developed among sheep and lambs on pea fields in the San Luis Valley in Colorado. T. J. Hawkins who brought this news to the Kansas City Stock Yards is one of the experimental feeders in that valley. He states that lambs appear well in the evening and the next morning a good many are found dead in the fields. They do not bloat and show no symptoms of being sick. In one field no losses occur while just across the road in another field many will be found dead, indicating some sort of poison. Mr. Hawkins, who lives at Monte Vista, marketed 2700 lambs on the Kansas City mark, December 29th and 30th, at $17.25 and $17.35. He stated that he had lost 75 lambs from the malady. Government specialists are in that county making examinations.
Wool Consumption High in December
A total of 64,000,000 pounds of wool, grease equivalent, was used by manufacturers in December 1919, or 26,000,000 pounds more than in December 1918, according to the Bureau of Markets? monthly report just issued by the Department of Agriculture. The continued demand for fabrics made from the finer grades of wool is reflected by the percentages given in the report. Of the total wool consumed in December, 34 per cent was fine; 18 per cent, ? blood; 17 per cent, 3/8 blood; 16 per cent, ? blood; 3 per cent low; and 11 per cent, carpet wool.
Wool And Hide House
A new $25,000 wool and hide warehouse of hollow tile is being constructed at Yakima, Washington by Ben Grinspan and Phillip Star, under the firm name of Grinspan & Star. The building will be 50x140 feet in size and will be of two stories. The firm formerly was in business in Ellensburg. They will handle wool at both wholesale and retail.
Belgian Wool Industry Recuperating
The Commerce Report of Jan. 27 says of the woolen industry of Belgium: ?Heavy shipments of wool have been arriving in Antwerp, and the woolen industry in and about Verviers is on a way of attaining normal production.?
Drouth in Australia
A serious drouth is prevalent over a large area in Australia and many sheep are reported lost. In one state where it was estimated that 8,000,000 lambs were dropped it is now stated that 6,000,000 of them have died. The next Australian wool clip will be light and contain much weak wool.