The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 62
In March, 1892, there were 7,403,881 acres under artificial grasses, being an increase of 437,063 on the corresponding acreage of 1891. Of these 3,327,755 acres had been previously ploughed and, presumably, under grain or other crops, and 4,076,126 acres had not been ploughed, a large proportion consisting of what had been bush or forest-land sown down to grass after the timber had been felled and burnt, or partially burnt.
|New South Wales||333,238|
It will be observed that the area of land under sown grasses is considerably more than nine times greater in New Zealand than in the whole of Australia and Tasmania combined. When compared in size with the colonies of Australia, New Zealand is relatively small—about one-thirtieth of their total size—but when the grazing capabilities are compared, the relative importance of New Zealand is much altered.
Australia is generally unsuitable, owing to conditions of climate, for the growth of English grasses, and the amount of feed produced by the natural grasses throughout the year is very-much less per acre than that obtained from the sown grass lands in New Zealand—so much so that it may be stated that the average productiveness of the grass land in New Zealand is probably about nine times as great as that in Australia; so that the land of this colony covered with artificial grass may be considered equal, for grazing purposes, to an area of Australian territory about nine times as great.
It will be noticed from the decennial export table that wool is still the largest article of export, and with the increase in the number of sheep consequent on the development of the frozen meat trade, this export is likely to considerably increase. A large amount of wool is now used in local manufacture.
Sheep: New Zealand has proved itself to be admirably adapted for the breeding of all classes of sheep, from the fine-combing Merino to the strongest type of Lincoln, with the intermediate breeds. The Merino occupies and thrives on the wild lands of the colony, from the snow-line to the border of the plains, as well as on the drier portions of the plains. The Merino ewe furnishes the foundation for all the cross-bred varieties. On the rich, moist soils the Lincoln and Romney Marsh flourish, while the finer English and Border Leicester's occupy the drier lands.
Crossbred Sheep: Those bred from Merino ewes and long-wool rams are the most suitable for the frozen-meat trade, and are known as "freezers."
The dapper little Southdowns flourish wherever crossbreds thrive. Their more ponderous cousins, the Shropshire and Hampshire Downs, have their admirers, especially the Shropshire, which is largely used for crossing, with a view to producing early-maturing lambs. English Leicesters are much sought after also for this purpose.
Since the development of the frozen-meat trade, sheep-fanning has undergone a radical change in the colony. At one time wool was the chief consideration, the surplus stock finding their way into the boiling-down vat, the tallow being the only available product. Things have undergone a marvellous change since 1882, the inaugural year of the frozen-meat trade. Farming has assumed a new phase, sheep-raising for mutton being now the most profitable branch of farm management. Sheep have risen 100 per cent, in value since that industry took hold in the colony. Small and large flocks of pure and crossbred sheep are now kept on all farms which are suitable for them, the object being the production of early lambs for freezing, which sell readily at from 10s. 6d. to 12s. each. The percentage of increase all over the colony is very high, particularly so in the paddocks, where 100 to 125 per cent, is not uncommon in favourable seasons, while on the hill and unimproved country it varies from 45 to 80 per cent.page 12
Disease among the flocks is of rare occurrence where ordinary care is taken. Whenever it does occur, it may generally be traced to overstocking, or excessive moisture.
Shearing commences in September, and continues till January. The usual price per hundred is 15s. to £1. Shearing-machines are gradually coming into use, and will doubtless become general when better understood.
The average clips for the various breeds of sheep are approximately as follows: Merino, from 4lb. to 7lb.; quarter-breds, about 6½lb.; half-breds, 7½lb.; three-quarter-breds, 8½lb.; Leicester, 10½lb.; Lincoln, 11lb. Of course, very much larger clips are obtained from special flocks, as much as 25lb. to 80lb. per sheep; but the above figures represent general averages.
The staple of New Zealand wool, especially the long-wool and cross-bred, is remarkable for its freedom from breaks and other imperfections incidental to countries subject to long droughts and scarcity of feed.
The coming sheep for New Zealand will be that which combines the best fleece and the most suitable carcase for freezing purposes, together with early maturity. This is the problem which some sheep-breeders have set themselves to work out. Whether such an animal, having fixity of type, can be evolved remains to be proved.
