Energy on the Yuill Farms and Ramsay CSD, Lanark, Ontario

The Yuill farms in Lanark County are an example of a livestock intensive energy strategy in the Upper Ottawa Valley agroecosystem.  Joseph Yuill (b. 1838 / d. 1905) is listed in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography as a farmer, breeder, butter producer and educator.[1]  Joseph Yuill’s father, Alexander, emigrated with his parents and siblings from Glasgow to Ramsay Township in Lanark County in 1821, as part of a government-supported scheme to relocate Scots to aid industrial relief at home.[2]  Although the quality of land in Lanark County was often poor and settlers were continually petitioning for better land, neighbour William Dowrie found his land “excellent” and found his situation much improved over life in Scotland.[3] 

The Yuills seem to have prospered, however, and were well-represented on the maps of Ramsay township in 1863 and 1880 (Figures 1a and 1b).  Alexander Yuill settled on 200 acres on lot 9, concession 6 (7th Line Road), approximately 3 miles NW of Carlteon Place, and by the time of the 1871 census, had given 100 acres to son Joseph and his wife Margaret.[4] The farms were located along the southern edge of a wetland called Wolf Grove on both contemporary maps, and known today as the Wolf Grove Wetland Complex, owned in part by Nature Conservancy of Canada.[5] The farms were bounded and likely intersected in places by Ramsay Creek (now Wolf Grove Creek), which flowed down to the town of Almonte in the Lowlands subwatershed of Ontario’s Mississippi River.

Figure 1a – Clip of Ramsay Township (CSD), Historical County Map of Lanark County. D.P. Putnam, 1863. https://maps.library.utoronto.ca/hgis/countymaps/lanarkrenfrew/e010692499_b2.jpg. Note “A. Youll” at centre of map.
Figure 1b – Ramsay Township, Lanark County (Ontario Map Ref #40), Lanark Supplement in Illustrated atlas of the Dominion of Canada. Toronto : H. Belden & Co., 1880. McGill University, Rare Books Division, elf G1148.L3H3 1880. https://digital.library.mcgill.ca/countyatlas/searchmapframes.php
Figure 1c – Advertisement, The Ottawa Citizen, 30 November 1898. Source: Newspapers.com

As early as 1868, Joseph and Margaret started breeding Ayrshires; as he reported to the Ontario Agricultural Commission in 1880[6]:

“If the Ayrshire does not bring as much for beef, it costs less in proportion to feed them than the Durham.  If going into cattle feeding for market, I would prefer the Galloways or Polled Angus. They are thriftier animals for our bare pastures in summer, and hardier in winter. … against the native stock, the Ayrshires would be better for milk by one-third.  The skim milk is very good for raising calves.”

The Yuills entered their Ayshires at local and provincial Agricultural Fairs, eventually winning prizes at the World Fair in Chicago in 1893. Joseph wrote articles for agricultural journals and became President of the Dominion Ayshire Breeders Association from 1891 to 1893.[7]   By the 1890s, Joseph and Margaret expanded into education with a “traveling dairy” that included demonstrations on butter churning and talks on farming, [8] and by the late 1890s Ottawa businesses were advertising Yuill “Choice Table Butter” (Figure 1c).

At the time of the 1871 census, though, Joseph and Margaret were in the early stages of building their herd, and they still shared farming responsibilities with father Alex. All farm products were reported against Alex’s 100 acres, although they would have shared the farms’ production. This profile considers both farms together.

Farm Energy Funds*

In 1871, Alex Yuill and son Joseph farmed 200 acres or 81 hectares, whereas the average farm in Ramsay Township was 51.5 ha.  Of this total, 70 percent (57 ha) had been cleared. Of the cleared land, 18.6 ha were given over to pasture, and they reported 0.2 ha of gardens.

Figures 2a and 2b: Agroecosystem Land Use for the Alex and Joseph Yuill farms and the Ramsay Census Subdivision. The Yuills had a greater proportion of land cleared and in pasture and hay than the county average.

Jointly they reported 2 horses, 6 milk cows, 15 other horned cattle, 32 sheep and 5 swine, resulting in a livestock density ratio of 22.3 (livestock units per km2), slightly higher than the livestock density ratio of 16.1 for the district. With an emphasis on building their Ayrshire herd, the Yuills had both a larger quantity and higher quality of cattle than the average Ramsay farm.  The average number of ruminants grazing the pasture was the same for the Yuills as the district as a whole, at 0.82 livestock units per hectare (LUr/ha); however, if the milchers were purebred Ayrshires, we should also assume that they were receiving an enriched feed supply and producing significantly higher levels of milk than the standard yields estimated in AMPA. As Yuill stated in 1880 (see above), he expected a 33 percent higher milk output from their Ayrshires.

