Old Literature Reminds Us of How Far We've Come

Old Literature Reminds Us of How Far We've Come

University bulletins form 60 years ago tell story of agriculture.

When an elderly farmer passed away a few years ago, he left impeccably preserved Purdue Extension bulletins form the 1930s and 1940s. Since he helped his father on a general livestock farm, many of the bulletins related to livestock, everything from pigs to beef cattle to dairy cattle to sheep. Some of the reports from those days remind us of how far technology and common sense have brought us in Indiana agriculture today.

Here's a few highlights

*Hog cholera- One of the most numerous pamphlets in his collection were some variation of a report on hog cholera. In the 1930s and 1940s, this was the disease that hog farmers feared. One pamphlet discussed the disease. Another pushed vaccination for cholera.

Eventually, the disease was eradicated in Indiana due to the help of the Indiana Board of Animal Health, veterinarians and hog producers. There are other disease, however, that fill bulletins today, such as how to address PRRS, or porcine respiratory and reproductive syndrome. One thing farmers have learned is that pigs are susceptible to diseases.

*Producing eggs- Oh yes, there were at least a couple bulletins on chickens, their care and maintenance. Most farms had a few chickens back then to raise eggs for the family. Some raised enough eggs to sell. In fact, when reviewing Indiana Prairie Farmer issues into the early 1960s, one of the key livestock ad categories was for poultry.

*Breeds of animals- The hog pamphlet on this one is most entertaining and revealing. All of the pigs featured as representatives of their breed looked like they stepped out of the 1930s. There was a category for lard-type hogs mentioned in the brochures. One of the key advancements in hogs today is reduction in backfat and the amount of lard produce per animal. You can still buy lard, but today it is almost a specialty item, not the mainstay of farm kitchens where prize pies are baked.

Showing animals- Yes, even in the 1940s, there were bulletins issued about how to prepare cattle and pigs for show in the show ring. It covered topics such as grooming and getting animals ready for the show. The desire to exhibit animals and win shows was with us even back then. However, you won't anything in those bulletins about doctoring animals or altering their condition to gain an unfair advantage.
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