The capability of New Zealand for producing mutton has not nearly reached its limit. When the frozen-meat trade was first seriously considered, an assertion which was made to the effect that the colony could find 1,000,000 sheep per annum for freezing-without impairing the breeding-flocks was treated as highly chimerical by sheep-breeders of long experience. It is found, however, on reference to the statistical returns, that during the year 1891 1,788,619 sheep and lambs were exported from New Zealand; and not only so, but the flocks have gone on steadily increasing, numbering, according to returns made to the Agricultural Department, 18,475,500 in 1892, as against 16,758,752 in 1891. There are twenty-one freezing-works in the colony, with a full freezing-capacity of 8,665,000 per annum.
|Value of wool exported||4,129,686|
|Value of sheepskins||171,292|
|Value of mutton||1,076,713|
|Value of tallow||173,257|
|Value of preserved meats||111,133|
As the country is probably not much more than half tested as to its sheep-carrying capacity, and its consequent power of production, it can readily be seen that, when increased areas have been opened up and laid down in English grasses, and more winter feed grown—such as turnips, mangolds, &c.—New Zealand will offer more than ever before a wide and lucrative field for industrious men of young or middle age, possessed of moderate means and an intelligent knowledge of that most valuable of all animals—the sheep.
It is impossible here to go into minute details with regard to sheep-farming in New Zealand; and, in consequence, the statements which follow must be regarded as general in their character, but nevertheless they are absolutely reliable.
It is a well-known fact that climate and soil exercise the most potent influence on the development of animals (as well as human beings) reared in any country, and these conditions being exceedingly favourable in New Zealand render this colony the most suitable of the British possessions for sheep-farming.
It may unhesitatingly be asserted that not even Great Britain itself is so favourable to the production of the sheep as is New Zealand, for the colony possesses all the climatic and soil advantages of the Mother-country, without the drawbacks of long and severe winters, wet seasons, foot-and-mouth disease, &c.; and the prolonged droughts of the Australian Continent are unknown.
Until the commencement of the frozen-meat industry, in 1882, sheep-farmers in New Zealand confined their attention exclusively to producing the class of sheep that would cut the heaviest fleece; but of late years the ideal has been, and still is, early maturity of mutton and good fleece together. The two qualities have been best combined by the judicious crossing of Down rams with long-wool ewes in the North Island; and in the Middle Island of Leicester, Lincoln, Romney Marsh, and Cheviot rams with large-framed four-year-old Merino ewes. The climate and soil in New Zealand are of such varied character that in page 14 some districts it has been found that one cross does better than another. For examples the following are given: In the North Island, until lately, the Lincoln and Romney Marsh breeds have predominated; but since the starting of the frozen-meat trade it has been found necessary, in order to produce an earlier maturing of sheep with a better quality of fleece, to put Hampshire, Shropshire, of Southdown rams to the long-wool ewes; and the desired result has in every case been achieved.
In the Middle Island, where the variations in climate and soil are much greater, and the country, generally speaking more mountainous, the Merino for many years reigned almost supreme. Here, too, however, the export trade of frozen mutton has revolutionised sheep-farming. Merino mutton was not suitable for the Home markets—at all events not so suitable and profitable as the breeding of a larger sheep; besides, it came into competition with the River Plate and Australian mutton, with the result that it made a very low price, and, in consequence, judicious crossing, as already stated, was tried, with eminently satisfactory results.
In the most mountainous districts, pure-bred Merinos are still kept, and ewes of this breed, when three or four years old, always command very payable prices for crossing with the long-wool rams on the downs and low-lying lands. In some districts the cross-between the Leicester (especially the Border Leicester) and Merino ewe is found 'most suitable; in others, again, where the climate is wetter, the Romney Marsh cross is regarded as best; whilst on heavy rich lands some prefer the Lincoln cross, and, on high cold country, the Cheviot cross i; regarded with much favour by others.
The result of this crossing is a sheep which, if nourished well during lambhood and afterwards kept on good pasture until after first shearing, is considered, so far as quality of mutton is concerned, equal to the best Welsh and Scotch. [See account of "Interesting Experiment by the Earl of Onslow," on page 27 under heading of Frozen Meat.]
The weight of these half-bred sheep at two-tooth varies, According to feeding and breeding, from 56lb. to 65lb. The Border Leicester cross, maturing earlier than the others, gives the best return at two-tooth, if the climatic conditions are favourable. From the wool-producing point of view, the half-bred sheep is the most profitable; at all events, it has been so for many years. Of course, the weight per fleece is much less than in the case of long-wools, but this deficiency is more than page 15 counterbalanced by the extra value of the staple. Given two flocks of equally well-fed two-tooth sheep, on properties suitable to each breed—one for instance Lincoln, and the other the half-bred, by Border Leicester rams from Merino ewes—and the result, according to present values, would approximately be this, viz.: Lincoln, two-tooth, clipping 12lb. wool at 6d. = 6s.; half-bred, two-tooth, clipping 9lb. wool at 9d. = 6s. 9d.
