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Agriculture Gorse

chopped sheep

AGRICULTURE GORSE Notwithstanding its formidable spines, the young shoots of this hardy evergreen yield a palatable and nutritious winter forage for horses and cattle. To fit it for this purpose it must be chopped' and bruised to destroy the spines. This is sometimes done in a primitive and laborious way by laying the gorse upon a block of wood and beating It with a mallet, flat at one end and armed with crossed knife-edges at the other, by the alternate use of which it Is bruised and chopped. There are now a variety of machines by which this is done rapidly and efficiently, and which are in use where this kind of forage is used to any extent. The agricultural value of this plant has often been over-rated by theoretical writers. In the case of very poor, dry soils, it does, however, yield much valuable food at a season when green forage is not otherwise to be had. It is on this account of importance to dairymen; and to them it has this further recommendation. that upon it give much rich milk, which is free from any unpleasant flavour. To turn it to good account, it must be sown in drills, kept clean by hoeing, and treated as a regular green crop. If sown in March, on land fitly prepared and afterwards duly cared for, it is ready for use in the autumn of the following year. A succession of cuttings of proper age is obtained for several years from the same field. It is cut by a short stout scythe, and must be brought from the field daily ; for when put in a heap after being chopped and bruised it heats rapidly. It is given to horses and cows in combination with chopped hay or straw. An acre will produce about 2000 faggots of green two-year-old gorse, weighing 20 lb each.

This plant is invaluable in mountain sheep-walks. The rounded form of the furze bushes that are met with in such situations shows how diligently the annual growth, as far as it is accessible, is nibbled by the sheep. The food and shelter afforded to them in snow-storms by clusters of such bushes is of such importance that the wonder is our sheep farmers do not bestow more pains to have it in adequate quantity. Young plants of whin are so kept down by the sheep that they can seldom attain to a profitable size unless protected by a fence for a few years.

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