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Agriculture

Sutherland is, and always has been, a pastoral rather than an agricultural county. Even in the Bronze Period, many centuries before the Christian Era, Lairg, Rogart, Kildonan, and Farr were occupied by a considerable population, but it is scarcely possible that these primitive people could have had much land in cultivation. Composed largely of archaic rocks, the soil of Sutherland contains but little of the constituents that contribute to fertility. On the Old Red Sandstone and secondary rocks of the east coast there is a stretch of good arable land, and some of the haughs in the valleys have been in cultivation from a remote period. Prior to 1810 the common stock of the county consisted of highland garrons, black cattle, and "caory" sheep (now almost extinct except in one or two of the Orkney Islands) while the goat, now so rare, was common. Improved breeds of sheep, cattle, and horses, were gradually introduced during the earlier half of last century and before 1850 a good average stock of the standard breeds and crosses could be seen on all the larger farms. The cattle and sheep of the smaller tenants remained somewhat poor in quality, but the past twenty years have witnessed a marked improvement in all kinds of live stock. Swine are on the increase, although not kept in such numbers as might be expected in a county of smallholders.

In 1912 there were 2612 horses and 11,449 cattle in the county, a slight decrease from the numbers of the previous year. Foals and calves, however, showed an increase. The number of sheep was 215,124, being 2000 more than in 1911. Notwithstanding the enormous extent of its rough pastures Sutherland ranks twelfth among the sheep-rearing counties. Its low relative position is due to the fact that an area of 427,548 acres has been converted into deer forest. There were in 1912 only 809 pigs in Sutherland compared with 15,266 in Wigtown. Small as this number is, it was 88 more than in 1911. Less than the fortieth part of the county is under cultivation. The extent of arable land in 1912 was 22,984 acres, being 2 per cent of the total area of the county and 1000 acres less than the arable acreage of 1911. Though so small a proportion of the land is arable, there is yet a shrinking of the area in cultivation, part of it being turned into permanent pasture.

Before the fall in the price of wheat, that cereal was grown upon several farms in Sutherland, but in 1912 only a few acres were under wheat. The chief grain crop is oats, which in 1912 was grown upon 8030 acres with a yield of 31,493 quarters, being nearly four quarters to the acre. This is rather below the average yield. The barley crop comes next in importance. In 1912 763 acres were under barley and bere, yielding 3113 quarters or slightly over four quarters to the acre. One-fifth of this crop consists of bere. Rye, at one time extensively grown on lighter soils to provide straw for thatching, is no longer much grown now that roofs of slate and iron have become general, and in 1912 occupied only 65 acres. Green crops consist almost entirely of turnips and potatoes. In an average year there would be about 3000 acres of turnips and 1400 acres of potatoes in the county, amounting together to one-fifth of the arable area. The average area under cereals may he put at 8800 acres, and the area under rotation grasses would he about the same.

The yield of potatoes is about 5 tons, and of turnips 15 tons to the acre. Increased use of fertilizers by the smaller tenants has caused a steady rise in the average yield of green crops. In the cultivation of the land and in the breeding of stock there has recently been a striking advance in many parts of this county. Equally striking has been the improvement in dwellings, farm offices, and farm implements,

Sutherland possesses 2550 holdings exceeding one acre. Of these only 100 exceed 50 acres, while there are 1500 below 5 acres. The holdings between 5 and 15 acres number 775, while there are 144 between 15 and 30 acres. Only 28 smallholdings exceed 30 acres. The fact that 96 per cent of the holdings in the county are smallholdings and that the vast majority of these are less than 5 acres in extent has a profound bearing upon the social condition of the people. Only 52 smallholdings are occupied by the owners, and there are not 60 persons in the county who own more than one acre of land.

In 1912 there were 9212 acres of woodland in the parishes of Dornoch, Golspie, and Rogart, being 8 per cent of their total area. At the same time there were 6000 acres of woodland in the parish of Creich. At Dunrobin and Skibo are some fine specimens of oak, beech, and elm, as well as many handsome spruces and other conifers. A large part of the county devoted to deer forests is reckoned to be suitable for afforestation.

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