Statistical Survey of the County of Clare, 1808

By Hely Dutton

Chapter III - Section 5

General Prices

IT is no easy matter to ascertain the prices paid for cattle of different ages, as they varied at different fairs according to the demand, and also to the quality of some being very superior to others; for instance, those from Limerick always bringing a higher price than most other yearlings. Store cattle of every kind were much lower in 1807 than they had been many years before, insomuch, that dry cows could scarcely be sold for any price, however low, and greatly distressed the lower kind of farmers and cottiers, who wanted to exchange them for those in milk, or to make up their rent.

The prices given for fat cattle by the contractors of Cork and Limerick last year (1806) were unprecedentedly low; many graziers were obliged to sell their fat cattle for little more, sometimes less, than they paid for them as stores the preceding May. This cannot be imputed to low prices given by Government, but to a combination amongst the contractors, who the year before opposed each other, and helped to keep up the market, and by which I understand they were considerable losers; but last season and this there has been no opposition, except an hasty ill-judged plan amongst the Leinster graziers, that has been productive of nothing but disappointment. Were I to prescribe a remedy for this extreme fluctuation in the price of fat cattle, it would be the cultivation of large quantities of green winter food, that would enable them to keep over their cattle; for, the English contractors can no more do without Irish beef, than we can do without their money; and if the fat cattle are sold before they consume this green food, it will be of infinite use for store cattle, instead of straw, and will enable the grazier to finish his cattle better, earlier, and in greater number than he ever did, and litter to make manure will be made of that straw, which formerly only kept his cattle barely alive.

On striking a balance of accounts for many years past, the graziers, I presume, have no great reason to complain of one or two bad seasons.

The sale of fat sheep is very limited; what the home market does not consume, is sent to Ballinasloe fair in October, and from thence to be finished in Leinster for Dublin and other markets.

Horses are rather improving within the last year, owing to an encouraging advance in the price: they sold at Spansel-hill in 1807; horses for draught, at three years old, for from 8l. to 25l.; those for the saddle, three years old, from 14l. to 60l. That fine breed of horses, for which this county was formerly famous, is now very rare. 

Two or three fairs and a weekly market at Carrigaholt would be highly advantageous to the remote parishes of Kilballyhone, Killard, Moyferta, &c. as the land and stock are in a state of great improvement, and population is receiving a great encrease*.

In the western part of this county cattle were a few years ago uncommonly low-priced; milch cows frequently for from 2l. 10s. to 4l. and other stock still lower; but in the year 1800, milch cows of the same quality were sold for from 4l. 11s. to 11l. 7s. 6d.; and dry cows, which at a former period were sold for from 1l. to 4l., in 1800 rose to four and seven guineas, and every kind of young stock in proportion; this has been imputed not only to a rise in the times, but to an improvement in the stock.

At the fair of Innistymon, in July 1807, cattle were so low, that tolerable dry cows sold for 3l., and middling two-year old heifers for 3l. 8s. 3d., but sheep sold well.

In September 1807, I met a lot of fat old-light hogget sheep going to a butcher in Limerick; he paid 30s. a piece for them, but they were small, though very fat; it seems then, that old-light sheep will fatten at an early period.

* Since the above was written, fairs have been established.

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