HINTS TO INTENDING SHEEP-FARMERS.
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THE demand for another edition of my "Hints to Intending Sheep-farmers in New Zealand," has induced me to consent to alter and enlarge the little pamphlet that I first published under that title in 1851, and of which a second edition appeared in 1853, for with the lapse of time, circumstances have altered, and remarks true and useful in 1851, are no longer applicable and might only mislead, now that some additional nine or ten years have passed over our heads.
Since the former date the political constitution of New Zealand has been altered, the Colony now regulates and manages its own affairs, and to this in great measure is owing its rapid progress. The European population of New Zealand had increased from 32,554 in 1854, to 61,224 in 1858, and has been much augmented since that time--its exports from the value of £320,890 in 1854 to £458,023 in 1858, and are now much higher--its imports from £891,201 in 1854 to £1,141,273 in 1858--its gross revenue exclusive of local rates from £149,820 in 1853 to £292,040 in 1854, and £341,654 in 1858. Many hundreds of good roads have been made. Railroads are in immediate contemplation. Lighthouses and other public works are in the course of construction. Steamers constantly ply along the coast and to and fro from Australia --whilst flourishing towns and villages are springing up and increasing from year to year--new districts are rising into importance. It is true that the machinery of
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our Provincial, Governments has been rendered unnecessarily cumbrous and expensive, and has led to some confusion and complexity; but, I trust, the good sense of the country and of the General Legislature is remedying this by degrees, and though like true Anglo-Saxons, we sometimes growl and grumble at the way we manage our affairs, yet in our hearts we feel that we manage them quite as well (at least) as our neighbours, and on the whole we thrive and fatten, and increase and multiply exceedingly.
Of this general prosperity 1 I am glad to say that the Sheep-farmers have had their full share--they have deserved it as the pioneers of civilization in many a wild and desolate district--and as having consequently as a class undergone the greatest amount of personal hardships and privations, and displayed the greatest amount of enterprise and energy. They have given the Colony its first and principal export, wool, an article which still ranks by far at the head of our exports, and is rapidly increasing in quantity year by year. In 1854 our export of wool was valued at £70,104, in 1858 at £254,024; whilst our second export, gold, was in 1858 valued at £52,443. Prices too of stock have kept up to a higher point than had been generally anticipated, so that I may fearlessly assert that the prospects I held out to intend-
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ing Sheep-farmers in 1851 have been far more than realized.
The question now is, what are the prospects that can still fairly be looked forward to by those who are about to seek their fortunes in this country, and intend to invest in sheep or cattle.
When formerly I treated this subject, my pamphlet referred chiefly to sheep-farming on natural pasture or wild runs; now a days, the pursuit is naturally becoming more and more an affair of cultivated grasses and enclosed paddocks--much of the land is now freehold, and of unbought pasture land there is a very small quantity yet unoccupied by run holders, and that is chiefly land in the North island, as yet unbought from natives; and probably some yet unexplored, on the western side of the Middle Island. Practically, therefore, the new comer has either to purchase the goodwill of a run from its present occupant or to buy a freehold, either from the Government or from private owners; this will ultimately lead to the subdivision of properties, and moreover to a higher and better system of farming, than that which is the best and most profitable in those earlier stages, when the value of the land is as nothing compared to the value of capital and labour.
I propose in these pages to deal briefly with the subject under either point of view, but first I will recapitulate some of the special advantages presented by New Zealand as a pastoral country.
As one of the earliest sheepowners in New Zealand, having established stations in the Wairarapa early in 1844, at Cape Campbell in 1847, and near Canterbury in 1850-51, I may speak confidently from experience, and I believe that no man who is at all acquainted with the pastoral capabilities of New Zealand will differ from me when I express my opinion, founded on the active ex-
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perience of years, that it is, in this respect at least, unsurpassed by any other country of similar extent. I have uniformly found this to be the opinion, not only of those whose knowledge of pastoral matters has been acquired in the country itself, but also of men who have the further advantage of possessing an extensive experience of the business of stock-farming, as carried on in Great Britain, and in the Australian Colonies.