Farm Energy Flows*

The Yuills reported 53 acres (21.5 ha) of hay over the two farms, producing 50 tons of hay or .9 tons per acre. The district average of 15 acres (6.1 ha) of hay per farm, with a similar production of .8 tons of hay per acre, was significantly less. This hay yield is among the lower rates in Canada, but what Alex and Joseph lacked in quality they made up in quantities of hay and lower grazing intensity on their pastures. These land use strategies partly explain why they did not require residues for feed as the average farmer in the CSD would have (Figure 3b).

Although the majority of their lands were dedicated to hay and pasture for their cattle and sheep, the main farm also grew a relatively diverse output of crops: oats, wheat, and peas as well as smaller vegetable, potato, and barley crops.  Fifty-eight percent of the grains and crop biomass was reused for feed and litter, although that would be higher if one considers peas as a livestock feed, as a certain proportion almost certainly was.  Ramsay township as a whole had very similar energy flows in both crop production and feed and litter demands. The main difference, as the charts show above, was that other Ramsay farmers likely used more crop residues as fodder to meet those feed demands.

The Yuills produced approximately 46,000 MJ of energy from meat (cattle, sheep, and swine), and dairy products (butter and cheese) which was higher than the Ramsay average of 32,000 MJ per farm but comparable given their relative acreage.  More than half of this energy was milk.  Their flows were consistent with the district as a whole, although the Yuills generated more energy from cattle as they were starting to develop their business in Ayrshire breeding.

Given the wool industry of Lanark county, the Yuills reported a typical amount of wool production (200lbs) but no home-made cloth and flannel. Margaret Yuill apparently often helped with shearing and processing wool, but as her obituary explained (Figure 6), the presence of textile mills such as The Rosamond Woolen Company in Almonte created nearby markets for their wool.[9] As farmers and cattle breeders, the Yuills did not apparently use their woodlot beyond personal use in the two households, reporting 20 cords of firewood for both households, well below the household average of 34 cords per farm in Ramsay. Ramsay farmers’ average firewood outputs were higher than national averages because of the commercial opportunities the steamship waterways of Eastern Ontario provided to petit producers.

Conclusions

Figure 6 – Extract from The Ottawa Citizen, 22 May 1936.  Source: Newspapers.com.

The Yuill farms were consistent in energy strategy with Ramsay township as a whole in 1871, showing the initial inputs required to develop a prize Ayrshire herd and reputation for butter production. 

Unfortunately, Joseph Yuill’s sons showed less interest in maintaining their parents’ prize Ayrshire herd: after his father’s death in 1905, son Alexander sold the herd[10] but Andrew continued to farm some of the property.[11] Margaret would remain active in the community until her death in 1936.

“Meadowside” was later purchased by Alan and Betty Thompson, who by the 1970s were providing farm vacations on their property to supplement the farm income.[12]  Today’s Google Maps shows a patchwork of fields and woodlots, and a nearby nursery business at Ramsay Creek, which once ran through the Yuill farms.

* For an explanation of terms in this profile, see the farm energy profiles project home page.


[1] S. Lynn Campbell and Susan L. Bennett, “YUILL, JOSEPH,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed July 19, 2021, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/yuill_joseph_13E.html

[2] Reid, Richard M. Upper Ottawa Valley to 1855. Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1990. p. xxv.

[3] Reid, p. 22

[4] “Joseph Yuil”, 1871 Census of Canada, C-10018, Gatineau, QC: Library and Archives Canada.

[5] “Webber Woods of Wolf Grove Trails,” Ontario Nature Trails, Jun 12, 2019 https://ontarionaturetrails.com/trail/webber-woods-of-wolf-grove-trails/

[6] Ontario, Agricultural Commission, Report of the Commissioners, 1880 (C. B. Robinson, 1881), p. 264. https://archive.org/details/reportcommissio02woodgoog/page/n349/mode/2up

[7] Linda Seccaspina, “Notes on Alexander and Joseph Yuill.” https://lindaseccaspina.wordpress.com/2021/05/06/notes-on-alexander-and-joseph-yuill/

[8] Campbell & Bennett, Dictionary of Canadian Biography

[9] Richard Reid, “The Rosamond Woolen Company of Almonte: Industrial development in a rural setting,” Ontario History LXXV (September 1983): 266-89.

[10] Linda Seccaspina, “Farm Real Estate etc 1903-1908”, https://lindaseccaspina.wordpress.com/tag/real-estate-2/

[11] “Andrew Yuill”, 1921 Census of Canada. Source: Ancestry.com

[12] Linda Seccaspina, “Alan and Betty Thompson Meadowside Farms 7th Line Ramsay.” https://lindaseccaspina.wordpress.com/2018/01/28/alan-and-betty-thompson-meadowside-farms/