Again, the pure-bred sheep would probably have the advantage in weight per carcase to the extent of 4lb. or 5lb.; but the extra value of the half-bred mutton at Smithfield, or any other of the meat-markets—say, ½d. per pound—would give the finer (or half-bred) sheep a further advantage over its coarser competitor of 10d. or 1s. per carcase or, say, a total of 1s. 7d. or 1s. 9d. per sheep.
Another advantage that the breeding of half-bred sheep possesses is that there is a market in the colony for all the wool of that description that is produced, and the growers, in consequence, very often obtain at their doors more for their wool-clip than they would realise in London, without incurring the very heavy charges incidental to sending it there. American buyers, too, visit the colony annually to purchase this class of wool, and, as it is produced nowhere else in the world to any great extent, New-Zealanders may be said practically to have the trade in this class of wool in their own hands.
Two other important points in connection with sheep-fanning in New Zealand call for the special notice of the would-be colonist—namely: (1) the low cost of the production of mutton, (2) the high percentage of natural increase. Respecting the first point, it has been proved beyond all doubt that, under ordinary conditions, the very choicest of mutton can be produced so as to pay the grower handsomely when sold at 2d. per pound for the carcase at the nearest shipping-port. To the British sheep-farmer this statement, of course, is valueless by itself; but, when we add that this mutton would only cost the London butcher, delivered ex-steamer at the docks, 8½d. per pound, he will be able to realise in some measure what a wonderful grazing-country New Zealand is, and he will be able to understand how it is that men of the right stamp who have come to the colony have done so well. Then, with regard to the high percentage of increase, there need only be cited a few average returns from well-known flocks to show what excellent lambings New Zealand farmers obtain under good management.page 16
|Locality.||Breed of Hock.||Breed of Bams.||Breed of Ewes.||No. of Ewes.||Percentage of Lambs.||Remarks.|
|North Island||Lincoln||Lincoln||Lincoln||7,517||81.04||Land merely surface-shown in English-grass pasture.|
|North Island||Lincoln||Lincoln||7/8 Lincoln||12.177||100.00|
|Middle Island||Merino||Merino||Merino||14,765||75.36||Mountainous country in native pastre, unimproved.|
|Middle Island||Merino||B. Leic'str||Merino||4,235||88.94|
|Middle Island||Cross-bred||B. Leic'str||Cross-bred||8,624||80.82|
|Middle Island||Half-bred||B. Leic'str||Half-bred||2,747||82.79|
|Middle Island||B. Leic'str||B. Leic'str||B. Leic'str||778||90.77|
|Middle Island||Lincoln||Lincoln||Lincoln||452||88.08||In English grass pasture.|
|Middle Island||R. Marsh||R. Marsh||R. Marsh||253||111.46|
|Middle Island||E. Leic'str||E. Leic'str||E. Leic'str||464||93.34|
The above returns are fair average ones, but much higher might have been exhibited if exceptional cases had been selected.
There are few, if indeed there are any, climates better adapted for the breeding and rearing of horses of all kinds than that of New Zealand. Horses, light and heavy, are always in demand in the Australian Colonies, commanding remunerative prices: and it is more than probable that a lucrative trade will be done in the near future with the Western States of America. Indeed, shipments have already been made to that country of heavy Clydesdales. Some of the best blue blood of this breed has from time to time been imported from Scotland, with the result that the breed is now well established in the colony.
The light-horse stock of the colony has made itself conspicuous by the production of animals which have rendered themselves famous on the Australian turf. The demand for horses suitable for remounts for the cavalry service in India is a continuous one, affording a ready market for the proper stamp of animals. Shipments have from time to time been made to that country with considerable success, and this trade is likely to increase. There is, however, a great scope for enterprise in this direction. During the commercial depression which visited page 17 New Zealand in common with every other civilised country, but which has now passed away, giving place to an era of unrivalled prosperity, the breeding of horses was much neglected. Steps are now, however, being taken to repair the loss entailed by such neglect, and it is hoped the colony will therefore soon regain its partially lost prestige in this direction.
At the date of last census—April, 1891—there were, including 42,912 owned by Maoris, 831,831 head of cattle in the colony, and although for the last few years the demand has not been encouraging to breeders, it is now satisfactory to note that, with the improved demand for dairy produce and frozen beef, prices for cattle have advanced considerably, and for the future better returns may be looked for.
The colony possesses all the best strains of blood, and this is evidenced by the superior class of cattle to be met with throughout the settled districts.
