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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 44

Chapter VI. Grain—Wool—Cattle

Chapter VI. Grain—Wool—Cattle.

The production of grain is every year developing in a marked degree. Already the third important staple of the colony is agricultural produce, the value of which exported in 1878 was £509,826. The greater part of this was wheat, the export of which has grown from £19,616 in 1869 to £423,032 in 1878. There were also exported 4032 tons flour of the value of £48,451, and 10,210 cwt. oat-meal of the value of £11,091. This branch is certain to increase greatly year by year. The climate and soil in South page 49 Canterbury and North Otago are proved to be specially adapted for the growth of cereals. The wheat obtains the top price in the colony. This district occupies the front rank in reference to the return per acre, 60 bushels of wheat to the acre not being uncommon, and 90 bushels of oats to the acre having been reaped. The average yield in this district in 1877 was 32¼ bushels of wheat to the acre; the average of the whole colony being 28·63. The average production is double that of New South Wales and Victoria, and three times that of South Australia, where wheat forms a principal staple of export. The average of New Zealand for live years is 27·62. In its special districts it stands foremost among grain-growing countries in point of return; far before European countries, excepting Denmark and Holland, which are almost equal. Great Britain is stated at 27·5, while the United States are as low as 12·2, and Canada 11. Other crops receive attention in particular parts of the colony. Hops are profitably cultivated in Nelson, and as much as £100 has been obtained for an acre of tobacco in Napier. Maize can be successfully grown in the North Island.

Owing to the physical configuration of New Zealand, it possesses more seaboard (3000 miles) in proportion to its area than any other country. As if the shape of the land, drawn out lengthways from S.W. to N.E. with numerous indentations, had not afforded enough of coast, the North and South Islands have been cut asunder and separated by Cook's Strait. The nearness to the sea, abbreviating long inland carriage, and the excess in fertility as compared with other grain-exporting countries, more than compensate for the distance of the colony from the English market. Wheat grown in New Zealand ten miles from a harbour, can be placed in London at an average cost of 1s. 8d. per bushel. With wheat as low in price in London as 45s. per quarter, the New Zealand grower would receive a return of £6 per acre, on the basis of the low average of 30 bushels per acre, as has been pointed out, which, after deducting £3 as the expense of cultivation, would leave a clear profit of £3 per acre. These favourable circumstances will enable the New Zealand farmer to compete advantageously with the growers of Europe, Egypt, and the American continent. The foundations of a large export trade in grain have already been securely laid, and the colony is likely in the future to prove a dangerous competitor to the English farmer. The colonial grower has also the benefit of nearer markets. Victoria from page 50 its droughts cannot be depended on for a supply of corn for its increasing population, now numbering 845,600. The government statist in the Year-book for 1877-78, says (sect. 647): 'Only in four years since Port Phillip was first settled (1835) has the colony raised enough bread-stuffs for the consumption of its own inhabitants.' There is a demand for New Zealand oats in all the colonies. In addition to these markets there is the local consumption, which is by no means insignificant. It is at present considerable, and must grow with the increase of the population. One-half of the inhabitants are dwellers in towns and cities, the trade of which is developing to a remarkable degree. Ten or twelve years ago we were dependent on California and South Australia for flour, and upon Belfast for bacon. A digger would look at nothing but Sinclair or Coey. Now all that trade is knocked on the head, and we are become exporters both of flour and bacon, branches of export capable of indefinite extension as our direct commerce with other countries expands. The export of preserved meats is also a considerable item in our trade, the amount sent away in 1878 being 28,292 cwt., of the value of £74,449, besides 5019 tons of tallow valued at £178,502. This, together with the local consumption, prevent the price of stock being unduly depreciated.

The value of the local consumption is one of growing importance. Numerous industries have been introduced into the colony, iron-foundries, machinery makers, wood-ware factories, woollen-manufactories, and many others. These varied sources of production, augmenting and extending almost daily, afford already a considerable local market for food-stuffs, and one that of necessity must increase greatly as the colony progresses in population, trade, and commerce, on the lines upon which it has so successfully entered. As a rule, colonial workmen live in much greater comfort than their brethren at home. They enjoy the luxury of butcher-meat three times a day, and this leads to a large annual consumption of stock throughout the colony. In Dunedin the cattle and sheep are all sold at public cattle-yards, and the consumption for 1878 was as follows:
Sheep 99,700
Lambs 12,300
Fat cattle 7,600
Calves 400

