This section is from the book "The Potato: A Compilation of Information from Every Available Source", by Eugene H. Grubb, W. S. Guilford. Also available from Amazon: The Potato: A Compilation Of Information From Every Available Source.
Lincolnshire is one of the largest shires or counties in England. It vies with Yorkshire in its area in production and yields of agricultural products. The lowlands next to the sea are known as the fens. In former years they were bogs that were affected by the tides. They were reclaimed by the Dutch. Now it is one of the most fertile lands for grazing, growing grains and potatoes. It is the largest potato district in England.
The fens are drained by large canals. At one time the drainage water was pumped out by windmills, but now steam power is used. The water is raised ten or twelve feet. In the rainy season the expense of this is much greater, but in some seasons they pump only about four months, just enough to hold the water table from two to five feet below the surface. Some of this land has no fall whatever, while the higher lands are drained by large canals, which empty into the sea. These have a fall of about four feet in six miles. The canals are seventy feet wide, from ten to fifteen feet deep, and from three to five miles apart.
In dry seasons the drainage canals that are not affected by the salt water tide are allowed to fill up to furnish sub-irrigation to the growing crops. From my experience in England with the cloudy weather and excessive rainfall, I would not think there would be any necessity for sub-irrigation once in a thousand years. Nevertheless, it is used.
The black fen land produces enormous crops of grass, grains, roots, potatoes, and the most wondrous crops of peas. I saw from forty to sixty acres of peas in a lot and they yield forty to fifty bushels per acre. This year they are bringing very high prices in the city markets. I saw 250 women and children in one field picking the pea pods and sacking them for city markets. At a distance they looked like a great flock of sheep in the long rows.
These lands are now valued at from $350 to $500 an acre. As the country recedes from the sea it has more drainage and the soil is more of a clay. The lands are tiled. The lines of tile are from ten to twenty yards apart and the tiles are laid four to five feet deep. The original cost of the canals for construction was 75 cents an acre and 25 cents an acre maintenance every four or five years for cleaning and pumping.
Lincolnshire is noted for its specialized, breed of livestock. In a week's motoring I saw nothing but Lincolnshire sheep and Lincoln Red Shorthorn cattle. They are all cherry red, and are descended from the old Shorthorn stocks. They are larger than the modern Shorthorn and much better milkers. They are good grazers. I was very much interested in the weight of some bullocks I saw grazing in a pasture, but I could not learn of a single weigh bridge (scales) in the whole of Lincolnshire. I saw 201 thirty-month-old bullocks, all cherry red, sold to a butcher by one firm of farmers, W. D. Dennis and Sons of Kirton. It would have been interesting to have witnessed the deal made, as this was said to have been the largest sale of bullocks from one farm at one time in Great Britain. First, the dealer came and looked over the bunch very carefully, then he was entertained at luncheon, where there was a plentiful flow of wine and spirit, and after every one had been put in the best of feeling, the dickering began. I have forgotten just where they started, but it finished £24.15.6 ($123) per head. The parties guessed at the weight these bullocks would dress. When 200 were counted out at the figure one more broke in, making 201 in the sale. These English farmers are willing to put their judgment against the butchers who are slaughtering and weighing every day. These bullocks had never been on a weigh scale in their fives, and had never been fed a pound of grain. They were largely bred and reared on the farm, and were mostly from pure-bred Lincolnshire cows, 200 of which are kept. Only eight of ten bull calves are kept from the annual calf crop for bulls, and rest are made steers.
I had been so inquisitive in their other farm operations, especially the potatoes, that I refrained from asking one of the sons, who is manager of the cattle department, what one of the bullocks cost. It had been reared from a registered cow, that was valued at $125, and was pastured and summered on land that had a valuation of $500 an acre. I wanted to know the cost of that calf at weaning time, figuring the interest on the capital invested in the cow and the land she grazed on at $625 a year and including the service of the sire, and figuring in the percentage of calves per annum to 100 cows. I simply remarked that I knew of no American farm that could raise steers at a profit on this basis. After weaning, the calves were wintered on straw and roots with a bit of oil cake - a pound a day. The next summer they were grazed without cake. The second winter they were carried on straw, clover hay, Swedes and mangels, and four and one half pounds of cake a day until sale early in July. They were a prime lot of killers. The pastures they were grazed on were drained and tiled. There is no history as to when these pastures have been plowed. They will probably be kept for grazing for all time to come.
It would be a great problem to determine just how far and in what way these cattle were a factor in the profitable agriculture of this farm. I am positive that they would not have these fabulous crops were these cattle not raised, as they are necessary in converting the world of straw that is fed and tramped into fertilizer beds of manure every winter. They are just as careful to fertilize their meadows or pastures here as they are their plowed fields. All the manure from the horse stables, pigstys, cow stables, poultry houses, and butcher houses, piles of weeds, and all liquid manure is hauled into the feed lots and conserved.
The Shire is the exclusive horse of this district, as is the white, curly coated Lincolnshire hog. The Lincolnshire sheep are also peculiar to this district.