The trade in frozen beef is now attaining considerable proportions. Last' year 103,007 cwt. of beef, valued at £108,409, were shipped, principally from the North Island. This trade is likely to largely increase.
The breeding of dairy stock offers an ample field for profitable investment. Milking cattle now command a comparatively high price, and will continue to do so for an indefinite period, owing to the fact that stock were allowed to run low for want of a market which has lately sprung up with the building of factories. The rearing of well-bred heifer calves will amply repay all the time and trouble bestowed upon them. It may be well to remark that separated milk may be restored to its original value for feeding purposes (or nearly so) by the addition of linseed mucilage, and, therefore, an acre or so of European flax should be grown upon every farm where stock-rearing is carried on. Much has yet to be done in the way of improving the dairy stock of the colony, a matter which is now attracting a large share of attention. The yield of milk from fairly good milking cattle is approximately 500 galls, per annum, although 700 galls, are frequently obtained from selected herds. The average quantity obtained will no doubt be increased as more attention is paid to breeding and proper feeding.page 18
The average yield of butter from milk passed through (he separator is 1 lb. for every 2½ galls, of milk; so that the average cow produces 200lb. of butter, value £10; or 500lb. of cheese, at about equal value with the butter, estimating it at about 4½d. per pound. There is thus a good margin of profit.
From £5 to £8 per head can now readily be obtained for young milking stock. Three years ago they were hardly saleable at any price. To the British farmer this may not appear a satisfactory price; but when it is considered that no housing or hand-feeding is required, the price leaves a very good return.
The Dairy Industry.
New Zealand may claim to be the Denmark of the South, without ever having to enter into competition with the Denmark of the North, for the reason that our seasons are opposite. The dairy industry is steadily growing into a very important one. In the North Island, along the west coast, factories are springing up in all directions. This will be the great dairying district of the colony, the humidity of its climate rendering it better adapted to this industry than any other. The luxuriance of the pastures has to be seen to be appreciated. Large tracts of bush-lands are being thrown open for small settlements, and are eagerly taken up for the most part by thrifty hard-working men. Land is procurable either by purchase, deferred payment, or perpetual lease, on the easiest terms. Homes are being built up in all directions, with dairying for the chief industry. The very nature of the industry renders it peculiarly suited to small selectors.
It is hardly necessary to point out that all butter and cheese intended for export will have to be factory made, for the reason that no other will command the highest price, and because so much more can be made of the milk by the use of the separator. One illustration will serve for our purpose. Experience has demonstrated to a certainty that 27½ lb. (or 2½ galls.) of fairly good milk will produce 1 lb. of butter which averages 2d. per pound more than ordinary farmers' butter; whereas it takes 33 lb. (or 3 galls.) of milk treated in the old-fashioned manner of setting in pans to produce the same quantity of butter—which means exactly 50 per cent, more returns from milk treated on the factory system.
The factory system is now fairly well established. With judicious supervision, and the institution of regulations providing for the grading and proper handling of butter for export, the page 19 industry is sure to go on flourishing, and will secure to thousands lucrative employment.
In the Middle Island it has not taken root to the same extent as in the North. It is true that cheese-factories are becoming numerous in Otago and Southland, with a few butter-factories. Like all other new industries, losses have been made; happily, however, the initial stage has now been passed, and, with good prices for the output last season, averaging 4d. to 5d. per pound for cheese at the factory, matters are now in a satisfactory condition. In Canterbury, the dairy-factory system has only been partially adopted. This apparent apathy may be accounted for by the fact that the Canterbury farmers have, from the first, devoted themselves to wheat-growing; subsequently sheep-raising has been added to their usual occupations with considerable profit. A large quantity of butter has been made on farms in former years, but the price obtainable was as low as from 8d. to 4d. per pound, so that to a very large extent the business was abandoned. It is now found that butter and cheese give a more certain and remunerative return; hence the desire for factories is becoming more general. A movement is now on foot having for its object a central factory for Canterbury, to be fed by creameries in the surrounding districts. The carrying out of this comprehensive scheme would render Canterbury famous as a butter-producing district. The success which has attended the erection of certain factories on the co-operative principle, a system which experience has amply demonstrated is the only sure foundation to build upon—viz., that the milk-suppliers shall largely be the shareholders—is bearing good fruit, and a large number of factories are being put up on these conditions.
"There are now seventy-eight cheese and butter factories scattered throughout the colony, the buildings and plant having an aggregate value of nearly £80,000. At the present time (June, 1892) ten new factories are in course of erection, and negotiations are going on in several districts for the establishment of others. Every reasonable assistance is given by the Government to encourage the development of the industry through the employment of itinerant instructors, and by the publication and distribution of pamphlets treating on dairy husbandry.