This may be taken as a fair sample of what goes on at other page 51 places. We must say this for the colonial workmen, that while their hours are short, and their wages higher and their fare better than they would get in Britain, they are in general well worth it all. A good colonial workman works, and is expected to work, in a style we never saw practised at home. We would rather have the eight hours' work of a colonial labourer, given with a will, than the ten or eleven hours of his British compeer, so that his better condition in food and wages is not loss to his employer. In sheep-shearing, a shearer will clip over 100 sheep in a day; but as the shearers are paid by the piece, 16s. 8d. per 100, they work long hours. Workmen and their wives dress well. We once asked an assisted immigrant, newly landed, a smart girl of sixteen from London, who was a domestic servant, if there was anything which struck her as peculiar; she immediately answered, 'How clean all the people are.' An old Stirlingshire farmer who had been invited to the colony by his nephew, was surprised, among the first of his experiences, when he saw a new hand arrive at his place on horseback. 'It's a queer country this,' he said; 'the ploughmen come riding home on their ain pownies.'

Although the wages of domestic servants, and for outdoor labour, are higher than in Britain, the cost of feeding servants is not so great in the colony; and in farm-work, owing to the open winter and mild climate, as well as difference in the mode of cultivation, as many hands upon a farm are not required as in this country, and it is considered that on the whole the extra wages are more than balanced by the lower cost of keeping and the reduced number of labourers. Labour-saving machinery is much used. A crop of wheat is often cut and thrashed on the spot where it was grown; the grain bagged and carried to the side of the railway, and then taken to the merchant's granary or the mill, without the trouble and expense of being stacked.

The profitable occupation of the land is much enhanced by the ease with which the growth of wool is managed both upon pastoral runs and cultivated land. The expenses have been lessened by the diminishing rates for inland transit consequent on the introduction of railways. Once on board ship, the charges for freight and insurance for the long voyage are not appreciable as compared with the expense for shorter distances. It is probable that within ten years the yearly clip will be transported to London in large steamers, occupying less than six weeks on the voyage. Wool is at present page 52 the principal staple of the colony. The total quantity exported in 1878 amounted to 59,270,256 lbs., of the declared value of £3,292,807. That the quantity of wool has not attained its maximum, may be inferred from the fact, that there has been a constant yearly increase, the amount and value having doubled during the last ten years. In 1868, the quantity was 28,875,163 lbs., and the value £1,516,548. As permanent settlement progresses, and the land is brought under cultivation, a large continuing increase may confidently be anticipated. The indefeasible tenure of the pastoral leases, and the increased rents payable, will also lead to the lessees making improvements on their lands, tending to enlarge their capacity for feeding stock. New Zealand wool stands well in the London market, and is in favour with American manufacturers. When the American tariff as regards wool is adjusted, a large trade between the two countries will be developed, of which the San Francisco mail-steamers have already laid the foundation.

In closing these remarks on this branch of the subject, it is expedient to give a specification of the yearly amount and value of the agricultural and pastoral produce. According to the returns for 1879, the extent of wheat sown was 264,577 acres, and the estimated produce 6,070,599 bushels; of oats sown 277,547 acres, and produce 8,357,150 bushels, over and above 49,187 acres sown and cut as green food or oaten hay; of barley 28,646 acres, and produce 709,465 bushels; of potatoes 17,299 acres, and produce 86,186 tons; of other crops 180,544 acres: the total acreage under crop being 817,810 acres. The estimates of the harvest are under the average, as the crop was much shaken by a heavy gale when almost ready for cutting. The loss, however, did not prove to be so great as had been anticipated. There were also 53,022 acres in hay, estimated to produce 64,520 tons. In addition to the extent in hay, there were 1,183,078 acres in grasses after having been broken up, and 1,501,651 acres grass-sown lands not previously ploughed, the latter being principally bush-land cleared and burned, and sown with grass-seeds. The total of ploughed land is 2,053,910 acres, and if to that be added the cleared land, there is a total of improved land in the colony of 3,555,561 acres. The extent of land under tillage in Victoria is only 1,420,502 acres; being much less than the cropped land in New Zealand, and not equal to a moiety of the whole land improved. Mr Hayter, the government statist in Victoria, estimates the value of the agricul- page 53 tural produce in 1878 at five and three-quarter million pounds sterling (£5,799,898). Taking the same prices as he has assumed, the total value of agricultural produce in New Zealand for 1879 amounts to £13,785,018, 1s. 7d.; a total more than double that of Victoria. But the prices stated being higher than the average prices ruling in New Zealand, we may deduct 25 per cent., which gives the estimated value of the agricultural produce as ten millions sterling, without including garden and orchard produce. To this may be added a million sterling as the value of the lambs, calves, and foals dropped during the season. There are in New Zealand thirteen millions of sheep, five millions of them breeding ewes. This is only exceeded by New South Wales; so that New Zealand stands second among the Australian colonies for the extent of its flocks. There are also upwards of 130,000 horses, half a million of cattle, and 200,000 pigs and other stock, besides upwards of a million of poultry. The annual production of cheese and butter now exceeds two million lbs. of the one, and five million lbs. of the other. Of cheese, 3020 cwt., of the value of £9373, were exported in 1878, chiefly to New South Wales and South Australia. Of butter, 3105 cwt., of the value of £12,111, were exported, chiefly to New South Wales.