The peculiar advantages which justify this claim to superiority are chiefly, though not entirely, referable to equability of climate. The climate of New Zealand, though one of the most variable within certain limits, is at the same time, perhaps, the most strictly temperate, both in summer and winter, of any in the world. As a natural consequence, the growth of grass is never sufficiently checked to affect seriously the condition of stock. The supply of the purest water is always unlimited. There are, of course, no prejudicial extremes of heat or cold; and it naturally results that the increase of a flock is more rapid than is usual in the neighbouring colonies, whilst the stock are at all seasons in high and thriving condition. With regard to sheep (of which it is my present purpose more particularly to speak) this manifests itself, not only by the early age at which they are fit for the butcher, but by the length and soundness of the fibre of the wool, and the consequent weight and quality of the fleece. In New South Wales, 2 1/2 lbs. of wool is an average yield for sheep. In New Zealand, a well-bred Merino flock on a good run will fully average 4 lbs. With regard to the quality of the staple, I have the authority of some of the first English brokers for speaking of it in the highest terms. As yet, it has, but in few instances, fetched prices equal to those of the first-class New South Wales wools; because, sheep-farming being yet in its infancy in New Zealand, the flocks are
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still, in most cases, of a mixed description, and the 'sorting' and 'getting up' of the wools has not hitherto been sufficiently attended to. Year after year, however, our wools command a higher price as these causes of depreciation are removed, and as the produce of our flocks becomes better known in the home market; whilst, even under the most disadvantageous circumstances, the extra weight of fleece gives us an advantage over our brother sheep-farmers in Australia. To the influence of climate also may, at all events indirectly, be attributed the great amount of immunity from disease which is so remarkable in stock of all kinds in New Zealand. I know of no prevalent affection to which either horses or cattle are subject in those islands, whilst, with the exception of scab, sheep appear to be equally exempt from all the ailments which so often entail ruin upon their owners in the neighbouring colonies. Isolated cases of foot-rot and staggers do occasionally occur, but never to any extent. I wish I could say as much for scab. The comparative humidity of the climate renders this a formidable enemy to the sheep-farmer, whilst the broken nature of the ground on many runs that are hilly and intersected by ravines and rough with fern or bushes, rendering it difficult to collect stray or scattered sheep, the comparative scarcity of labour, and various other causes incidental to a new country, often throw unforeseen obstacles in his way as he seeks to eradicate it. Yet, with proper management, though he may not at all times repose in the certainty of prevention, he may, at least under ordinary circumstances, be confident of a speedy and effectual cure--not inexpensive, it is true, but still at a rate which would leave a fair profit upon the annual expenditure.
I have now briefly touched upon certain points more or less referable to climate--viz. the constant supply of
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water and food, its effects on condition and growth of wool, and on the general health of the animal; but I must not omit here to allude to the physical characteristics of the pastoral parts of New Zealand. No one can have traversed the undulating downs and grassy plains so characteristic of the Middle Island, or the rich open valleys that invite the grazier in many parts of the North Island, without being struck with their peculiar fitness for stock-farming, and in many cases for that only. The Northern Island in its natural state appears to me chiefly adapted for cattle, whilst the Middle offers, in its open undulating or broken tracts of country, inexhaustible pasturage, combined with that shelter from wind and weather, and dryness of soil, so essential to the welfare of that class of animals to which the sheep belongs. Nearly the whole of the south and east coast of that island, with the exception of the great block of the Kaikora mountains, is one vast tract of pastoral country, well watered, and much of it comparatively easy of access. A deficiency of wood is indeed a drawback to this, the most extensive grazing district in New Zealand. Standing on any summit of the offspurs of the Kaikoras, or of the inland range that runs down the centre of the island, the eye wanders over an apparently interminable waste of grass land, sometimes level, sometimes heaving in wavy outline like a sea, whilst here and there it is attracted by the gleam of rivers and streamlets, or rests on the landward peaks of snow that look down on the wide prairie. I do not mean to say that the whole of this vast expanse of country is equally good, or that, on a nearer inspection, it would always be inviting to the eye of the English agriculturist, accustomed to the rich green and luxuriant herbage of his highly cultivated fields. The yellow seed-stems and dry-looking tufts of rough grass might at first discourage him, but he would be re-assured on a more
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attentive examination, by the abundance of mountain herbs and fine grasses which it would discover. Moreover, the natural pasture is at first always thinly spread over the ground; but it often loses its tufty character on being fed down and manured by pasturage. Again, much of the unoccupied grass country, especially in the Northern Island, is rough with flax, fern, and bushes; and in other parts, where the hills and downs begin to assume the character of mountains, the wild and desolate nature of the country would almost remind you of the dictum of Dr. Buckland, who pronounced New Zealand to have been colonized a thousand years too soon. From this sketch it will be easily understood how difficult it is to state with any accuracy the number of sheep that a given quantity of land will support when in its natural state; but judging from the occupied parts of the country, I should say, on an average of available districts, not more than one sheep to three acres of wild land, including in the area (as is done in the estimate given for a license) a proportion of bush cliff, shingle bed of river, and other utterly valueless country; excluding this I should say that ordinary runs will keep a sheep to every two acres, whilst I know some country that will keep a sheep to the acre. It must be borne in mind that in speaking of the average quantity of land requisite to maintain a sheep, I here merely allude to wild and unimproved pasture, much ground too is wasted in keeping flocks apart, which would become available by the use of fences. In no country do artificial grasses thrive and flourish more luxuriantly than in New Zealand, and by their cultivation, and by fencing, and in some cases by draining, the capabilities of a given area of good land to maintain stock might be increased tenfold. With greater abundance of capital and labour, and considering the increasing value of land, I have no doubt but that this will year by year be acted upon more extensively and profitably.
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As will easily be imagined, on no point have I been asked more questions than with regard to the probable profits of sheep-farming; and certainly no question can possibly be more difficult to answer with any degree of accuracy. So much depends on the breed of sheep, --so much on good management and good fortune--so much on the nature of the 'run,' the state of the markets (ever varying in a new country), and on the number of the stock, that it really amounts almost to an impossibility to give anything like a decided opinion or an average statement of results. And indeed it will probably remain so until the increase of stock and population, shall have combined to approach things to a permanent level. I might adduce numerous instances of large profits having been made by sheep and cattle farming in New Zealand, and I should find it difficult to name many in which the result has been unfavourable, even under peculiar and disadvantageous circumstances. One thing I consider I am safe in saying, that with a flock of any magnitude, say 2000 sheep, the wool after the first year ought in ordinary cases fully to cover the expenses, leaving the increase and the fat male stock as clear profit; whilst as the flocks increase in numbers the wool of course gives a greater proportion of profit. I believe that I am speaking within bounds when I say, that this is the case on all or most of the sheep-stations I am acquainted with on the Middle Island. At this rate, a better investment could scarcely be made, even taking the minimum possible price of stock as that to be realized. I might easily, by taking any special case, show its probable profits, but by so doing I am not aware that I could convey a more useful or correct general idea than I have already done. I will therefore proceed to say a few words upon the amount of capital required to enter into the business of sheep-farming.