"These pamphlets are mailed free to all dairy-factory proprietors for circulation among their milk-suppliers, and to any other parties associated with dairying, on application. page 20 Parties contemplating the establishment of factories will be supplied free of charge with sketch-plans of buildings suitable to their requirements, and other needful information.
"To meet the many inquiries, plans have been prepared for buildings of various sizes, and detailed information is furnished in pamphlet form, having reference to the business basis, and containing schedule of plant required, so as to insure economy in the application of labour and uniformity in the quality of the productions.
"The formation of dairy associations for the purpose of guarding the interests of the trade is already showing what good .service such institutions are capable of rendering.
"It is worthy of note that several of our dairy factories have now earned a desirable distinction in the London market for the quality of their products—both butter and cheese. Brands of butter which were last year quoted at from £ 1 10s. to £2 under the Danish brands have, during the past season, been quoted at about the highest figures realised on the London market.
"Cheese from our best factories has successfully competed with the best Canadian brands, which seem to dominate the market. But, unfortunately, this distinction is only earned by a few of our best factories.
"Towards showing the benefits derived from the factory system as compared with individual dairying, it is satisfactory to note that, out of an even line of three shipments of butter sent Home, the factory brands realised from £5 15s. to £6 3s., while that from private dairies brought from £4 15s. to £5 15s. The higher quotations must be considered satisfactory.
"It is also pleasing to note the rapid development which the dairy industry has undergone during the last ten years. In 1880 the value of our exports of dairy products was £1,033, while for 1891 the value rose to £236,933, and I am sanguine that the present year's export will show, from the same amount of produce, a considerable increase in pecuniary value. I hope by future efforts to see a still brisker trade established, so that the settlers may derive a benefit, and find some solace for past losses.
"It is generally conceded that no country possesses greater natural advances for dairy pursuits than New Zealand. This, at any rate, is true of Taranaki. Any one acquainted with the large areas of splendid pasture-land in Taranaki must have had the conviction forced upon him that this locality is pre-eminently fitted to become a great centre for manufacturing dairy products. In soil, climate, seasons, and settlement, Taranaki has every page 21 natural advantage. Winter pasturage is generally abundant, and so the farmer is to a great extent relieved of the labour and expense of storing up much winter feed. Little or no housing is required for the cattle throughout the winter, and so the farmer can carry on his business under the most favourable circumstances, as very little of the profits of the season are consumed in maintaining the cows from one season to another."
During the same year the value of food products imported into the United Kingdom amounted to over £130,000,000. These figures show that the English market is, so far as New-Zealand is concerned, practically inexhaustible.
Referring to the quality of New Zealand produce Messrs. John McNairn & Co., of Glasgow, in a memorandum under date of 18th March, and in their circular of 1st April, 1892, state, "This year, throughout Scotland, Australian and New-Zealand butter has pleased extraordinarily well, and buyers are feeling that when the season is over it will be a felt want. As already pointed out, the butter preferred is the very highest class, and packed in patent boxes. We would also refer again to the importance of having the butter-boxes lined with greaseproof paper, so as to avoid its being touched by the wood, which is a most important part in the packing. The quality of the cheese this year has been perfection. We have never seen finer New Zealand cheeses; and if the same quality is kept up, we shall always be able to get a price for them second to none."
|Census year 1881||3,178,694||8,453,815|
|Census year 1886||4,594,795||12,170,964|
|Census year 1891||6,975,608||16,310,012|
New Zealand butter, although largely sold in the United Kingdom, is, unfortunately, seldom retailed to the public as such. The Colonial producer is in no way responsible for this, and efforts have been and are constantly being made to have the dairy produce sold under its proper name. The New Zealand page 22 farmer, and his broker in London, sell butter and cheese to the retailer as New Zealand produce, but retailers seem averse to the trouble attendant on introducing new brands to their customers' notice, and hence the practice of selling New Zealand butter under well-known English and foreign names. The New Zealand farmer is sufficiently satisfied with the quality of his produce to be anxious that it should be sold on its merits.
These useful adjuncts to the dairy hold a very important position on almost all arable farms. The favourite breed is the improved Berkshire. The large and small breeds of White Yorkshire are also to be met with, but are not so generally approved of as the black pigs. The rearing and fattening of pigs is a profitable investment. Unlike the pampered pigs of Britain, they require no better attention than a good grass paddock, with a liberal supply of unthreshed pea-haulm, plenty of water, and shelter from the sun during the warmest summer months. Hitherto the exports of bacon and hams from New Zealand have been chiefly confined to the neighbouring Australian Colonies, but there seems to be no reason why a large and profitable trade should not be conducted with Great Britain.