Every attention is now paid to quality in breeding, and colonists do not hesitate to give high prices for good stock. Fine animals have been imported regardless of cost, and at local sales well-bred cattle and sheep fetch high prices. We have seen a short-horn heifer, for which, at sixteen months old, 400 guineas were paid; and we observed from the news-papers that at a sale of stock last March the owner of the heifer sold a bay colt, two years off, to a Canterbury farmer for 210 guineas. In May 1879 the steamer Hawea took to Auckland two short-horn bulls valued at £300, and four cows at £60 each, consigned to a settler. At ordinary country sales near Dunedin last April, draught-horses fetched from £36 to £73, 10s.; dairy cows up to £15. The same month, a Clydesdale entire, the Young Prince of Wales, brought at auction at Invercargill the satisfactory price of £580. At the sale of a fine herd at Burnside, near Christchurch, held November 1878, the following prices were obtained: Four yearling heifers—Queen Mary, 290 guineas; May Queen, 300 guineas; Second Duchess of St Albans, 480 guineas; Lady Sale, 145 guineas—total, £1275, 15s., or an average of £318, 18s. 9d. Eleven cows sold for £750, 4s., averaging £68, 4s. page 54 per head; seven fillies sold for £716, 12s., or £102, 7s. 5d. per head; nine mares sold for £966, being an average of £107, 6s. 8d. Sundry other lots were sold, realising a grand total of £5086, 3s. 6d. These details, establishing as they do the remarkable progress of the colony in agriculture and stock-owning, combined with the extraordinary development witnessed in trade, mining, and manufactures, must lead to the conclusion that it is specially adapted as a field in which a skilled agriculturist may profitably and successfully employ his ability and capital, and be at the same time engaged in the satisfactory work of assisting in the building up a nation, destined in every way to give a grateful return for his labour, and to maintain the name already bestowed upon it—the Britain of the South.

Many of the pastoral lessees and agriculturists have made large fortunes, several by special attention to stud flocks, reared on a comparatively small extent of land. We could name a few reputed to be worth at least a quarter of a million. One extensive proprietor recently let his lands and stock to his manager, who now pays for his possession, which is one of the finest in the country, a rent of £20,000 a year. Improvement by planting, fencing, and cultivation is carried on generally with great spirit. Elegant houses, fitted up with all the appliances necessary for comfort and refinement, have been erected in many quarters. We annex an illustration of Otekaike House, formerly alluded to, the seat of the Hon. Robert Campbell, in proof of what is stated.

It will be a fitting wind-up of the reference to land and agriculture, to give a sketch of the extent of land in the colony, and how it is occupied. Of the whole area of the colony, extending over 64 million acres, only 14 million acres have been sold or otherwise disposed of up to June 30, 1879. The total area open for sale was then 13½ million acres, and there was a further area of 20 millions reserved or held under lease. Over and above these extents there is the native territory, almost in its natural state, and lands sold by natives to Europeans, about 16 million acres. In the South Island, land most advantageously situated for agriculture has been mostly taken up, but the pastoral country will eventually be disposed of in freehold as small sheep farms. There are also extensive tracts of forest or bush land in both islands, ultimately to be made productive. There is therefore ample room and verge enough for the profitable industry of a population to be numbered by millions, all living in comfort, under page 55 institutions and laws of their own, free, enlightened, and independent.

The scarcity of animal life which prevailed in New Zealand at the period of its settlement is now being completely removed. Great attention is paid by the settlers to secure
Otekaike House, Otago.

Otekaike House, Otago.

