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Argos. 2001;(24):175-85.

[Development of animal husbandry in Groningen in the 18th and 19th century; a broad outline].

[Article in Dutch]

Author information

Vakgroep Geschiedenis, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.


This overview is mainly focussed on the clay area forming the northern half of the province. It is the wealthiest and most characteristic part, being cultured since the Middle Ages as testified by the many churches that even small villages were able to construct. About 1700 the province of Groningen enjoyed already a modern economy, fitting in with that of the other coastal areas of Friesland, Zeeland and Holland (the last mentioned was the richest region of the world in the 17th and 18th century). As aspects of modernity at that time can be considered: 1) the use of modern agricultural methods with higher yields per hectare and higher milk yields per cow than produced in the land provinces on the sandy soils; 2) Agriculture was aimed at earning money by selling of hte products. In opposition to the farmers in the land provinces, who mainly produced for subsistence farming, the farmers in the coastal areas produced for the trade; 3) A high degree of specialization was found in the rural areas. 30-40% of the families had own farms, 25% of the population were labourers, owing only small pieces of land and the rest of the working population had occupations outside agriculture (craftmen, shopkeepers, shipmasters, merchants etc.). Whereas on the sandy soils practically every family owned a farm, be it mostly a very small one. After reviewing the changes in the distribution of land in use of the production of fieldcrops or for meadows-always in function of the market value of the products-and after a discussion of type of cattle husbandry (breeding, fattening, dairying) it is concluded that a relative decrease of the importance of cattle husbandry in the clay region during the 18th - 19th century can be observed. Intensification of land use had a positive effect on crop-production. The much-heard opinion that the cattle plague epizootic of 1768-1786 caused a transition in land use through a switch from animal husbandry to arable farming, is not held by the author. Economic factors were of prime importance here. The introduction of fertilizer in the 19th century took away the necessity to keep cattle for manure. And mechanization did the same for the horse in the 20th century. In some parts of the clay region, however, cattle husbandry returned in the second half of the 20th century, due to the low prices of the fieldcrops. The arable land is then transformed again in meadows. Attention is given to the role of veterinary care given by the farmers themselves and in a later phase by veterinary professionals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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