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Voices from Auckland, New Zealand.

Sheep Farming in the Province of Auckland

Sheep Farming in the Province of Auckland.

To the Editor of the Southern Cross.

Sir,—It is difficult to conceive why people of easy, tolerable, and comfortable means, cannot settle down contentedly in this province, but are tempted by the representations that fortunes are to be amassed in an incredible short space of time in the South, just merely by getting a lease of extensive sheep runs, as if that were all, and without further consideration precipitately determine upon going there to try their luck, and, as if to make one believe they had effected their object in every sense of the word, some of them return and report of the wonderful extensive runs they have secured—the number of white sheep and not black ones these will keep, and that in a year or two they cannot but be men of independent fortune; while others have entered into a co-partnery with some settlers, who, having already secured extensive runs, are in want of the primum mobile to stock these runs, and thus lay the basis of a rapid fortune. Poor dupes, and that is a significant term, they seem not to dream of the future, but fancy that it must be all gold that glitters, little do they think page 65of the expense, the hardships, the difficulties and the many disappointments attending and to be contended with, for no person who is not ignorant, no person of experience and real common sense would embark in this wholesale manner in one of the most precarious of all agricultural pursuits, and which must in a very few years darken if not destroy their golden prospects; for that fickle dame Fortune does not always smile on every fair and bold adventurer, and many of these golden dreamers will be found leading a regular Robinson Crusoe life far far back in the wild cold uninhabited dreary regions. If I had space I could easily demonstrate that in a few years time sheep runs in the South will be at a discount, and that sheep will scarcely pay for looking after; this, Sir, was the case in New South Wales prior to the discovery of the gold fields. At present the reason why sheep runs in the South are so profitable is owing to the number of settlers ariving from England and elsewhere, which creates a great demand for sheep to stock their runs with; but this is not to last for ever; bye and bye, when the runs get more numerous and the flocks equally large, that demand will diminish and gradually subside. A re-action will ensue, flockmasters being unable to get rid of their increase their runs will get overstocked, their flocks consequently will be in danger of getting starved; for to boil down poor lean sheep to thus reduce their number would be out of the question, it would not pay; and as a natural consequence the flocks will become diseased, and when scab makes its appearance on a confined run it can only be got radically rid of by destroying the whole flock, and when once a flock gets infected there is no escape for the neighbouring flocks, for it is a well known fact that the fine wooled sheep are too delicate for the climate of the South. In the Canterbury plains, a stretch of 60 miles, when a storm comes on the sheep are actually driven with the violence of the wind from one end of the plain to the other; and the different flocks get so mixed that one scabby sheep in any one flock will infect the whole; and that scab has already commenced its ravages there can be gathered from what appeared in the public print only the other day, about certain gentlemen being fined tor running scabby flocks. This, Sir, is rather a gloomy picture, but were I to paint it in another shade I should not be doing justice to the subject, nor to those for whom it is intended.

The Northern Province, the one from which this is dated, can be painted, I am happy to say, in milder and more substantial colors. The character of the Provinces in the South and that of this is vastly different. The Southern Provinces are decidedly pastoral. There food for sheep or cattle page 66grows spontaneously. The country seems to be covered with grass, but of a very thin weakly kind, three to five acres being required to graze one sheep, and which, after a few years, in many districts being an annual, and where not allowed to shed its seed becomes thinner and thinner, and ultimately disappears. This Province is an agricultural one; the country is either covered with brush or fern, which can only be got rid of by manual labour. And the plan pursued by the settlers is not to lease extensive runs of country, but to purchase a few hundred acres of land, and after clearing the surface, to plough and lay it down to artificial grasses, and divide and sub-divide into moderate sized paddocks. The beautiful farms around Auckland and its neighbourhood, which can vie with any in old England, are a proof of the great capabilities of the land in this Province. On some of these farms one acre of grass will keep and fatten from five to eight sheep, and two acres of grass will keep and fatten three head of horned cattle; and the land thus managed, when cultivated with potatoes and other crops, give incredible returns.

It is not impossible for new arrivals with comfortable means, to purchase land at ten shillings an acre, and convert it, in a year or two, into as good looking farms as any in this district; but before committing themselves to any particular locality, they ought first to ascertain the nature of the soil they intend selecting, and the facilities of locomotion. By adopting these and other precautionary measures their success and independence is inevitably certain.