I am inclined to think that a flock of 1000 or 1200
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breeding ewes is required to commence a self-supporting station on anything like an adequate scale. At present prices this would represent a capital of from £1000 to £1500, to this must be added for the purchase of good will of run, improvements, buildings, sheep and stock yards, dipping tanks, stores, &c. say another £1000 or £1500, unless the improvements were very extensive, or the run itself large and valuable in proportion to the numbers of sheep. This sum would include a small residue, as a "rest" to fall back upon in case of casualties or unforeseen contingencies, and moreover a man of character may easily obtain advances from the merchants who act as agents, on condition of consigning to them his wool. I therefore think that this sum and the proceeds of two clips of wool, should carry your station over the first two years, when you would have male stock to dispose of; and as your flocks would increase faster than your expenses, you would commence to make a clear cash profit, independently of that shown by the increase of your flocks. The amount of this profit would of course depend entirely on the state of the markets; and I think that in prudence a man should not calculate on higher than the minimum, or boiling-down price of about 5s a head for male (wether) stock, (exclusive of fleece), but my own opinion is, that the price will not fall below ten shillings, though a ready market may not at all times be counted upon. New Zealand is not simply a pastoral country, a large population will ultimately be employed in mining, in growing grain and root crops, and in numerous other pursuits, all these will be good customers to the stock farmer, and it must be borne in mind that the number of sheep in New South Wales is steadily decreasing, and that in Victoria there is an increasing difficulty in supplying the meat market. That the powers of production of meat in Tasmania appear, from all the information I can
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get, to be stationary, whilst the population of all the Australian Colonies is rapidly on the rise. In fact, it is far from impossible, that we may one day send fat stock to the Sydney market. As to breeding sheep, at the present moment the price varies much in various parts of New Zealand. At Otago, they are probably worth 30 to 35 shillings a head, whilst in the older settled districts they may probably after shearing, be at this moment, in some places as low as 15 to 18 shillings. I think another year or two will tend to equalize prices, and that female stock will remain at about 15 shillings for some years to come, and many causes may occur which would have the effect of keeping up even higher prices. Yet it must not be forgotten, that sheep might possibly in a few years fall to boiling down prices. Before quitting this part of the subject, I may state that I frequently receive letters, asking me what will be the profits accruing from the investment of a given sum in sheep-farming, how much in fine, the first, second, third, fourth and fifth years, and so on. Now, no man, who is not endued with the faculty of second sight, can satisfactorily answer such questions even approximately. I might draw up a statement that would look perfectly unimpeachable on paper, and yet might prove utterly fallacious in practice. I can say, that I believe the profits of most sheep and cattle farmers over the last ten years, calculated at the end of the period, have been more nearly twenty than ten per cent, on their original outlay; nor do I see any valid reason, why, even in the case of men purchasing sheep and station, at the present market rates, the same profits may not be for a time maintained--but more definitely than this, I cannot speak in justice to myself or readers. It is impossible for any one to say at any moment how much a man may buy a year hence with a specified sum of money --whether he will invest it wisely or unwisely, whether he
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will be fortunate or unfortunate, prove a good or a bad manager, whether prices will fall or rise, how far his sheep may escape the evils that mutton as well as other flesh is heir to. I can only deal in generalities, the application of them to special cases is the business of each individual himself. In this as in every other pursuit some risks, however slight, are to be hazarded, and some exercise of judgment, some capacity for administration and some personal energy may be required, therefore a man must study to know himself before he embarks in this, or indeed in any other colonial pursuit; if the scrutiny is favourable, and he superadds to self-knowledge some knowledge of others, I think he may confidently expect success. But "revenons a nos moutons." From what I have stated previously to this digression, it appears to me that a capital of from £2500 to £3000, is required to make a good beginning in sheep farming, but I consider £4000 to £5000 a very advisable amount to be invested in the formation of a sheep-station, for on a good "run" 2000 or even 3000 sheep can be kept with almost as little expense as 1000, whilst the increase of 3000 ewes forms a full and separate flock, thereby necessitating no waste of labour; indeed on some runs far larger numbers of sheep are profitably kept in one flock, being allowed to spread over a wide range of country; however, the produce of 3000 ewes soon amounts to a large flock; and when prices are tending downwards it is cheaper to breed sheep than to buy them.
