The American Swine Breeder, 274-277 (1840)
Henry William Ellsworth

Charcoal for Swine

Charcoal is one of the best articles that can be given to hogs, to correct acidity of the stomach and preserve a healthy tone and action of the bowels. It is an excellent remedy in diseased lungs, a complaint by no means unfrequent with these animals. An intelligent writer in the Franklin Farmer, while speaking of the value of charcoal, in affections of this kind remarks as follows. "As the rearing and fattening of hogs has become a business of great importance to the West, and especially to our corn growing States; and as new and terrible diseases have made their appearance within the last few years, among that class of our domestic animals, I, as a common sufferer with my brother farmers, have been trying to ascertain the cause of, and remedy for, the one which I have suffered the most by, and which I shall call your attention more particularly to.

"It is admitted by pathologists, that diseases may, and do change their type in the same latitude, and become more and more malignant as the population becomes more dense, and the country becomes colder; thus our own intermittent has degenerated into the more deadly typhus fever; thus, that which we once called quinsy or swelling of the throat in swine, has now assumed a more malignant type, and requires a different treatment; the cause is the same, but the effect is not always instantaneous or accompanied by the same symptoms or results. I think it may safely be assumed that most of diseases that hogs are liable to, are produced by sudden transitions from heat to cold; especially as they do not, to the same extent with other animals, perspire through the pores of the skin over the whole surface of the body, but through small orifices in the legs and throat. These orifices are continually liable to obstructions, and particularly in the winter season, when great numbers of these animals sleep together, and where perspiration for a short time is succeeded by an opposite state, in the frequent changes of position; thus clogging the medium of perspiration and laying the foundation of disease and death.

"This exposure, as we have stated, formerly produced enlargement of the glands of the animal's neck, which often ended in inflammation and death. Now, the same cause produces very different effects, and although it is still strangulation, yet the inflammation falls with its whole weight upon the lungs; and if both tubes of that organ are affected death instantly ensues: if only one, the animal may live a long time, but never recover unless the remedy that I shall presently suggest, or one equally potent, be applied. The symptoms, when the attack is violent, are, a seeming sense of suffocation, great indisposition to move, a deep crimson color, approaching to purple all over the body; and if forced to move only a few paces, the animal will pant as if worried by dogs in hot weather. If the attack is less violent, it will take more exercise with seemingly less pain, will throb in the flanks in much the same way that a horse will when exhausted by fatigue and hard usage; is generally inattentive to its company, is inclined to eat earth rather than its accustomed food; such generally live a long time, but seldom recover.

"I now proceed to point out, how to prevent the disease, and to cure it if taken in time. Do not suffer your hogs to herd together in large lots in cold weather; never suffer them to sleep in hollow trees; if you have sheds for them to sleep under, let them be set so low that they cannot in great numbers heap together. In dry, hard, freezing weather, let them have some succulent food such as apples, potatoes, or turnips, but especially let them have plenty of salt and charcoal; this last is a cure for the disease if administered before they entirely refuse to eat. It is known to almost every one, that charcoal is a powerful antisceptic and absorbent, and that hogs search for and eat it with eagerness, especially in banks of leached ashes; and so they will unassociated with ashes, if at first you break it up into small lumps, and pour a little salt and water over it."

In addition to the suggestions made by the above writer, we add, experiment has clearly shown that when confined in separate stalls, or in larger but well protected apartments, swine are seldom affected by swellings of the throat, or the more aggravated disease referred to; and that, independent of its power in curing, charcoal is one of the best articles for preventing the various disorders of swine. It is not only nutritious—this is clearly shown from the statements of Mr Cunningham and others in the former part of this chapter,—but it is a powerful corrective of the acidity produced by feeding too much grain at once, or for too long periods. It is also found that charcoal, when frequently administered, effectually destroys the propensity of hogs to root, and causes them to remain quiet in their pens or yards; thus securing that rest which is essential to expeditious fattening.

We have before spoken of the necessity of keeping the issues in the legs of swine, constantly open. These orifices, as is suggested by the writer last quoted, are the natural channels for the passage of a great part of the perspiration and waste fluids of the system, and if they are obstructed, the health of the animal must soon deteriorate.

In all well conducted piggeries, there should be a sufficient number of small boxes filled with sulphur, salt and charcoal. If the former of these articles is purchased by the barrel, it can be obtained for one fourth, or less, of the retail price of the stores. In addition to these, a small handful of wood ashes may be occasionally mixed with the food of each animal; and the meal of the cob, if ground with corn, will be found, from the alkaline properties it possesses, a sufficient corrective of acidity.