Page images
PDF
EPUB

HISTORY OF THE MAUCHAMP SHEEP.

[As long ago as the time of the first International Exhibition, held in London in 1851, some wool sent from France by Jean Louis Graux, attracted great attention from its peculiar properties, being fine in staple, long, and silky. Mons. Graux claimed to have originated a breed of sheep producing this singular description of wool, and a Council Medal was awarded to him, at the Exhibition. Since that time, through the efforts of M. Graux and others in France, the "Mauchamp-Merinos,"

-as the sheep which bear this silky wool are called, from the name of the farm where they originated,-have been greatly increased, and the wool seems to be highly esteemed for the manufacture of certain kinds of fabrics. The history of this breed of sheep must be interesting to every one who desires to become acquainted with the laws involved in the production of animals of peculiar characters. The following essay was translated by John H. Klippart, Esq., Secretary of the Ohio State Board of Agriculture, from the French of Mons. Yvart, Government Inspector of the veterinary schools and national sheep-breeding establishments of France. It will be found to contain much valuable matter in reference to the principles of breeding, and the proper points of animals, as connected with their adaptation to various purposes.]

For some time past the sheep-growers as well as the manufacturers have felt a deep interest in the creation of a new breed of sheep known by the name of MauchAMP MERINO. Some persons consider this breed as one which is to produce a wool so precious that it will take the place of Cashmere; others sappose that this type will not perpetuate itself, and will not be of any practical usefulness. Observations made upon several flocks, induce me to believe that, if the rams of Mauchamp cannot yet be used to produce the wool economically which has some resemblance to the down of the Cashmere, they can in any event improve some fleeces very greatly which are used in manufactures.

To demonstrate how I arrived at this conclusion, I will endeavor to show that there exists two sorts of merino wool which, with regard to the purposes for which they are employed, must necessarily be of different qualities. I shall endeavor, in the next place, to show what the Mauchamp breed now is, and what it may become when intelligent care shall have been bestowed upon it for the purpose of improving it. I will show how it may hereafter and henceforward become an essential ingredient for the improvement of a part of our woolens. This memorial will lead me to make a comparison in some respects of the sheep of English origin with the sheep of Spanish origin, in order to remove any existing doubt with regard to the Mauchamp breed. I shall also be obliged to say a few words on the different methods pursued in Germany and in France in the breeding of ovine animals; but these digressions will not divert me from the principal subject I have in view to discuss. The merino breeds are distinguished, amongst the various types of the ovine species, by the fineness of their wool and the abundance of their fleeces. Introduced imported) from Spain into France at the close of the last century, they were not long in becoming the source of great profits, for the reason that the French manufacturers supplied themselves with fine wool in Spain and in France only. It is no longer so to-day. Far from remaining restricted to these two countries, these breeds, now spread over many parts of Europe, multiply themselves very considerably in Australia, and are largely introduced into America. Not only is the merino wool produced in much greater quantity than in the past, but it often acquires out of France certain qualities which all the French woolens are far from having; and hence results the lowering in the price of this raw material, and the necessity in which many of our manufacturers are placed of buying wherever they find the qualities the most suitable to their industry.

At the same time that the production of the merino wool increases and its value decreases, this wool is used for purposes which it had been regarded as being 'not well adapted when it was more scarce, and the manufacturing industry less advanced. Formerly it was only used after having been carded, and for the manufacturing of pressed and felted stuffs, that of cloth particularly; whilst, subjected to combing, it enters to-day into the making up of a great number of various stuffs, for which the taste and use is constantly increasing.

It will be understood that, placed in a new condition, the agriculturists find themselves under the necessity of studying with the most serious attention all that which concerns the merino flocks in order to manage them with the view of obtaining either wool the most suitable for carding, or that which is best adapted for combing. Two principal essential qualities must be kept in view in the study of the fleece—they are the elasticity of the wool and the strength of the fibre when one tries to break it; the elasticity, which is required when the wool is subjected to the work of carding and fulling; its degree of strength, which is of the highest importance when it is subjected to the action of combing; for then, far from breaking, nicking and felting, the staples ought to range themselves parallelly, preserving their entire length as much as possible.