It must not, however, be supposed, from what I have said, that a man cannot commence sheep-farming with a less capital than that which I have indicated above. I mean, that about two thousand pounds is the minimum capital with which a man, in the majority of cases, may without rashness count upon establishing a sheep-station on a secure and self-supporting footing. But at the same
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time, I am aware that he who brings his own labour and experience into the concern, and thus materially reduces its expenses, or who invests in sheep as an adjunct to a farm or other establishment, may of course commence with less capital and a smaller number. And again, where, as in the neighbourhood of a new settlement, the price of sheep is high, and likely to remain so for a few years, a very much smaller flock may be self-supporting, and even exceedingly profitable from the moment that any of the increase can be brought into the market; but as a general rule, I should advise persons whose capital will not allow them to obtain a run and about 1000 ewes, and at the same time reserve something in hand against contingencies, rather to place their sheep with some respectable sheep-owner, paying part of the produce for their keep and care, than to risk running into difficulties by setting up a station on their own account with insufficient capital. This method has the further advantage for a young colonist, that during the period whilst his flock is attaining the size requisite to enable him to set up on his own account, he may be living inexpensively at a station, and be employed in acquiring that experience of pastoral matters which he will need when he takes the management of his own flock.
Before I turn from this part of the subject, it may not be amiss to add a few words with regard to cattle-breeding. There is decidedly less risk in cattle than in sheep breeding. The stock is less subject to disease, and requires far less care and expense. On the other hand, the profits are more uncertain; and I am inclined to think (even when a system of salting down shall be established) will fall somewhat short of those of sheep-farming. I am not however sure, but that for a small capitalist, I should rather recommend cattle, especially if he be of the English yeoman class, with a wife or daughters know-
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ing in dairy lore--when butter and cheese may be made to yield an excellent profit. Sometimes too, a tract of rich swampy ground, ill fitted for sheep, will induce the sheep-farmer to keep a herd of cattle, though not absolutely on the same ground as his sheep, at least in connection with his sheep walk.
Horses thrive on a sheep-station. A certain number are of course necessary, and, consequently, it is no extra expense to keep a few well-selected breeding mares besides the work-horses. They are little or no trouble, disease amongst them being almost unknown. They run at large the whole year round; and their sleek coats and high condition bear another testimony to the superiority of our climate; but though every stock-master will take a pride in his little herd of horses, and will find them as profitable as they are interesting and ornamental, I should be inclined to consider it speculative for a man to invest his whole capital in horse-breeding. Everything points out New Zealand as eminently adapted for that purpose; but if the demand for horses should fall far short of the supply, they cannot be boiled down like sheep, or salted like cattle, and, consequently, might become almost valueless at some future period, unless, indeed, the Indian market be found available as an outlet. At present, however, the supply of horses does not equal the demand, and many are still imported from Australia. On the other hand, some of our New Zealand (Nelson) horses have achieved great triumphs and suceeses on the Australian turf, whilst on our local racecourses may be seen some of the progeny of the best English blood.
Before proceeding I may here mention that at the present time (May 1860), cattle are rather low in price, mixed herds in most parts of the colony being worth
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about £4 or £5 a bead; as to horses, well-bred brood mares might be averaged at about £40 to £50, and really-good cart mares at a yet higher figure. Very superior animals, of course, command high fancy prices.
The first care of the intending sheep-farmer will naturally be to select a 'run' or sheep-walk. In doing so, he will be guided by the accessibility of some shipping port, to which he may send his wool, and where he may dispose of his fat stock, receiving in return the supplies that may be needed at the station. Again, he will be influenced by the desire of obtaining a sufficiently spacious extent of country to admit of the increase of his flocks up to a certain point; he will also look to the supply of water and firewood, and to the advantages which may be afforded him by natural boundaries, which are often the means of a great saving of expense; but, above all, the first consideration will be the nature of the soil and pasturage, and the natural features of the country. A cattle-holder will of course look to rich succulent pasture, and will probably prefer low-lying land. The sheep-farmer, on the contrary, seeks bold hilly land; or, at all events--if it be low--stony, and dry land, with short fine pasture, and shelter from wind and weather, as afforded by the natural features of the country. He also looks on the country in a twofold point of view, as wool-growing or as fattening land. The best wool-growing land is generally that on a sandstone formation. The wool from it is bright in colour, and clean. That grown on the limestone is less bright, whilst the volcanic formation produces a fleece discoloured and stained with red and yellow dust. As regards fattening and weight of fleece, I am inclined to reverse the order, and put the volcanic or limestone first in the list. The richest natural vegetation I ever saw was that on the inland spurs of
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the Kaikora mountains, on hills that bore as evident traces of volcanic action as a brickfield (which in parts they much resemble) does of the action of fire. As to the limestone formation, its vegetative powers are well known; and grasses grown on limestone formations are less liable to be affected by heats and droughts than any other.
But if the selection of the station or 'run' is important to the intending sheep-farmer, yet equally worthy of his attention is that of his breed of sheep. If the 'run' turns out inferior to his anticipations, it may even now not be impossible to remove flocks and herds, like the patriarchs of old, and go in search of a better one; but if the flocks themselves be of inferior quality, it is a work of time and difficulty to remedy their defects; and, what is worse, they may not even be saleable except at a sacrifice. And yet, amongst beginners, on no point has more indifference been shown than in regard to the breed and quality of their sheep. Nevertheless, it is self-evident that the difference of a few ounces in the weight, of a few pence in the value, of the fleece--a slight comparative difference in the propensity to fatten or in the predisposition to disease--may, and indeed does, often make the difference between the profit and loss in an annual balance sheet. I will then proceed to enquire into the kind of sheep best adapted for the natural pastures of New Zealand, first premising a few starting points from which I shall draw my conclusions.
