The livestock

 

The Open-Air Museum Hjerl Hede preserves the old Danish livestock breeds. The museum has grey pied Jutland cattle,
sheep and goats from old Danish country stock, geese, chickens and bronze turkeys as well as Norwegian fjord horses.

In the 1700s, grazing and the amount of winter feed set limits for the size of the herd. An ordinary farm had 6 horses,
4-6 cows plus a dozen sheep, a pig or a sow with piglets as well as some poultry. When there was a shortage of feed
in a long winter, the cows were so weakened that they had to be carried out to the pasture in the springtime.

The introduction of grass seed and clover in the early 19th century improved the situation and led to an increase in the
number of livestock, but the transformation of farming towards dairy and pig farming, which took place in the latter half
of the century, changed livestock farming significantly.

The number of horses declined in the 19th century because villeinage and the driving duties of the farmers ended, and
because the swing plough replaced the heavy wheel plough. In Jutland they preferred large, strong horses like the Jutland
horse, while on the islands they bred lighter horses. In the moor areas steers were used to pull the plough.

The best cattle were found in Northwestern Jutland around the Limfjord. The grey pied cattle made good milking cows
and were well suited to being fattened. For this reason people bred steers. When the animals were 3 or 4 years old, they
were sold to estates and large farms where they were fattened during the summer and sold as beef cattle on the Northern
German market in the autumn.

Sheep and goats were hardy animals. They could be outdoors almost all year round. Smallholders could keep one goat or
one sheep. A farm had 10-12 sheep and the moorland farms in Western Jutland up to 50. Wool was a commodity - in the
form of raw wool, yarn or knitted. The sheep was indispensable in the household. In addition to wool and skin, it provided
milk and meat, and tallow candles were made out of sheep fat.

Pig rearing did not play a big role. Some had a sow with piglets. Others bought a pig every year and slaughtered it at Christmas.
After 1850, larger farms began to introduce pigs and to develop porkers by crossbreeding.

As late as 1860, the most important role of the livestock was providing the household with food. But by 1900 the selling of
food had become more important for the farmers. Systematic attempts at breeding better livestock which could provide products
that fulfilled the demands of the export market began. Among the results of this were the red Danish dairy cow and the bacon pig.

In the decades around 1900, many smallholdings were created. Many smallholders bought Norwegian or Russian horses as
draught animals. These small horses and the large working horses like the Oldenburgers and the Belgians disappeared as the
tractor gradually took over fieldwork after 1950.


Writer: museum keeper MA Gudrun Gormsen