In respect to livestock, the most common commodity was cattle. In those early years little was done to increase the value of cattle but once the 19th century arrived there were a number of individuals who exerted themselves to improve their herds by selecting the choicest of cattle and utilise them for breeding. One of the principles of these was Robert Walker of Portlethen (more on this family later). The best cattle were selected, fed properly throughout the year and were given a more extensive diet than the regular cattle and by doing so more vigour was added to their stock and as a result they began to fetch better market prices.
Sheep were another popular choice of livestock in the Portlethen area although their numbers lagged somewhat behind those of cattle. It was rare to see large flocks of sheep and the larger farms focussed more on cattle than on sheep. It may have been the case that sheep were more popular on the smaller crofts with flocks of half a dozen to a dozen being kept on these smallholdings.
Horses were a staple of all farms – these workhorses were the equivalent of today’s tractors and machinery. With the passage of time the demand for work horses increased as did their price and, as a result, local farmers were induced to rear young horses for themselves and they were so successful that they were able to supply a great proportion of that demand. Their preference was still for a pure-bred Clydesdale and there were a few of these animals scattered throughout Kincardineshire but the purchase cost was prohibitive. Ultimately these home bred work horses were soon approaching the efficiency and quality of the Clydesdale as a work horse.
Pigs were farmed in Kincardineshire but I don’t believe that they had a big presence in the farms around Portlethen or Findon. In the early 19th century pork was not in great demand around the country and as a result the prices paid for pigs and hogs were on the low side. Back in those days livestock had to be profitable and no one could afford the luxury of raising and tending non-profitable animals.
Poultry was abundant in the area and in most crofts and farms and almost every household with an interest in farming had its share of barnyard fowls – particularly hens, chickens and a few roosters. Ducks were plentiful too and they were seen to be paddling in every gutter and ditch available. Turkey was another that was somewhat abundant, probably it was popular as a year round bird rather than the seasonal ones we tend to think of today. There was little in the way of geese being reared and although there were a few guinea fowls the only place you were likely to see them would have been around country gentlemen’s houses.