My fundamental principle is this: adapt your sheep in any country to the peculiarities of that country, always remembering, that to make the animal profitable you must, as I heard it once pithily expressed, 'keep your pasture too good for your sheep, and not your sheep too good for your pasture.' That is, in order to employ your land most profitably, you must place on it an animal to
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which it will afford superior pasturage and other advantages than are strictly necessary for his peculiar breed. This will appear more clearly as I proceed. The second principle which I shall lay down, and which is very generally admitted, is, that in a pastoral colony the first thing to be looked to in the sheep is the value of the fleece; the second, the weight of carcass: but that these two requisites more commonly go together than is usually imagined, I think I shall succeed in showing hereafter. In seeking for a breed of sheep fitted for New Zealand, with its changeable weather, its rough and hilly surface, and its wild natural pasture, we are naturally led to inquire for a hardy, active animal, that does not derive its origin from the rich fields of cultivated England. We require a compact sheep, not too large or lengthy, but deep, well-barrelled, and well-chested. Such is the best form of the Merino--a sheep which is singularly adapted by its rambling habits for feeding on natural pasture, which love the hills as if from a lingering hereditary recollection of its original Spanish sierras, and which moreover fulfils the second condition of bearing the finest wool; a fleece so close and thickly matted as to afford the animal a greater protection from the weather than that enjoyed by any other sheep. With well-bred Merinos, too, the fleece is not only more valuable, but it is commonly found (especially when a run is full stocked, or the feed of comparatively inferior quality) that in weight also the Merino fleece is decidedly superior to that of its larger competitors. Indeed, as a general rule, the heavier breeds of sheep, formed for a life of luxury and ease, are as much out of their element on our New Zealand uplands, as an alderman of London would be, had he daily, gun in hand, to seek his sustenance in our tangled forests. The consequence is, that the heavier sheep, in many cases, will not keep up their condition, and very seldom yield as
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heavy a clip of wool as a good Merino, whilst its value is of course far less. I think this is now so generally admitted in the colony, that it is needless to enter more at length into the subject. A few years ago, Leicester, Romney-marsh, and Southdown sheep, were often in request; but now the two former have scarcely a single advocate, and the last-named is only recommended as a cross, and that by a limited number of admirers. For my own part, I do not approve of crossing two distinct breeds; and I am borne out in my view by the opinion of Blacklock, in his excellent little work on the sheep. I think with him, that you are apt to get a mongrel animal that may frequently show the bad points of either race, or, at least, be wanting in the peculiar beauties of either. Blacklock gives some remarkable instances of this, and I regret that I have not the work by me to point out the passage; but where this does not occur, so many generations are needed to form a new breed, such extensive culling and rejection are absolutely necessary, that, practically, the attempt ends in obtaining a mixed flock, whereof some individuals will present the desired characteristics, others will show the blood of one or other of their parents, and others again will be mere mongrels. Now, I believe that every practical man will at once agree with me, that a mixed flock is the very worst thing you can have; and the reasons are so obvious, that it were needless to recapitulate them. I will, however, enumerate one or two advantages of the pure Merino over the crossed Southdown and Merino of the better class. In the first place, the Merino has the more valuable wool, being finer, and particularly superior in the 'skirts,' which are remarkably deficient in the crossed sheep. The Merino carries a good fleece to a much greater age. In weight of wool (even when both are young), in my opinion, a well-bred Merino would carry off the palm; and in weight of carcase, espe-
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cially on a rough run, I am satisfied that the pure sheep would contest it equally with a three-parts bred competitor. But with regard to weight of carcase, there is another point of view in which it is to be regarded. Not only does the small, hardy, fine-woolled sheep fatten better on indifferent pasture, but the quantity of land which will keep a given number of heavy sheep, will fatten a much greater number of the smaller ones; and as the best 'runs' in the country become fully stocked, the question will not be so much that of the weight of wool and carcase of the individual sheep, as what is obtainable from a certain extent of land. This is another argument in favour of a comparatively small breed of sheep. The objections made against Merinos are chiefly drawn from the badly-bred sheep which, under that name, are often imported from New South Wales. These, in many instances, are nothing but drafts from inferior flocks, in which the form, constitution, and, as a natural consequence, the weight of fleece, have been sacrificed, either by careless breeding, or by a blind indifference to everything but obtaining a small quantity of very fine wool on part of the body. There is, however, no want of sheep in several New Zealand flocks, bred from the best Tasmanian, New South Wales, and European Merino blood; and to these I may fearlessly point as bearing me out in the observations I have made. The others must, in my opinion, seek improvement by judicious selection of rams, of different varieties, but of pure Merino blood; and as much as possible by killing off any decidedly inferior sheep as the flocks increase. In choosing a Merino sheep, I should take care that he be well-woolled; that the fleece be heavy, filling in the hand, or springy, fine, close, and wavy in the fibre. Length is to be especially regarded, New Zealand and some parts of Australia being among the few parts of the world where wool at once fine and long, can be grown. It is conse-
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quently a quality of wool in very steady and constant demand in the market. The presence of hairs in the fleece, or on any part of the body, or a marked inferiority of the breech or belly wool to the rest, should instantly cause the rejection of the sheep. The form and symmetry of the animal must also be taken into consideration. The late Lord Western, in a little pamphlet on his Merinos, truly observes that, as a general rule, good form shows good constitution, and hence not only indicates aptitude to fatten, but a good weight of fleece. The great characteristic of the Merino is its silky or satin-coloured face, and its well-woolled head and legs. This will at once strike the eye. Moreover, the head should be fine, the eye full and expressive, the chest wide and deep, the body well-ribbed, deep, and level on the back; the back not too lengthy, the thigh rather long, the bone fine and flat, the skin under the thigh and brisket clear and bright. The Merino ram has commonly horns, beautifully spiral; many, however, are polled. Contrary to the usual opinion of English farmers, I prefer a Merino that has folds of loose skin under the throat.