One of the most remarkable and rapid developments of trade in New Zealand of late years is the freezing of mutton and beef, and its traasport to the English market. It is only a little over ten years ago that the first trial shipment of frozen mutton, conducted by Mr. Thomas Brydone, the general manager of the New Zealand and Australian Land Company, left Port Chalmers, in the ship "Dunedin," for London, and since that time the growth of this export has been almost phenomenal. The project of sending fresh meat to England was then regarded as impossible of fulfilment; and Mr. Haslam's statement, that vessels would be able to carry carcases of 10,000 sheep, was considered visionary. But the improvements made by him in refrigerating machinery have enabled his prophecy to be more than fulfilled, as vessels are now fitted to carry four and five times the number of sheep he mentioned. The yearly export of frozen meat has gradually increased in value since 1882 from £19,889 to £1,194,721 in 1891, the last representing the carcases of 1,447,583 sheep, 338,444 lambs, and parts of carcases—which page 23 weighed 103,007 cwt.—of bullocks. The greatly-improved price of sheep caused by the demand for this export trade has much encouraged the farmers of the colony, and has caused increased attention to be given to clearing and laying down bush-land in grass, and otherwise improving holdings, in order to increase the bearing-capabilities of the land. With the total value of the meat export in 1891, it is necessary also to take into consideration the value of preserved meats, amounting to £111,133; of salted beef and pork, £15,795; and of bacon and hams, £25,182.
Notwithstanding the large increase in the numbers of sheep exported in 1890, the sheep returns for April, 1891, gave an addition of nearly 600,000 on the number in May of the previous year, thus showing that, even with the present flocks, there is a reserve that might supply a much larger export than at present; and the further progressive increase in the number of sheep that may be looked forward to from the extension of clearing and improvements gives promise of a future export of a magnitude possibly manifold greater than the present. The markets of the civilised world are, having regard to the growth of population, without a corresponding increased area for food-production, practically unlimited. This export has had the effect of helping the colony through a period of great depression, and, next to the production of wool, with which it is now inseparably connected, may be regarded as the most important factor in our well-being. It would be an idle speculation to consider in what condition New Zealand would have been had the process for meat-freezing now in use not been discovered, but there can be no doubt that it has been of almost incalculable value to this colony.
"The frozen-meat trade furnishes one of the most remarkable instances of the application of a scientific principle to commerce. The sheep-farmers in New Zealand did not know what to do with their surplus stock. They boiled them down for tallow, or they preserved them in tins. But there was very often very little page 24 profit on either of those processes, and both together failed to meet the requirements of the case. Meanwhile the great cities in Great Britain were in chronic want of meat, and especially of mutton. One day it was discovered that mutton could be sent from New Zealand to Great Britain in a frozen state without losing anything in quality. The process is in principle this: Air, at the ordinary natural temperature, is compressed to, say, one-third of its natural bulk by steam-power. It is then let into a chamber with walls impervious to heat. The sudden expansion of the air to its natural bulk again reduces it to one-third of its former temperature, producing an intense cold within the chamber, and this process being constantly maintained by steam-power the temperature within the chamber is permanently kept down to a point corresponding to the compression of the air. The carcases of the sheep, ready dressed for sale, are placed in the chamber, where they are frozen quite hard, and remain entirely unchanged until they are landed in England. There they are slowly thawed, and are not only as wholesome, but as palatable and as agreeable in appearance as the best English mutton.
