County Armagh Agriculture

The general inequality of surface which pervades the county affords great facilities for drainage. In consequence of the dense population the farms are generally very small, and much land is tilled with the spade. Wheat is a very general crop in the baronies of Armagh, the O'Neillands, and Turaney; the main crops in the other baronies are oats, flax, and potatoes. In the smaller farms potatoes constitute the first and second crops, sometimes even a third; and afterwards flax occupies a portion of the potatoe plot, and barley the remainder, if the soil be dry and fine, but if otherwise, crops of oats are taken in succession. The treatment of the wheat crop consists of one harrowing and one ploughing, to level the potatoe furrows; if two crops of potatoes have preceded, a small quantity of ashes is scattered over the surface. The seed most in use is the red Lammas wheat, and the quantity sown is about three bushels to the acre. Potatoe oats are commonly sown on the best lands; black oats, and sometimes white oats, on land manured with lime, in the mountainous districts; this latter species, when sown on mountain land not previously manured and drained, will degenerate into a black grain in two or three seasons.

Flax is invariably sown on potatoe ground, the plot being tilled with the spade, but not rolled: Dutch seed is sown on heavy soils, American on light soils. The seed is not saved, and therefore the plant is pulled just before it changes colour, from an opinion that when thus prepared it makes finer yarn. More seed was sown in 1835 than was ever before known, in consequence of the increased demand from the spinners in England and Ireland. The pasturage is abundant and nutritious; and though there are no extensive dairies, cows are kept by all the small farmers of the rich northern districts, whence much butter is sent to the Belfast market a considerable quantity of butter, generally made up in small firkins, is also sent to Armagh and Newry for exportation. The state of agriculture in modern times has very much improved; gentlemen and large farmers have introduced all the improved agricultural implements, with the practice of drainage, irrigation, and rotation crops. Mangel-wurzel, turnips, clover, and all other green crops are now generally cultivated even upon the smallest farms, particularly around Market-hill, Tanderagee, Banagher, and other places, where the greatest encouragement is given by Lords Gosford, Mandeville, and Charlemont, and by Col. Close and other resident gentlemen, who have established farming societies and expend large sums annually in premiums.

The Durham, Hereford, North Devon, Leicester, Ayrshire, and other breeds of cattle have been introduced, and by judicious crosses a very superior stock has been raised: some farmers on good soils have also brought over the Alderney breed, which thrives remarkably well; but in some of the mountain districts the old long-horned breed of the country is still preferred, and a cross between it and the old Leicester appeals to suit both soil and climate, as they grow to a large size, give great quantities of milk, and fatten rapidly. The breed of sheep and horses has also been greatly improved; the former kind of stock is chiefly in the possession of gentlemen and large farmers. The horses used in farming are mostly a light active kind; but the best hunters and saddle horses are brought hither by dealers from other counties. Numerous herds of young cattle are reared on the Fews mountains, which, are the only part of the county where grass farms are extensive.

Goats are numerous, and are allowed to graze at liberty in the mountainous districts. Hogs are fattened in great numbers; the gentry prefer the Chinese breed, tut the Berkshire is preferred by the country people, as being equally prolific and more profitable. Lime and dung are the general manures; the former is usually mixed with clay for the culture of potatoes, and is also applied to grass lands as a surface dressing preparatory to tillage, sometimes even three years before the sod is broken, as being deemed more effective than manuring the broken ground; the average quantity of lime laid on an acre is from 30 to 40 barrels. Thorn hedges well kept are the common fences in the richer districts, and with scattered timber trees and numerous orchards give them a rich woody appearance. In the mountainous district, too, the same fences are rising in. every direction. Many parts of the county, particularly in the barony of Armagh, are decorated with both old and new timber: and in comparison with neighbouring districts it has a well-wooded appearance; but there are no extensive woodlands, although there is, near Armagh, a large public nursery of forest trees.

Search Topographical Dictionary of Ireland »