The preceding paragraphs in relation to the selection of sheep, were chiefly penned in 1851, and I have since found no reason to amend or modify any leading opinion expressed in them. But it must be remembered that I am here speaking of wild pasture, and generally of hilly land. I am aware that the Merino has sometimes felt the sudden change from the heat of Australia to the cold climate of parts of the extreme south of New Zealand, but I understand that acclimatized good constitutioned Merinos thrive even there. If, however, any part of that country should require a hardier breed, I should be inclined to seek it in the Cheviot. I think Mr. Hursthouse (very courteously) intimates a difference of opinion with me when he recommends a heavier sheep than the pure Me-
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rino for artificial pasture--however in that respect I perfectly agree with him. The aldermanic feast of his rich Taranaki pastures (and I may add of those of Canterbury, of the Hutt, of Auckland, and of many other parts of New Zealand, and I hope soon of many more) would be wasted, if set before my little hardy active restless Merino; such luxurious feed is the proper nutriment of the heavy, long-woolled lowland sheep, the fat denizen of the plain. On your rather less rich and more elevated, yet still good pastures, you may with advantage place the Southdown, and again if you are farming enclosed and cultivated land with only a limited flock, you may even cross your sheep with advantage, because in that case you annually sell off and kill your inferior stock of both sexes, and keep only those which exactly suit your ground. I return to my "fundamental principle," "adapt your sheep in any country to the peculiarities of that country," and I am fully aware that cultivated grasses in many parts of New Zealand are as rich as any pasture in the world, and consequently good enough for the heaviest breeds of sheep. And in such cases I should breed large sheep, which will there fatten to a great weight, and produce very heavy fleeces. The quality of wool and of meat would however be still considerations in any case not to be overlooked. I have dwelt at length on this part of my subject as I cannot overrate its importance, whatever breed may be chosen, to aim at perfection in that breed should be the endeavour of every farmer; and it must not be forgotten that the time may come when inferior stock will be merely saleable for boiling down, whilst that of a superior breed may still fetch highly remunerative prices.
I think that I have already shown the importance of obtaining the best possible stock to commence with. They may either be obtained from Australia, which is generally done through an agent, or bought in the colony.
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The latter course, when practicable, is decidedly preferable. Newly-landed sheep can never yield a full crop, either of lambs or wool, the first year; and they are liable to losses after delivery, all of which may be avoided by buying sheep bred in the country, which consequently I should recommend, even at a very considerable advance of price. However, it may not be amiss to say that the best time for obtaining stock from the neighbouring colonies is early in the year, when they are newly shorn, and may consequently be obtained more cheaply, and when they will be landed in fine weather, with the further advantage that a longer time will elapse between the period of their landing and the next lambing and shearing time. The intending sheep-farmer then, having ordered his sheep and entrusted that part of his business to a trustworthy agent, will do well to proceed to the site of his intended station, and make preparations for their arrival, supposing him to have obtained an unimproved 'run,' by erecting the necessary buildings, sheep pens, and other conveniences. In doing this, I should recommend him to do everything Well and permanently; I do not mean that he should necessarily commence, for instance, by putting up an expensive dwelling-house or wool-shed, but he will find it the truest economy to build everything that he requires substantially, and with a view to the future. His original dwelling may, when he gets more settled, be changed into a cooking-house or stable, but in building it let him keep in mind its future destiny. He will find it advisable also to construct a good paddock or two with the least possible delay; and if he spends a spare hour in breaking up a few yards of garden ground to serve as a nursery until he can form a garden, he will not regret his labour, as it may be the means of putting him a year in advance in that respect. But, above all, to have everything ready for the arrival of his sheep, must be his care; good pens, and an
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apparatus for dipping in case of disease, should at once be erected. The wool and shearing sheds, though always useful, are of less immediate importance. The dipping apparatus to which I have alluded consists of a trough or tub, in which the sheep are immersed, and a sloping watertight platform, on which they are placed to drip, and which returns the drainings into the trough. The platform should be large enough to hold about fifty sheep, but it may advantageously be constructed to hold double or treble that number. The amount of labour and expense saved by this plan is very great. In general, it will be advisable to make use of this as soon as your sheep arrive, and are fit to bear it, dipping them in a strong decoction of tobacco, to which a little soap may be added; the object being to destroy any incipient scab that may have been contracted on the voyage or after landing. Every sheep should be thoroughly examined before he is passed to the dippers, and if any symptoms of scab should be discovered, the spots may be dressed with a little spirits of tar, well rubbed in, besides the dipping in tobacco water. Spirits of turpentine will do in default of spirits of tar. Indeed, there are many remedies for scab, though I think none equal the tobacco and spirits of tar. A very small quantity of blue-stone and soap may be added to the tobacco wash. This should be used strong, and as warm as you can conveniently bear your arm in it. A wash of sulphur and soda has been lately in great favour. Sulphur is no doubt a specific for cutaneous diseases and moreover is most useful, being a main ingredient in the yolk of wool. Soda alone, is likely to render wool harsh and brittle, though in combination with sulphur it does not appear to have any evil effect. In dressing for scab, everything depends upon care in keeping the dressed sheep separate from the undressed, and in dressing carefully and effectually. One dressing is rarely sufficient in a large flock; and the second should follow within a
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fortnight of the first, and be conducted in the same careful manner. When scab is discovered on a station, not an hour should be lost in dressing the whole flock. It is so contagious a disease that such is the only way to place the stock in security; and the least delay or neglect will render the enemy more and more formidable, and perhaps, besides the additional expense, go far to ruin your crop of wool, and may even affect that of lambs. The only other disease of any consequence to which sheep are subject in New Zealand, is one of very rare occurrence-- foot-rot. It is easily overcome by paring the hoof, and applying butyr of antimony to the part affected. Sheep occasionally die from eating a plant called the Tutu, especially when newly landed or when grass is scarce. In other cases they eat great quantities of it with impunity. The loss by death in New Zealand flocks from illness or disease is exceedingly trifling. Casualties make up the greater part of the returns of loss; and in some districts, infested with runaway dogs, the sheep-farmer has sometimes to add six or seven per cent, of violent deaths to his loss of one or two per cent, from natural causes; and I regret to say, that in places the loss of lambs destroyed by wild pigs has lately become a very serious drawback. These latter casualties, however, fall only to the lot of a few unlucky districts.
