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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 44

Chapter III. — Honourable Mr. Sutherland's Evidence

Chapter III.

Honourable Mr. Sutherland's Evidence.

Honourable John Sutherland, Senator, of Kildonan, Manitoba, appeared before the Committee, and, in answer to questions, said:

I have been in the North-West all my life. I was born within the corporation of Winnipeg. My age is fifty-three years. I am a practical farmer.

From my long experience there, and from what I have seen in other Provinces, I have come to the conclusion that the soil, climate and other natural advantages of Manitoba are conducive to successful farming, and that a poor man can more easily make a living there than in other parts of the Dominion.

The usual depth of alluvial deposit on the prairie is about two and a half feet, and on bottom lands from two and a half to twenty feet. The natural grasses are very nutritious, and cattle can be wintered without any coarse grain, neither is it customary to feed any grain except to milch cows or stall-fed animals.

The usual yield of prairie grass when cut into hay is an average of from three to four tons per acre. It usually' grows about five or six feet high, and, although coarse, is very nutritious.

I consider the North-West as very well adapted for dairy purposes, as we have many miles of natural meadows throughout the country, and hay can be cut and cured for about 81 per ton. We page 23 have five or six varieties of grasses that are good and well adapted for stock feeding, while a few others are not so suitable.

We have occasional frosts; generally one frost about the first of June, but seldom severe enough to do any material injury to the growing crops, and showers are frequent during spring and summer. The average depth of snow throughout Manitoba is about 20 inches, and is quite light and loose.

I would consider it advantageous for a farmer to take improved stock, but not agricultural implements, as they can be procured there at a reasonable rate. They are partly procured from the United States and partly from Ontario. I think the grade cattle might be got in cheaper from Minnesota than from Ontario.

In many parts of the Province there are natural springs and creeks on the surface, and good water can be obtained by digging about twelve feet, while in other parts it may be necessary to dig some fifty or sixty feet. I recollect only two seasons which were very dry, but not so much so as to prevent having fair average crops, and in the absence of showers there is sufficient moisture in the earth to render the soil productive.

The frost penetrates in exposed places to the depth of from three to four feet, that is, where the earth is not covered at all with snow. Where it is covered with snow it is seldom frozen deeper than eighteen inches. Vegetation begins and progresses before the frost is all out of the ground, and we generally begin sowing when it is thawed to the depth of six inches, at which time the surface is perfectly dry. We believe this frost helps the growth of crops, owing to the heat of the sun by day causing a continual evaporation from the underlying strata of frost.

I consider the country healthy, and we have not been subject to any epidemic. We had fever in Winnipeg in 1875, but none in the country places, lt was brought into Winnipeg, and it owed its continuance there, no doubt, to overcrowded houses and insufficient drainage. We never had small-pox in our Province. As a rule, I think the country is very health'.

The average yield and prices of grain are as follows:—
  • Wheat, about 30 bushels per acre, price 81.00.
  • Oats, about 40 bushels per acre 30c. to 40c.
  • Barley, about 35 bushels per acre 60c. to 70c.
  • Peas, about 50 bushels per acre 60c. to 70c.

The soil and climate are well adapted for growing root crops. Our potatoes are pronounced the best in the world. Indian corn is not extensively cultivated, and I think the large kind could not be cultivated to advantage, but the smaller kind might, and I think could be profitably grown.

page 24

We have had a ready home market for the last fifteen years for all our surplus produce, consequently we have not exported any farm produce.

I think that extensive settlement will prevent the ravages of the grasshoppers, and we have good reason to believe that we will be exempt from them during the coming season, as there were no deposits of eggs in the Province in 1875, and in all probability we will be relieved from that plague for many years to come. To my own knowledge the Province was not affected by grasshoppers for forty years previous to 1867, since which date we have had them off and on about every two years, or each alternate year.

The fences are composed of posts of spruce and poplar, the latter of which, with the Dark removed, will last twenty years. Pine and basswood lumber are also used, the former being from $20 to $60 per thousand feet.

Poplar and oak are chiefly used, and are in sufficient quantity to supply the present demand, but 1 fear there is not enough to supply a very large population, in which case there might be a scarcity' of hard wood, but plenty of poplar and tamarac, the former of which is reproduced very rapidly. Coal is not known to exist in the Province of Manitoba, but is said to be found about thirty miles west of the boundary of the Province.

It is customary to plough in the fall, but I have generally found it necessary to cultivate the soil in the spring before sowing, to prevent the growth of weeds.

I consider Manitoba adapted to sheep-raising, and from my experience I have found it profitable.

I have raised sixty bushels of spring wheat per acre, weighing sixty-six pounds per bushel, the land having been measured and the grain weighed carefully. I have also received reliable information to the effect that seventy (70) bushels of wheat have been produced from one bushel sown.

It is my opinion, in the event of a considerable immigration going into the Province of Manitoba, and also into the North-West Territories, that those immigrants will in the first instance be consumers, at all events for the first year after their arrival; and if, as I hope, the construction of the Canada Pacific Railway is carried on, I do not doubt that these circumstances combined will absorb our surplus produce until we shall have an outlet for exportation. I may also add that the fur trade has, for many years, consumed a large proportion of our surplus produce, and I expect it will continue to do so for years to come in the North-West Territories.