Wyoming AHGP
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Sheep Raising in Wyoming

This is a subject of so much importance to the welfare of the people and Territory of Wyoming that I have thought proper to invite attention to the wonderful adaptability of this region to the cheap and successful raising of sheep and wool. J therefore introduce the remarks of the Hon. J. W. Kingman, United States judge of this Territory, on the subject. His opportunities for observation on these points have been extensive, and after a residence of two and a half years in this region, he is so well convinced of the success which must follow the business of sheep and wool growing on these elevated plains, that he has now introduced a flock of 3,000 sheep upon his ranch near the head of Crow Creek, fifteen miles west of this city. The judge has favored me with the following account of his flock and the manner of treating it:

"Laramie City, Wyoming Territory, September 18, 1871.

"Dear Sir: Your favor of the 15th instant, asking for a statement of the facts in reference to our flock of sheep, is received, and it gives me pleasure to reply.

"The flock consists of 3,000 long-wooled sheep, selected with great care in Iowa last summer. We have avoided all merino blood, because we wish to cross up with the Cotswold as rapidly as possible.

"Our object is to see if this region will not produce a superior quality of combing wool, as well as a superior mutton. We are confident that the character of our climate and grazing is so peculiarly adapted to the nature and habits of sheep that we can carry the improvement of our flocks, in both these respects, to a degree of perfection never attained before.

'Indeed, the improvement in the health, appearance and condition of the sheep thus far is so marked and uniform that one could hardly believe it to be the same flock that came here a few months ago, and warrants the utmost confidence in a permanent and valuable improvement.

"Our cool, dry, even temperature; our hard, gravelly soil; our short, rich grasses; our clear, pure water; our aromatic, bitter plants and shrubs, and our frequent alkaline ponds and licks, must all contribute to the robust health of the animal and produce a growth and development of all its functions in their highest perfection.

"It has been said that the long-wooled sheep are not gregarious, and cannot be well herded in large flocks. We have not found this difficulty. To be sure, 3,000 makes a large flock, and they require plenty of room; but if they are well left alone they do not get in each other's way. and do not care to stray. One man can watch them, and watching seems to be all the help they need.

"We build, to be sure, large yards, and long, open sheds, to protect them from the storms, and to keep off the wolves at night; but we shall soon be rid of the wolves altogether, and the bluffs afford sufficient shelter at all seasons of the year.

"There are in this section of the Territory, besides our flock, one belonging to General King and others, of about one thousand; Colonel Dana's, of a thousand; Mr. Homer's, and others, about a thousand; and several parties are now in the States purchasing flocks to bring here. There are also the large flocks belonging to Messrs. Creighton and Hutton, of ten or twelve thousand; and quite a number of small lots, numbering two or three hundred each.

"Some of these flocks have been here two or three years, and each year have shown a surprising improvement. This is particularly so where they have not been too closely herded, but have been permitted to go out and come in pretty much as they pleased. The wool has increased in quantity and fineness, and the mutton has improved in flavor and quality.

"There seems to be no doubt that the best quality of mutton can be grown here, pound for pound, as cheap as beef; and if so, then sheep-raising must be profitable if cattle raising is. Very respectfully, yours,

"J. W. Kingman

"Dr. Silas Reed,
"Surveyor General, Wyoming Territory."

I also introduce another excellent and comprehensive letter from Judge Kingman, written to Dr. H. Latham some months since, and published this summer in the doctor's valuable pamphlet on the subject of stock and wool growing in this high, dry, rolling country, which is so favorable for the growth of the healthiest sheep and the most valuable fibers of wool.

Letter from Judge Kingman

Laramie City, Wyoming Territory

''Dear Sir:
Your favor of a recent date, asking the result of my observations on the Rocky Mountain portion of our country in its adaptation to sheep-raising, is received; I hasten to reply.

"It will be remembered that the natural habitat of the sheep, as well as the goat and the antelope, is an elevated mountainous region. They are provided with an external covering and a constitutional system fitting them to endure its rigors and subsist on its peculiar herbage. They may be removed to other regions, it is true, and by careful husbandry made to flourish in hot climates, on artificial or cultivated food, and even in rainy and muddy localities.

"But the multiplied diseases to which they are subjected are convincing proofs that they are exposed to influences un-natural and uncongenial to their constitutions. They require a dry, gravelly soil; a clear, bracing, cool atmosphere; a variety of short, nutritious grasses; and they love to browse on highly aromatic plants and shrubs, like the willow, the birch, the hemlock, and the artemisia. In such circumstances, they are always healthy, vigorous, and active, and produce the maximum of even fibred wool and the best of high-flavored meats.

''That we have millions of acres answering in all respects to the exact requirements for the best development of sheep, in the production of both wool and meat, is demonstrated by the countless number of antelope that annually swarm over the country, and seem to have no limit to their increase but their natural enemies, the wolves and the hunters. They are always in good condition, healthy, fat, and active; and this is particularly noticeable in the winter and spring, when it might be supposed they would be reduced by cold and want of food.