The general management of sheep on wild runs in New Zealand approaches nearest to that pursued in the hill districts of Great Britain, and is very different from that of New South Wales. In New Zealand, the golden rule is to harass the flock as little as possible. Accustom them as much as you can to respect certain boundaries; but within those limits do not needlessly disturb them. The result of this system is superior condition, and less liability to disease, whilst it also enables you to lessen the expense of herding by enlarging the numbers of a flock. The preferable time for lambing is, I consider, our an-
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tumn, April being a very good month. I would commence, say on the 20th of March, when the lambing would close early in May. The advantages of this season are manifold. The lambing does not interfere with the shearing, as when it takes place in spring. The weather is generally more favourable in autumn than at any other time. The heats of summer are over, and the fresh autumn grass ensures a plentiful supply of milk, and keeps up the condition of the ewes. On the other hand, the lambs are weaned on the early spring grass, and have good fleeces by shearing time; whilst their mothers do not lose the belly wool, as they would do by lambing in spring, when their wool is long, and the heat of the body renders it liable to peel off. But notwithstanding these advantages in favour of autumn lambing, it cannot in all places be adopted. In some parts of New Zealand the winters are too cold and damp, and the supply of food, consequently, is not sufficient to enable the ewe to suckle a winter lamb without injury to herself. In these cases the spring lambing must be adopted. About a week after the lambing is finished, the operations of castration, tailing, and ear-marking are performed. Losses at the period of castration are very rare in New Zealand, even in the case of full grown animals. You will now keep a sufficient number of ram lambs to enable you to reject such as may not grow up of the desired quality. Weaning, under the system of autumn lambing, will take place in the latter part of the month of August. Look over the ram lambs to reject any that are inferior. Place your newly-weaned flock on good feed. They will require constant supervision until they become accustomed to their 'run,' and to one another. You will put the rams to the ewes about the 20th of October, selecting choice ewes to put to such rams as you may wish to breed from for ram lambs. Never forget the necessity of periodical infusion
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of fresh blood into your flocks. It is incredible how soon a flock deteriorates after "breeding in" has been carried beyond a certain point.
Shearing time comes next in the list. It commences in some districts in October, in others not till December. The early shearing, where practicable, is decidedly to be preferred. The wool is frequently injured by the dust of summer; and, moreover, the condition of the animal is often affected by the heat if the heavy fleece is allowed to remain on till late in the summer. I shall not here enter into the details of sheep washing and shearing. Information on those subjects is so easily obtained that it were useless to do so. I shall now merely add a few observations that may be of service to the intending sheep-farmer. The business, as these remarks may have shown, is not beset with that mystery which envelopes the science of English stock-farming. It is made easy by the absence of diseases, and the simple method of management which has been found the most effectual. A very short apprenticeship will suffice to teach the rudiments of the art. Be careful not to overstock natural pasture, especially in autumn. Time is required to become a good judge of stock; but extreme nicety and skill in this respect, though very advantageous to its possessor, are not of the same essential importance to the New Zealand sheep-farmer as to the English agriculturist, with his endless circle of sales and purchases. The New Zealand sheep-farmer generally effects all sales through his town agent, who in fact conducts the mercantile part of the business. He himself generally lives at his station, or passes his time between it and some settlement, as inclination may prompt, or business call him. I consider it however very advisable that he should be at the station at the most busy periods of the year; that its formation, for instance, should be
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conducted by himself in person. It is well known that the eye of the master has great and magical power, especially if in arduous or difficult circumstances he sets the example to his men. In those cases of difficulty which sometimes occur in the first commencement of undertakings of this kind, in perhaps a totally wild country, the master should share the privations of the men. If provisions run short, he should fare as they do, and be the first, gun in hand, to wade the swamp or pierce the forest to seek supplies. If dogs attack the flock, he should set the example of nightly watching on the hill top, to destroy the depredators. As occasion might offer, he should not think it a degradation, gentleman born though he might be, to heap fresh logs on the bush fire, to put on the soup pot, or to bake a damper in the ashes. All this or more he should not shrink from doing, until, as things became more settled, with increasing flocks, and servants better known to him, he will find it more profitable to confine himself to superintendence alone. If the intending sheep-farmer thinks and acts in this manner; if with energy he should also exhibit a common degree of prudence and intelligence; if also he should have the good fortune to secure a few good and trustworthy servants rather than many and indifferent ones; I think I may promise him success, not perhaps a fortune, but a competent and self-earned independence. As years pass by, he will reflect with pleasure upon the hardships and privations, such as they may have been, of his early struggles. He will look upon the neat garden, the orchard, the snug homestead, and recal the time when the site was a bare and desolate wilderness. He will look round and see the flocks spreading over the hill side, the cattle standing in the cooling stream, the graceful herd of horses on the plain, and will feel the