Mason, Wales, &c Stevenson, Architects.

stock of various breeds, of the purest strain and highest quality. There is a Canterbury Herd-book now in its fourth volume, and a New Zealand Stud-book of Draught-horses has been published. Breeders also print their own private catalogues, in which are specified the descent of short-horns from the Duchess, or the Butterfly, or the Duke of Geneva, or Royal Princes, with as much scrupulous exactness as if they were tracing as heralds the pedigree of some noble lord whose ancestor came in with William the Conqueror. Agricultural and pastoral associations have been formed in the different provincial districts, the leading one being that of Canterbury. Their usefulness has been increased by the passing of an Act, the Agricultural and Pastoral Societies Act, 1877, giving encouragement to them by conferring upon them the privilege of incorporation.
page 56

The Canterbury Society has above 400 members, and carries on its operations with great spirit. In 1878 their annual show had 1023 entries, and the sum of £1230 was distributed in prizes. The income for the year was nearly £3000. It maintains its own magazine, The New Zealand Country Journal, full of sound and practical information. Particular attention is given to labour-saving machinery, three and double furrow ploughs, thrashing and reaping machines, and implements of all kinds, for which valuable prizes are awarded. A newspaper specially devoted to agriculture is also published in Oamaru, and the Otago Witness and other weekly papers give prominence to everything concerning this important interest.

The acclimatisation societies also do good work, although in their excess of zeal in the way of introducing British birds and other animals, they occasionally make a mess of it. The Otago Society has stocked the rivers with brown trout, having distributed 100,000 during the last ten years, and also 40,000 ova. In one instance, the Society sent several boxes of trout to a run-holder on the shore of Lake Wakatip. After a few days the whole disappeared. The following year an old man in Queenstown, a town on the lake side, confessed on his death-bed that he had got up in the night-time and robbed the boxes, placing the contents in a small brook which flowed through his garden. This brook, or creek as the colonists call it, is now full of trout, which grow to a large size. In 1878, 13,000 salmon fry were liberated in the Kakanui River, but it is too soon to say whether the experiment has been successful. Red deer have been bred at Bushy Park, and afterwards driven away among the Kakanui Mountains. Pheasants, partridges, and hares breed plentifully. Starlings have multiplied to an extraordinary degree, proving very useful to the grain growers. Blackbirds are also spreading fast. It is doubtful how far the finches and sparrows introduced are a benefit. The rapidity with which they increase, and the tax they make the crops pay, induce the settlers to look upon them with an evil eye.

But their ravages are nothing when compared with those of another little stranger. Some dozen years ago there was a champagne dinner in Invercargill, when all present magnified their enterprise in having succeeded in importing an excellent immigrant, the English gray rabbit. The newcomers were liberated with much congratulation, on the sandy links on the shore of Foveaux Strait. They speedily took page 57 possession of the soil, so congenial for their burrows, and from the mildness of the climate they bred with marvellous rapidity. They next spread up the interior of the province, and disputed the possession of the pastoral runs with the merino flocks. The carrying capacity of the runs was reduced, and it became necessary for a war of extermination to be raised. A number of men, with an army of dogs and cats, have been doing nothing but slaughtering poor bunny for several years. Sometimes as many as 100,000 are killed on one run in the course of a year. In May last no fewer than 300,000 rabbit skins passed the customs at Dunedin. They now form an article of export, and the proceeds very nearly cover the cost of killing. The total number exported in 1878 was 3,976,409, valued at £33,460. The Maori hen, or weka, is a most determined enemy of bunny, and vigorously attacks and destroys both old and young. Parliament has lent its aid by passing an Act to provide for the destruction of rabbits, under which districts may be proclaimed, an assessment not exceeding one halfpenny an acre levied, and measures taken in common to eradicate the pest. This prevents a negligent landowner injuring his neighbour. It is also declared to be a criminal offence for any person to liberate rabbits on land, as it was ascertained that parties were found who carried away rabbits, and liberated them in country not previously affected with the plague. A bonus of a halfpenny per skin is paid by the government for every rabbit skin exported. By latest accounts it is found that grain steeped in a preparation of rhodium and phosphorus has proved especially destructive at a small cost. The poisoned wheat is placed in small heaps of twelve or fifteen pickles, which are devoured greedily by the rabbits with fatal result. The true remedy is, however, the cultivation of the land. An occupier of two or three hundred acres has no difficulty in protecting himself and keeping them under. On that account, as the rabbits have been the means of inducing owners of extensive fertile tracts of country, hitherto kept only for pastoral purposes, to break up their large estates into small farms, and sell them to agricultural settlers, they are now jocularly but appropriately called 'The people's friends.'