Livestock production has long been important to the Highland economy, before no less than after the clearances for sheep that first spread across the region from the mid-eighteenth century onwards. However, key questions about how it may have developed over the century or so immediately prior to the clearances have still to be answered, as well as questions about how the clearances actually changed farm output. Using stocking data primarily for the southern Highlands and Islands, this paper proposes to examine four particular questions. First, by way of an introduction, it will briefly consider the role of stock within the traditional or pre-clearance township economy. Second, it will use detailed data for the closing decades of the sixteenth and first half of the seventeenth century to characterise the broad stocking balance of townships at the point when detailed figures first become available. Third, it will look at stocking figures for the eighteenth century with a view to establishing how livestock production may have altered during the century or so prior to the clearances. Fourth, and finally, it will consider how the clearances changed the character of livestock production.
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