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honest pride of having won himself an independence by his own exertions. I should, however, be far from advising all persons to come to New Zealand with the intention of entering into pastoral pursuits. Besides possessing the qualifications enumerated above, a man, to be happy in a life which is often in some degree solitary, should have resources within himself. He should be fond of all kinds of active exercises; walking, riding, boating, duck-shooting, sea-fishing. Above all, he should be of a studious turn, as sometimes his book and his dog may be his only companions. Such accomplishments as painting and music, far from being out of place in a bark or wooden hut, are invaluable there. At home they are agreeable recreations, but in the bush they are more; for in moments of gloom and despondency, of vain regrets for the past, or useless longings after the future, --the mind is often diverted and aroused from its morbid state by their cheerful and soothing influence.
It will be apparent that in the foregoing pages I have referred chiefly to sheep-farming on wild pasture, generally held under licence from the Crown, in fact to what by an incorrect use of an Australian term, is usually called "Squatting." I have also, chiefly adapted my remarks to capitalists with a capital of from two to five thousand pounds. But men of large means, who may wish to invest their £15,000 or £20,000 in a station, may often find the opportunity of buying at remunerative prices, taking sheep, improvements, and a certain amount of freehold land. Capitalists on this scale will, as a rule, buy a considerable tract of country, in those parts of New Zealand where land fit for pastoral purposes is sold at five and ten shillings an acre. A man who buys judiciously at these prices will doubtless, if he can afford to lock up his capital for some years, make a large profit
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and create a valuable estate--but cheap and dear are merely comparative words, and I have known better investments in land at £5 than many at five shillings an acre.
However, where land has been sold by Government at a low price, holders of licenses have been compelled in self-defence to buy their 'runs,' or to give up their business, consequently in several of the older districts the 'runs' are chiefly freehold, and consequently will, by the expenditure of further capital, be by degrees divided by fences, and, wherever a plough or a scarifying machine can be brought to work, will be sown in artificial grasses, --this should be the ultimate object of every sheep-farmer--it would have been bad economy formerly, because in those days the supply of land so far exceeded the demand that the land was valueless; as I have before said, in comparison with capital and labour, now as the progress of the Colony is gradually reversing these conditions, what was before good economy would now become ignorant waste, were it not superseded by higher farming.
But though the large capitalist will at length necessarily become, (and if he understands his true interests, soon become in several parts of the country), to a certain extent a cultivator--I wish, now even, more especially, to point out to the small capitalist, especially of the yeoman class, that under the altered state of the Colony, it may probably be best for him, particularly if he have a family, and his capital is under £2000 or £3000, to buy a few hundred acres of really good open land, not far from some settlement, with a view of laying it down in grass. Let him not think so much of the first cost price of the land--as to see that it is good land for the cultivation of grasses, that it has good land or water carriage, and is in other respects suitable to his purposes; let him year by
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year lay this down in grass--his proximity to town will generally give him an advantage with his fat stock, and even with his butter and cheese over the large runholder. He will enjoy many advantages in a social point of view, which he must forego if living in "the bush," and of course if he pays more for land, so on the other hand, will his land if judiciously selected, (being in a comparatively settled district), rise in value much more rapidly than if he had acquired a property larger, but more distant from a nucleus of colonization. I will add for his encouragement, that there is much land in New Zealand that when cultivated, grassed and fenced, will keep eight sheep to the acre all the year round--and also, that is proportionately good for cattle.
For statistical information and advice on this mode of sheep-farming, the intending emigrant will no doubt consult the handbooks which treat of it, and the letters of persons whose practical experience lies that way.
One word more, let the newly landed Colonist, if the first place he reaches does not suit, get into a steamer and look at another, it is often time and money well laid out. Let him not heed the narrow provincial feeling that sometimes depreciates one part of New Zealand to exalt another--each part of the country has its special advantages, generally with attendant drawbacks. This, however, I will say, since I first addressed myself to intending sheep-farmers I have travelled far and near in many parts of the world, and have only been confirmed in my high appreciation of New Zealand.
To conclude, I will now bid farewell to my readers, with the same last words as in the old pamphlet then differently applied, but which I retain as pointing forwards to a higher aim than mere self interest, permit me then to express a hope, that as true Colonists, in working for themselves in New Zealand, they may also work for
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the Colony, and that each man according to his station and capacity may ennoble his labours, by being not unmindful worthily to bear his part in what Lord Bacon calls "the heroic work of colonization."