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STEAMING OF POTATOES,
In October, 1801, I commenced the experiment of feeding work horses with steamed potatoes. The first attempt was made without any mixture of cut straw; but finding the horses had some difficulty in masticating the potatoes, an addition of a sixth part of cut straw was made, which not only removed that inconvenience, but was found to answer a further beneficial purpose, by counteracting the too rapid digestion of the food.
This, as with almost every material change from long established custom, was the result of necessity, not of choice. The failure of the hay crop in the northern parts of England and Ireland, occasioned considerable alarm to all persons who were under the necessity of keeping a number of horses.
Hay was sold in July and August, at from 8l. to 101. per ton; a further and still more serious cause of „ anxiety arose from there being every reason to believe, that no considerable supply could be obtained at those or any other prices.
Alarmed by a danger which threatened to affect, so materially, the public interest, as well as my own, my
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attention was imperiously called to devise some expe-r dient for providing against the serious consequences which might reasonably be apprehended.
In the dilemma in which I found myself placed, (having a hundred work horses to feed, the greatest part of which were employed in my collieries), it fortunately occurred to me, that potatoes might be u$ed as a substitute for hay. What led to this idea was, my having, for some years, given a portion of them to my hounds, mixed with their other food. I had indeed made the attempt fifteen years before, but without success. Subsequent experience has proved this arose from the neglect and inattention of the persons who had the superintendance of it, who, to save themselves trouble, boiled the potatoes with the meat by which means they were entirely consumed. I then attributed the ill condition of my hounds to the liquor extracted from the potatoe, which I believed to be of a poisonous nature. This opinion I have found to be erroneous, and adopted, as many opinions are, upon trust. I have since caused an experiment to be made, by giving the potatoe liquor to a horse, the result of which 1 shall add with other remarks.
The difficulties I had to encounter were numerous; J had to contend against the prejudices of every person employed; it was the opinion of one against many ; the many were those who were to act against their own judgment; and in more than one instance I found the effect of it.
Some potatoes which had been injured by the frost were made use of} these the horses would not eat; and the project would have been entirely condemned, if, by chance, I had riot discovered the cause. This dccurred in the commencement, when I was obliged tfc> be a few days from home, tt proved the necessity of my constant and unremitting personal attention. For some months I dedicated a very considerable portion of my time to the superintendance of it. I notice this, to prove to others, who may be disposed to adopt this mode of feeding, the necessity they will be under, of either giving their own attention, or procuring a person acquainted with it, to secure its success.
In addition to the impediments which arose from prejudice, I had much to contend with in getting the potatoes washed and steamed, having no apparatus for that purpose.'
Notwithstanding all the discouraging circumstances and vexatious occurrences which I had to encounter, they were vanquished by unremitting perseverance and attention. That I succeeded, must be in a great measure, if not entirely attributed to the imperious necessity which left no room for option. It was brought to this alternative, potatoes, or—nothing.
The first season was the period of greatest difficulty; previous to a second, I was provided with an apparatus for performing all the operations with ease and dispatch, the former trial had also firmly established my conviction of the utility and advantage, of the plan, and had, in some measure, overcome the prejudices of the persons employed.
Under less pressing circumstances, I do not think it would have been carried into effect. In the first
B 3 season season above sixty thousand stone of potatoes were steamed. The quantity has annually increased. The report of my large consumption has brought considerable importations from Scotland and Ireland; and I have been able to purchase them from three halfpence to twopence halfpenny per stone; and by taking whole cargoes, it has afforded me the means of occasionally selling them to the poor much below the market price.
A strong argument in favour of potatoes, in prefer-" ence to hay, is the ease and facility with which they can be conveyed, and likewise their being exempt from injury by water carriage. Were I to contract for my supply, I should be a considerable gainer, as the lands near Workington are let from 40s. to 61. per acre; in Scotland and Ireland at not 20s. and labour is proportionably cheap.
Combined with the individual saving is that of the public. Thus, a hundred horses, constantly fed on hay, would require two stone per day, or, for each horse, 730 stone per annum; and supposing a ton and a half per acre, each horse would consume the . produce of three acres. Two stone of potatoes, per diem, .would, on ground of the best quality, be little above the third of an acre; the saving would consequently be, tiuo acres and a half on each horse, or 250 upon the ruimber I am obliged to keep.
I was very sanguine in my expectations, of succeeding with wheat after potatoes; but on wet ground the risk of season is so great, and the failures so frequent, that I have. relinquished the system, and take
Bats drilled and sown down with clover, and wheat; from the clover root, the succeeding year. The change in thy mode of feeding horses has proved very advantageous to the purchasers of hay in this neighbourhood: formerly my wants were the barometer of price, now it seldom exceeds 4l. per ton. Two years ago it was 8L and 10L a ton. Strange as it may appear, it is no less matter of fact, that several of my own farmers bought hay for the feeding of their horses, which were employed in the same work as mine that were fed on potatoes, imported from Ireland and Scotland, at 2|d. or 3d. per stone; the purchasers having also to lead four or five miles, and in some instancesj even still further; the allowance of oats the same. There was undoubtedly a great difference in point of condition, but this difference was in favour of the, horses fed on potatoes.
Six years have now elapsed since I adopted this plan, which must be allowed to have afforded a full and fair opportunity for making a deliberate and dispassionate estimate of its merits.
First, as to the saving of expense: secondly, as to its being a food on which horses can perform their work: thirdly, as it affects the health and condition of the horses. Upon all these points I have no doubt or hesitation in declaring, that the potatoe feed has decidedly the advantage, and I make this assertion with the more satisfaction, as it will be corroborated by every person who has fairly made the experiment.
The objections that are commonly urged against steaming of potatoes, are labour, fuel, and the first
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