QUEEN'S COUNTY AGRICULTURE

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

The soil, which rests chiefly on a substratum of limestone, varies from a stiff clayey loam, well adapted to the growth of wheat, to a light sand, which, however, produces good barley, turnips and potatoes. In the Slieve-Bloom mountains the surface inclines to a black, and in some parts, a yellow clay, of unequal depth, covering a mouldering rock or gritty gravel; its general character is spongy, wet, boggy even where highest, and very rocky.

The Dysart hills are fertile to their summits, which, though too steep for the plough, afford rich pasturage for sheep. The soil of the southern barony of Cullinagh is a gravelly silicious clay towards the mountains; in the central parts it is a rich loam, and in the south, light and sandy: the largest bullocks in the county are fattened on the rich pastures in the low lands. In the northern barony of Portnehinch the soil is light and unproductive, unless in some favoured spots where a persevering course of judicious cultivation has improved its character.

Bogs are frequent in every part, chiefly about Maryborough; they may all be considered as branches of the great central bog of Allen. The turf from them yields both white and red ashes; that affording the latter is most esteemed either for manure or fuel. In some places are large tracts of marshy land called callows, which are inundated during winter but in summer afford excellent pasturage. The land on the banks of the Barrow is alluvial and forms rich and valuable meadows.

The average size of farms, particularly in the tillage districts, is not more than from 12 to 14 acres; some noblemen and landed proprietors hold large tracts of land in their own hands, the superior cultivation of which is very effective as a leading example towards ,the general improvement of agriculture in the county. Wheat is now generally grown even in the mountain districts: barley is also extensively cultivated: potatoes and oats form an essential part of the rotation system. Green crops are often seen, particularly turnips, of which the Swedish is most esteemed: rape and vetches are extensively raised; clover is to be seen everywhere; flax is planted only in small quantities for domestic consumption.

The implements and carriages employed in rural economy are generally of the most improved description: both bullocks and horses are used in ploughing, generally in pairs: where the soil is very deep and stiff, two pairs of the latter are sometimes put in the same team. The manures are, lime and limestone gravel, here called corn gravel, procured with little labour or expense, and composts from the farm-yard. The common fence is of white thorn planted on ditches well constructed but too often subsequently neglected: stone walls are also raised for the same purpose, particularly for the demesnes of the nobility and gentry.

All the improved breeds of English cattle have been introduced into the county. The most esteemed dairy cows are a cross between the Durham and native breed, as they are good milkers, of large size and easily fattened. Dairies are numerous and productive; cheese is made in small quantities; but butter, which is of very good quality, is the chief produce. Pigs are reared in very great numbers; no farm-house is without them, but the breed is inferior to that in the southern counties; goats are also kept by all the small farmers and cottiers. The horses are a light, small-boned, active race, good for the saddle but not well fitted for heavy agricultural labour.

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