"It is well understood by wool-growers that the great difficulty in producing a staple of uniform evenness and uniform curve is the variable condition of the sheep at different seasons of the year. The animal organization cannot produce the same quality of growth in extreme cold weather, on dry hay, that it will produce in warm weather, on fresh grass. The result is that the best quality of wool cannot be grown where the sheep are exposed to the extremes of climate, and particularly where they cannot be kept in uniform health and good condition. If this is true in the growth of wool, it needs no argument to prove that it is true also in the production of wholesome and nutritious meat. A generous diet of rich and various food is required to keep up a rapid and constant growth, and it is quick growth combined with good health that makes the choicest meat.

"I have been familiar with sheep-raising in New England for many years, and although sheep do pretty well on the rocky hills there, yet they are subject to a frightfully long list of diseases, every one of which, however, is ascribed to local and not inherent causes. The one great cause, exceeding all others in the variety and extent of its evils, is the long continued rainy weather. The ground gets saturated with water, the feet become soft and tender with the soaking, and foot disease is propagated by inoculation with surprising rapidity. The fleece gets wet, and remaining so for several days keeps the animal enveloped; this produces pustules, scab, tetter, and other cutaneous diseases; everything and every place is soaked and dripping with water during those long storms, and the sheep are compelled to lie on the wet ground and contract colic, scours, and stretches, and other bowel diseases. But here, on our hard, porous, gravelly soil, in a bright, equable climate, with a dry, bracing atmosphere, having abundance of nutritious grasses and a great variety of desirable food, the flocks will find every circumstance contributing to their perfect growth and development. This is such a country and climate as they naturally inhabit. Their constitutions are fitted to its peculiarities, and will produce here their highest possibilities.

"There is no doubt that any breed of sheep will do well here, but for various reasons I would advise the introduction of the best qualities of mutton-sheep in preference to the fine-wooled animals. In the first place they are hardier and more prolific, and will undoubtedly improve faster; and in the second place, while it is possible to overstock the market with wool by importation from foreign countries, it is not possible to overstock the meat-market. We have now 40,000,000 of people, and the annual increase is about 3,000,000; our people are all meat-eaters, the price of meat in our large cities is enormously high, and the annual production by no means keeps pace with the demand for consumption. But in addition to all this, the actual return in wool, from a flock of medium-wooled sheep, will nearly equal in value the net product of a fine-wooled flock. They produce heavier fleeces, and the price of wool bears a better ratio to its cost.

"Most of our flock-masters are purchasing the sheep flocks of New Mexico and the extreme Western States, with the expectation of getting good animals by crossing. This may be done, it is true, but I do not think it likely to result satisfactorily. It requires too much care and judicious selection, as well as long continued effort, to get rid of bad qualities and fix permanently good ones. We can get sheep, by going further east, which have been carefully improved for fifty years, and in which characteristics have been developed by a scientific breeding which we may not hope to equal. Such a flock will cost more to start with, and will be worth more, but may not have cost more, all things considered, after a few years. Very respectfully yours,

"J. W. Kingman."

The Future of the Wool Interest of the Northwest

With such a sheep and wool-growing country as we have here, "endless, gateless, and boundless"; with such a great increasing home and foreign demand; with such examples of rapid increase in sheep and wool productions, who shall doubt that in twenty years we shall rival Australia and South America in not only the quantity but the quality of their wools, and that the wool-buyers from all the great manufacturing centers of the world will visit our plains in search of the "fibre" susceptible of such wonderful and varied uses, and that with our wool production there will spring up manufactories here and there that shall rival Bradford, Huddersfield, Halifax, and Leeds, in England, and Rheims, El-Beufs, and Roubaix, in France, in the magnitude and beauty of their fabrics?

Along the whole length of the Union Pacific Railway, along the Central Pacific Railway, in the valleys of the thousands of streams, bordered with timber for buildings and fences, these untold millions of acres of luxuriant grazing lands, where sheep can be put down from New Mexico, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, and other States for two dollars per head, shepherds can be hired for $30 to $40 per month, who can readily herd 3,000 head. Thousands of tons of hay can be cut on all the streams.

Rates of Freight to Eastern Markets, Wool has been carried by rail from San Francisco to Boston for $1.10 per hundred pounds. Double decked sheep-cars, carrying 200 sheep, can be had from the base of the mountain to Chicago markets for $150, thereby putting down fat wethers in market for 75 cents per head. Dressed-mutton carcasses are delivered from the Rocky Mountains, in New York, for $1.75 per hundred, car-load rates.

Growth of Wyoming Sheep Industry The large introduction of sheep into this Territory during the past season is very gratifying. The correct and valuable information that has been spread over the country by Dr. Latham, Judge Kingman, and others, has attracted the most deserved attention, and the result is that large numbers of sheep have been brought in this summer. I hear also of other large flocks that are to come next spring; and I scarcely need say that half the sheep of the United States could find room and food upon our mountain plains without being too much crowded.

Principle Flocks and Names of Owners

Colonel E. Creighton & Co., on Laramie Plains -10,000
Winslow, on Laramie Plains -1,500
Sargent, Thomas & Co., on Laramie Plains - 2,000
Moulton & Co., on Laramie Plains - 2,000
Dana & Boswell, on Laramie Plains - 1,000
Judge Kingman, Crow Creek - 3,000
James Moore, Lodge Pole - 9,000
Maynard, Lone Tree - 1,500
General King & Co - 1,000
Party from Socco, Mexico - 2,000
Emory Boston - 3,000
Carmichael - 200

Source: Annals of Wyoming, Sheep Raising, 1945

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