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Chapter 12. - Agriculture—Main Cultivations, Stock, Woodlands

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.

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