April Tea Party Winners

Six Year Blog Anniversary WINNERS: Carla Gade - Pattern for Romance audiobooks go to Andrea Stephens and Megs Minutes and winner of Love's Compas is Terressa Thornton, PEGG THOMAS's signed copy of The Pony Express Romance Collection is Debra Smith, Janet Grunst's debut book goes to Kathleen Maher, Carrie Fancett Pagels' winner's choice goes to: Connie Saunders, Denise Weimer's print winner of, Angela Couch's winner's choice goes to Susan Johnson, Debra E. Marvin reader's choice of any of her novellas or a paperback of Saguaro Sunset novella -- Teri DiVincenzo and Lynne Feurstein, Jennifer Hudson Taylor's "For Love or Country" go to: Lucy Reynolds, Bree Herron and Mary Ellen Goodwin, Shannon McNear's winners are Becky Dempsey for Pioneer Christmas and Michelle Hayes for Most Eligible Bachelor, Roseanna White's winner for Love Finds You in Annapolis is Becky Smith.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Care and Feeding of Colonial Livestock

Google books is an invaluable resource!
It started, as so often happens, as a quest to find a scrap of research info. I just wanted to know whether or not a backcountry farmer would feed oats to his saddle horse. I mean, they couldn't just drive down to their local feed store and bring home a bag of Omelene.

I asked my trusty 18cLife Yahoo group, which led to a whole array of answers.

Among other things, I was pointed to a handy resource: an old book, now available online, titled The Discipline of the Light-Horse by Captain Hinde of the Royal Regiment of Foresters. I discovered that oats were, indeed, common provender for horses since at least colonial times, and I plan on taking time to read the entire book. Though written with an eye to the War of 1812, it contains many references to the American Revolution.

Something else I learned, though, was that Germanic settlers--Germans, yes, but also Dutch and other continental Europeans of varying religious backgrounds--were the ones who introduced the concept of large-scale farming with big barns and big hay wagons. The practice of farming the land on purpose (for "business," some said) and rotating crops were a curiosity to their British neighbors, who generally turned out their livestock to roam and graze, then herded them in as needed. Thus, the term "Cow Pens" where the famous South Carolina battle got its name was an actual area where pens were built for the periodic containment of cattle. Saddle and work horses might either be pastured or staked out to graze. Horses and cattle both do just fine on grass only, or hay with a bit of grain in the winter, but they'd need to spend a lot of time grazing because it takes a lot of grass to feed that large of an animal. Hogs and chickens or other yard fowl were also left to roam.

Cattle drives were a thing long before the West was won
The purpose of fencing or stables in colonial times, in the backcountry or on the frontier, was more for the purpose of keeping predators out than containing livestock.

The rich meadows and forests of South Carolina were actually considered cattle country at one time, and many savvy cattlemen were of African descent, whether enslaved or not, trusted with the keeping and care of herds. The Florida "Crackers" (as in, the cracking sound of the cattle drivers' whips) were also famed for their ability to work cattle in the harsh conditions of central Florida, through heat and torrential rains.

So, what did the colonial farmer raise crops for, if not to feed his livestock? The concept of the cash crop (tobacco, rice, indigo) dates back to at least the first settlement at Jamestown, and like it or not, much of the grains grown (corn, barley) went into grain liquor, especially the making of whiskey. (There's a whole discussion, in fact, on how the different spellings of whisky and whiskey denote a British-made product or an American-made one.)

I was able to find "provenance for my provender," in the case of whether to feed a favored saddle horse at least an occasional bit of oats, but it probably wasn't the norm for every farmer, especially not in the Carolinas.

12 comments:

  1. Hi Shannon, this is very interesting. I didn't realize South Carolina was cattle country years ago.
    blessings,Tina

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    1. It was a surprise to me as well! :) Thanks for stopping by.

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  2. Nice post, Shannon. My understanding is that different horses needed different diets and that oats were definitely in the rotation in the diets but how, I don't remember. Thanks for the link to the book.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it. :) It had to do with how the horses were used. Light-horse or cavalry mounts were fed a richer diet to support how strenuously they were ridden. Grain is more high calorie than grass or hay, and if a horse was kept working all day and couldn't graze as long as it needed to support its body weight with grass, then supplementing with grain was the obvious solution. That grain could be oats, corn, or barley ... corn has the highest calorie content. (All random thoughts I maybe should have included in the article?)

      When I was doing the research, someone had also commented that when cutting hay, it's common to cut the whole grass plant, including the grains, so livestock fed hay would be getting some grain already. And hay is a more concentrated feed product than straight grass.

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  3. Horses that were worked hard, like in the army or on the farm, were fed grain (often a mix of oats and corn) because they didn't have enough time free during the day to graze and they needed the extra calories. Horses that were ridden or driven just occasionally did fine on grazing alone. Good research!

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    1. Yep, exactly. :) And that much I know from growing up around horses, but it was fun to kind of connect the dots where historical settings were concerned!

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  4. I've always wondered about the name "Cow Pens," but never took the time to research the reason for the name. Thanks so much for enlightening me, Shannon. Great article.

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    1. Glad you found it helpful, Cynthia! :) Thanks so much!

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  5. I enjoyed the insight into livestock practices of the past. Thanks for sharing.

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