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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 47

A Word to the intending Cattle Farmer

A Word to the intending Cattle Farmer.

In districts grazed by large bands of cattle it is well to have summer and winter ranges. The grass thus gets time to recover. The lower lands, such as terraces of valleys, make good winter ranges—wind blows snow away and leaves knolls, flats, and even great portions of the surface quite bare. Mountain ranges are cool in summer, and the cattle get some change of food by going to them, as altitude appears to change the quality of the grass. About 10 acres per head will feed a band of cattle throughout the year.

It is not uncommon for men to buy cattle with their wages, and let them run with their employers' herds. These cattle may be exempted from seizure for debt in certain cases, when the agreement to "farm" them is registered.

A man may begin cattle-farming with a band of 25 or 30, a yoke of draught oxen, neck-yoke, logging-chain, horse, saddle, axe, grindstone, and, of course, a supply of "grub."

A beginning on a considerable scale might be made with the following stock:—
50 cows (with calves) at 40 dollars 2000
30 heifers, at 30 dollars 900
20 yearlings, at 20 dollars 400
1 bull 75
Outgoings per annum would be (say)—
Labour, 3 men, 2 at 25 dollars) = 100 dollars a mouth 1200
Labour, 3 men, 1 at 50 dollars = 100 dollars a mouth 1200
Food for men 350
Rent of leased land 250
Material, &c 300
Total 5475 = (£1095)

The increase of stock would begin at once, and be very rapid.

It would be well to have also pigs, as they forage largely for themselves, and pork is in demand in a mining community. Interest of money is not shown in the above. The owner's own labour should be thrown in to reduce the labour bill, and all money outgoings strictly watched. The farm should page 59 be as suitably placed as possible for markets. Its suitableness is increased when it has good natural boundaries; also when wild hay grows on or near it, and when it has good outdoor shelter—springs that do not freeze up—dry sleeping grounds, few slippery spots or water sloughs where cattle may injure themselves or be drowned.

The cattle, if possible, should be those accustomed to the district or climate. Get an Indian to watch them, but help him yourself at first, particularly when other bands of cattle are passing the "run," or your young ones will stray—cattle take time to know one another and their "run."

Having secured his "run" and his stock, the "stock-raiser," as the cattle farmer is called, then chops trees and prepares the framework for his steading—hauls them to the place—fixes a day for neighbours to help to put up the framework—at his leisure, afterwards covers in the roof—makes windows—daubs gaps—next he has his "corral," or cattle-fold to make—think well about this—much depends on a good, well-placed "corral."

A word on winter food here also. It is common to say that no winter food for stock is necessary in the East Cascade Region. This is true to the following extent. Generally speaking, if the grass has been spared during summer, there is enough for winter food, and the cattle can find it on the ground. A good stock-raiser, with a suitable "run"—brush shelter in—parts—may not have to feed his whole band once in ten years. But bad winters occasionally come—1862 was very bad, and so was 1872—and, there-fore, it is said by experienced men, that a moderate supply, say 1½ ton a head, that is, enough for six weeks' winter—should be provided and allowed to accumulate. Cattle may hurt themselves, or get sick. The stock-raiser should have the balance of chances in his favour. A good deal depends on the cattle. They will need little looking after, in summer or winter, if they are used to the climate and know the "run," the trails, springs, dry sleeping places, &c.*

Bunch grass as it grows, is made by the hot sun and dry atmosphere into the best standing hay; when irrigated it will yield alternate years 2 or 3 tons per acre of very fine hay; alkali-grass cut in season makes good hay; sower-grass, when newly grown after a fire, is prized by cattle; fire will improve the aftergrowth of even sedge-grass; pea-vine and red-top grass much liked—grow on moist, good soil, on high land generally (in West Cascade Region pea-vine seeks low land); pea-vine must be cut for hay early, or will go to powder; in case of extreme need reindeer-moss, willow-sprigs, cotton-wood, and even pine-tops will take cattle through a bad winter. The varied resources of such a country as British Columbia come out well by comparison. The winter of 1871-2 was the worst in America for forty years. The cattle in British Columbia came out in good condition in spring, though the farmers had not provided winter food as they might have done. In some of the Western States of the Union, the bodies of starved buffaloes and cattle lay along the railways in great numbers.

* Memorandum by W. H. Kay, Esq.