Instead of being straight, the most elastic wools show a series of regularly arranged curvatures (crimps], and which makes them undulated. These undulations, or crimps, are so romarkable that it has been proposed to count them, and to regard the quality of the wool according to their number. The greatest fineness in these very elastic wools is also sought. These different qualities exist in the highest degree in the locks of little length only.

When, after having stretched a staple of this wool in such a manner as to take out all the crimps, the tension being removed, and it is left to itself again, it immediately resumes its original crimps. This operation may be repeated several times without destroying this kind of elasticity. If we continue to pull at both ends of the staple, we perceive that, having become completely straight, it stretches considerably before breaking. Finally, after breaking the fibre, the two parts of the staple resume the length and the shape they had before being distended. Sach are the most striking qualities of the most elastic wools. The strongest wools have less and broader undulations; sometimes they are even quite straight; in both cases they are longer, less fine, and less elastic. The staples less numerous, less close together, make the fleece less dense; but what the fleece loses in weight by the decrease of the number of staples, it recovers again through their length and their greater diameter. It is to be remarked that the merino sheep, which gieids long and resisting locks, yield, generally, even after washing, more wool than those which have locks very fine, very short, and very thick.

In adopting either of these two types of merinos, it is important that the cultivators take in consideration the pastures they can command, and the kind of dwelling for their animals; for the abundance or scarcity of food, and the usefulness which may exist in sometimes having their sheep travel to make them live more economically, during the summer upon hilly pastures, during the winter in countries lower and flatter; sometimes to Lave them folded upon the fields to deposit manure; sometimes, on the contrary, to have them sheltered during the whole year in folds; these various circumstances exert a greater or less influence

upon these two kinds of wool. When the sheep are very abundantly fed the fleece becomes more dense. Nothing appears at first more easy than to produce the finest wool; yet the French breeders seldom endeavor to obtain that kind of wool, because when entering into the practical details of this matter, they recognize that it loses much

of its simplicity. The quality of fine wool depends more upon the health of the animal than upon any other condition; therefore, it is necessary that the food, without being abundant, should be sufficient for the animals to be kept in good health. It is necessary thus to ascertain with care the allowance suitable to preserve health and at the same time to obtain fine wool. If, momentarily, the allowance is less than is absolutely necessary for that purpose, the wool becomes diseased-it becomes thin, tainted, and brittle. It will be shrunken in a part of its length during the line of scarcity, thickened whilst the food is more abundant; the staple ceases to have that cylindrical form so important to its quality. The diet ought, then, to produce the same effect during the whole year. These are difficulties which we should bear in mind; but this is not all.

Supposing that, from their birth, the animals be subjected to a diet not sufficiently abundant to produce the finest wool, their growth necessarily becomes slow; from the slowness in growth the sheep cannot be fattened before an advanced age, and that thus they no longer produce so much for the shambles as when, from their youth, they had been abundantly fed.

Finally, it is proper to calculate the relative depreciation of the wools more or less fine, through the effect of external agents. All the wools exposed to the alternate action of moisture and drought, as well as to the contact with foreign matters, especially with the soil, have the inconvenience of becoming hardened. This effect is observed upon the wool of medium fineness as well as upon those of great fineness; but it is so much the more marked upon the latter which the surface of the whole of the staples increases in proportion to the fineness of the fleeces. What happens in very fine and very numerously stapled fleeces ? It is very evident that, though this very great bulk (masse) of the secreted wool, this bulk (masse) presents a very extended surface, composed of the surfaces of a multitude of small cylinders. If by their proximity to each other causing density, allow the water and other foreign matter to penetrate, particularly the dust with great difficulty, they also retain these bodies

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »