the little red book

In my possession is a little red book. It has been in the family for a long, long time. The first edition was printed in 1885, my copy in the eighth edition and appears to date from the 1890’s.

It is called Everyday Farriery by Day and Sons, Crewe. It is a veterinary book that covers the everyday diseases of horses, cattle, sheep and pigs.

Every so often I take it out of the bookshelves and study it. Tucked inside the first leaves of the book are various items.

1)A letter from one Land Agent to another  with a mash recipe for cows.

“1 teaspoonful of carbolic acid in one ounce of water mixed in a mash and given to a cow in calf once a week – is the receipt you want. The mash must be well mixed and care taken to give each cow its own mash separately if you are dosing several cows,

yours sincerely..”

2) Other carefully saved clippings tucked away in the back page are cut from the Farmer and Stockbreeder newspaper with cures for Milk Fever, and Anthrax and Blackleg.

We have no idea what this mash mix was for, or even if it worked. My father gave me the book many years ago and I often read it as some things in veterinary medicine has not changed at all, and other things have changed a lot.

This little tome was not just about giving information though, it was also a sales catalogue as many of the cures involved using products made by Day and Sons. Their “Black Drink” is mentioned throughout the book but there is no clue as to what ingredients this actually contained, although it appears to be advertised as a panacea for many livestock ailments.

What fascinates me so much is how farming and animal husbandry does not change. The challenges faced by today’s livestock keepers remain the same. The farmer who originally owned this book faced exactly the same challenges in the 1890’s as Jethro does today. The original farmer would have had more labour but the issues of feed, health, weather and profit remain the same. Science and technology have moved on providing deeper veterinary knowledge and medicines and modern machines, but essentially a livestock farmers job remains the same as it has done for centuries.

I like the continuity of this, this finite thread that links each and every generation to the land.

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