"The arrival of the first vessel, a sailing-ship, with a small cargo of frozen mutton, in 1881, created a profound sensation in England, and the most erroneous and absurd notions were entertained regarding it. A violent prejudice was created against the meat, which was declared to be unlit for human food, and to have lost all its nutriment by being frozen. The Duke of St. Albans wrote to the Times protesting against fresh meat being brought from the Antipodes to compete with English meat. His Grace, however, sought to allay the alarm of the English farmers by assuring them that the thing could not last—that it was merely one of those unnatural experiments which are often attempted but which always fail, and that even if the supply could be kept up from New Zealand, which was impossible, the inferiority of the meat would soon render it unsaleable. The success of the shipment, nevertheless, was unmistakeable, and it was immediately followed by others. Many mistakes were made at first, and heavy losses were incurred, especially by the employment of defective machinery on board the ships, and by exposing the meat too long before it was frozen. For a time the trade appeared to be in a precarious condition, and it looked as if the Duke of St. Albans' prediction would be verified. The colonists, however, pushed it on with great enterprise, rectified their mistakes, adopted a variety of improvements, and very soon found out how to organize the export. The solution of ail their difficulties, in fact, was found to lie in having freezing- page 25 works on shore, near to the place of shipment, or near a railway leading to the place of shipment. At Petone, near Wellington, a hulk is used for this purpose, moored to a wharf close to the slaughter-house. The sheep, which are specially bred and selected for the Home market, are taken from adjoining paddocks in perfect condition, skilfully slaughtered, skinned, and dressed, and trucked down to the hulk, the whole interior of which is a freezing-chamber, kept at an even temperature by a powerful steam-engine and a compressor, as already described. As soon as the hulk is full, she is towed across the harbour to the wharf, where the vessel for England is lying, perhaps a mail-steamer of 4,000 or 5,000 tons. The frozen carcases, each encased in a clean calico bag, are promptly transferred from the freezing-chamber of the hulk to the freezing-chamber of the steamer. In other cases no hulk is employed, but the freezing-works consist of a large building with a chamber, and powerful engines constantly at work. The frozen carcases are passed through small hatches into tightly-closed vans, and carted or railed alongside the steamer, and at once transferred to her freezing-chamber. The whole of the operations are perfectly cleanly and inoffensive, the frozen carcases being as hard as marble, and the calico bags as unsoiled as a lady's muslin dress. In this way a large vessel, calling at two or three ports, will take in a cargo of 20,000 or 30,000 carcases in a few days, and land them in London in precisely the same state in which they left the works.
"Innumerable trials have been made, by which it is incontestably proved that the most fastidious connoisseur cannot tell New Zealand frozen mutton which has been killed two months from English mutton a week from the daises, when it comes to table. The result is that the trade has already expanded enormously. The export this year (1889) will probably not be less than a million carcases of mutton and lamb, besides a very large quantity of beef. It may be asked, How about the Duke of St. Albans' assurance that the colony could never keep up the supply? How are the flocks affected by this enormous drain of a million sheep and lambs a year—a thing never before heard of in any country in the world? The reply is that the flocks are not at all diminshed by the export. The colony could not afford to have them diminished, because it is to them it looks for its greatest staple of all—its wool. The effect of the export of meat, however, is not to diminish the flocks at all, but merely to keep both the flocks and the pastures up to the highest standard of quality by the regular withdrawal of the surplus stock. Not only prime wethers, but ewes and broken-mouthed sheep are page 26 worth exporting, and fetch a remunerative price. Thus there is no overstocking of pastures, and there are no old, unprofitable, degenerate flocks. On the other hand, the certainty of the market for mutton has enabled the farmers to put into permanent pasture great tracts of country which they could not afford to deal with before; and also to resort largely to turnip-feeding, by which means they have immensely increased the carrying-capacity of the country. This process can be extended almost incalculably. In a word, New Zealand can already send a million sheep a year to England as the surplus of her farms, and greatly to their benefit; and there is every reason to believe that within a very few years she will be able to send two millions a year, and still possess larger flocks and better flocks than ever.
"The meat is sold wholesale in London at about 4½d. per pound. At that price the grower gets from 12s. to 14s. per head, including what he makes by the skin and the offal; which pays very well.
"It will be readily understood that a trade of this magnitude employs in all its branches—pasturing, cultivation, shepherding, slaughtering, freezing, carrying, shipping, fellmongering, and so on—a very large population. These are distributed among various classes of the community, and include the wealthiest landowners in the colony, a multitude of smaller landowners or leaseholders, and working-men of all sorts and conditions. The actual freezing of the meat is mostly in the hands of companies, who either buy the stock and freeze and ship them on their own account, or freeze for the growers on a fixed tarriff of charges. These companies are all doing very well, the dividend last year being 10 per cent, in almost all instances, after making ample reserves. One company—the Gear Company, of Wellington-have paid back 60 per cent, of their whole capital in dividends in six years from their start, besides acquiring their land, works, and appliances, which are of great value. The Wellington Refrigerating Company, another important organization at the capital of New Zealand, is also making great strides. On the whole there is no industry in the colony which is more uniformly flourishing than the meat industry; and all the various classes of people concerned in it may be deemed to be very fortunately situated."
Preserved meats also form a considerable item of export. The total value in 1891 was: Preserved meats, £111,183; salted beef and pork, £15,795; bacon and hams, £25,182. The quantity tinned in 1890 was 6,291,278 lb., valued at £122,280, to which may be added corned beef, valued at £14,006; tallow, £144,282; bonedust, £15,484; oil, horns, hoofs, &c., £18,075; bringing up the total value of all produce in this industry for the year 1890 to £1,464,659.
