1917 Farm Historical Information

This page will feature historical information concerning the 1917 farm and farm practices from the turn of the century until approximately 1920. Feel free to add information!


ANIMALS AT THE FARM

In the early part of the twentieth century, animals were an important part of farming here in Cache Valley. By 1917 Cache Valley farms were no longer simple subsistence farms, only growing food to keep the farmer and his family alive. Farms were becoming increasingly profitable, as farmers began growing their crops to sell. Diversity in farming enabled farmers to grow more than one crop, so that if one crop failed, they could rely on their other crop. Animals were an integral part of this farming. Farmers chose specific breeds of animals based on their ability to withstand the Cache Valley weather and their diversity of use.

Horses
By 1917, tractors were being used on some farms, however horses are the power that runs the equipment on our farm. Horses had to be economically equal to a tractor for use on a farm. According to the USDA at this time, the ideal horse was 16 hands high and weighed 1,600 pounds. This size gave the most pulling power for the amount of feed it required. The typical horse in Cache Valley in 1917 was smaller, weighing around 1,300 pounds. Farmers would often breed a large saddle horse to a Percheron stud (a breed of draft horse), resulting in a horse that was small for a draft horse, but very strong and tough. The horses we have at the farm are larger than the typical horse of 1917. Nikki and Nelly are our work horses on the farm. Nikki is a half Clydesdale, half Shire, and Nelly is a Belgian/Percheron half-breed. Our horses provide power to do the fieldwork such as plowing, haying, binding, and pulling the sleigh.

Cows
Today most farmers have either a beef herd or a dairy herd, but in 1917 the average farmer wanted cows that would produce both milk and beef. Short horn (Durham) cows were popular with the farmers because they had large calves to sell for beef and gave a reasonable amount of milk. The condensed milk factories that bought the farmers’ milk wanted the farmers to keep Holsteins because they produced large quantities of milk. When the milk factories demanded Holstein cows, rather than buy a whole new herd, many farmers got together and purchased a Holstein bull and introduced the breed into their herds. The result was a cow that gave more milk, but still had a large, if not quite so beefy, calf. These cows were black and white like Holsteins. Farmers also kept some Jersey cows in their herds to help improve the amount of cream in the milk. The price paid for milk was determined partly by the amount of butterfat or cream it contained. Holsteins give a large quantity of low fat milk and Jerseys give a smaller quantity of high fat milk. By mixing the two milks farmers were able to produce a good quantity of quality milk. On our 1917 farm, we use Milking Short Horns and sometimes Jersey cows for milking. Farmers who only had one milking cow in 1917 would have kept a Jersey because of the better quality milk. This year we will milk Athena and Marta. Both cows are Milking Short Horn, also called a Durham cow. In 1917 they would have been called Durham’s, but today the Durham is the Milking and Beef Shorthorns. Cream from the cows would have been use to make butter for the family on our 1917 farm.

Oxen
Oxen can be any breed of cow that has been trained to obey voice commands from the time it was young. They also must be at least three years old and have horns large enough to keep the yoke from falling off while going downhill or backing up. Oxen continue to grow until they are eleven years old, and are expected to weight 3,000 lbs.

Poultry
Chickens would have been an important element on a 1917 farm. They provided eggs to cook and bake with, and meat for consumption in the summer months. The farmer’s wife would have tended to the chickens, consequently the chicken coop is located near the house. We have a variety of chickens here at the farm. Rhode Island Reds are the red ones. They lay brown eggs and also provide high quality meat. They are historically accurate, as are the black and white speckled Barred Plymouth Rocks. We also have Silver laced Wyandottes and Austra Lorps. In the summer of 2002 we acquired a few Guinea Hens. They are a pheasant type bird that many farmers kept in 1917. Guinea Hens were kept as a sort of “watch dog”. They have a peculiar coo, and are sure to let you know if they hear someone, or something, coming.

Pigs
The breeds of pigs that are common today were also common in 1917. These include
Durocs, Chester Whites, Hampshire, Yorkshire, Spotted Poland or Landrace. However, these breeds do not look the same as those at the turn of the century. Today we prefer leaner meat, so farmers have selected animals with a high proportion of lean muscle fat. In 1917 lard was an important commodity, so farmers raised fatter pigs. Pigs provided foods that could be preserved such as: bacon, ham, sausage, and lard. The market for pork was high, and pigs were a valuable source of income.

Sheep
The breed of sheep on the farm is Rambouillet (ram-bo-la). They look similar to Rambouillet sheep in 1917, with closed faces (lots of wool on the face), wrinkly skin, and greasy wool. These characteristics make it harder to sheer Rambouillet sheep then it is to sheer modern sheep. Rambouillets are a good dual breed because they produce long stable and strong wool, which is very marketable. Additionally, Rambouillets sheep are a good breed for eating.
The Cache Valley farmer of 1917 raised sheep primarily for food. Weaving and wool making had long been industrialized, so personal wool production was not necessary. However, by the winter of 1917 the need for wool was great because of WWI. Everyone was knitting for the Red Cross, and wool was hard to come by, so the Red Cross asked women who were capable to spin their own wool. This was not a trend that lasted for long. After the war, most people went back to buying wool from the store.

Cats
Every farm needs a few barn cats, and our farm is no exception. Just like today, cats were a valuable resource to the farmer of 1917. Cats are natural predators. They are great at keeping mice out of the barn, granary, summer kitchen, farmhouse and even the fields. Some cats will even kill moles, rabbits and spiders. Cats keep a farm naturally pest free. Farm cats do not belong inside! They are strictly outside animals. Because of this, some of our cats are not as friendly as the house cats you may be used to. Some love to be petted and played with, remember that they all have sharp claws and teeth, and they will use them!

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 License.