New Zealand frozen mutton now commands a large sale throughout England, and is fast growing in popular estimation. Provided care be taken to see that the meat is thoroughly thawed, and well hung, before it is cooked, it is difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between New Zealand and the best English or Scotch mutton. The following episode is confirmatory of this.
During his visit to the Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association's show at Christchurch, New Zealand, in November, 1891, the Earl of Onslow (then Governor of New Zealand) supplied the Christchurch papers with the result of an experiment which he had recently made with frozen mutton, the object being to ascertain whether the difference in price of English and New Zealand mutton was due to any great divergence of quality, or to prejudice; and, if so, whether the latter had any just cause for its existence.
Six sheep were selected by Mr. John Grigg, at Belfast, in the Colony, and were transmitted in the usual way to Messrs. Fitter, of the London Meat Market. His Excellency selected from the different classes of London society six gentlemen of his acquaintance, who are known to have first-rate cooks, and to have no personal interest in English sheep-breeding. Messrs Fitter were desired to deliver a sheep thawed and ready for consumption at the London house of each of these six gentlemen.page 28
In writing to advise them of the shipment His Excellency informed them that the sheep were not sent as a present for which any thanks were expected, but that he might, for his own personal information, ascertain whether the freezing process in any way caused deterioration in a joint of mutton which he had himself found when eaten in the colony to be equal to that which careful breeding and considerable expense had enabled him to produce from his own flock of pedigree Southdowns. To make certain that the opinions given were without favour or prejudice His Excellency caused a seventh sheep to be sent round the world and brought back to him in Christchurch, and he has no reason to doubt the perfect good faith of his correspondents.
The gentlemen selected were Baron Henry de Worms, M.P.; the Earl of Rosebery; Sir Augustus Harris, of Drury Lane Theatre, the late Sir Morell Mackenzie, M.D.; M. Waddington, the Ambassador in London for France; and General Sir Henry de Bathe, one of the Committee of the Beefsteak Club, whose members have a house-dinner once a week, at which one member of the committee has to dine, to select the principal dish, and to be responsible for its excellence.
The following are the opinions which His Excellency received:—
Baron de Worms, M.P., Under-Secretary for Colonies.—"We found it quite excellent. The freezing did not hurt it in the least; in fact, the greatest epicure would fail to discern that it was not Home-grown."
Lord Rosebery.—"The mutton was excellent, and not to be distinguished from English mutton."
General Sir H. de Bathe, of the Beefsteak Club.—"Last Friday we had a large assemblage at the B.S.C. to eat your mutton. The consensus of opinion was that it was most excellent. Dick Grain, Frank Burnand Bancroft, G. A. Sala, Alf. Watson, and some dozen others all so agree. I, who am a dweller on the Southdowns, can safely aver that your individual sheep was better than what I can buy in Chichester, where it always wants age and colour. It was as tender as a chicken. Gould the club make arrangements for a regular supply of mutton of same quality; and, if so, should we have to pay more than our London butcher's prices?"
Mons. Waddington, French Ambassador in London.—"The New Zealand mutton was a great success. I had recommended it to my cook, and it was carefully roasted. All present pronounced it quite equal to the best English mutton. The freezing of the meat had produced no appreciable difference."page 29
Sir Morell Mackenzie.—"Last week we had a little dinner of connoisseurs on purpose to sit in judgment on the mutton. I can only say that my friende and I were unanimous in giving a most favourable opinion. It had a great deal of flavour, and was very tender. In fact, I only recollect tasting mutton as good on one or two occasions. I suppose, however, that the specimen you were good enough to send me was much better than the ordinary consignments from New Zealand."
Sir Augustus Harris, Drury Lane Theatre.—"We duly received the sheep. Had it cooked and eaten. It was really delicious. Never had I tasted anything more tender or better flavoured. All I can say is, the trial was perfectly successful, if, as I suppose, it is an experiment of some new process.
Mr. Grigg has since assured His Excellency that two-thirds of the sheep sent from Belfast are of similar quality. The inference to be drawn is that there is no foundation for any prejudice which may have been formed against New Zealand mutton, and that some effort might, with advantage, be made to induce those at Home who are in a position to set the fashion to use the primest New Zealand meat, and thereby remove any feeling of prejudice which may still exist in the minds of the masses. Also, that it should be made easy for those who desire to do so to obtain in the West End of London the best joints from carefully selected carcases.