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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 62

The Frozen Meat Trade

The Frozen Meat Trade.

I need not occupy your time with pointing out the immense advantages which have accrued to the Colony from the development of the frozen meat trade.

It has raised the price of sheep very nearly 100 per cent, within the last two or three years.

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It has inaugurated a new and better system of farming. It has elevated the turnip crop into one of first importance. It was once said that three successive failures of the turnip crop in Britain would render the bulk of farmers bankrupt. This was before the advent of frozen mutton. The failure of three successive turnip crops in New Zealand, if it did not find work for the insolvent court, would at all events be a catastrophe not pleasant to contemplate.

It has rendered the cultivation of light lands profitable, which, but for the new order of things, would have very little present value.

When the trade was in its infancy and its possibilities were being freely discussed, the Hon. M. Holmes ventured to predict that New Zealand would before many years furnish 1,000,000 of sheep annually. The prediction was considered chimerical. It is now thought not improbable that Canterbury alone will soon be in a position to furnish this number from her own flocks.

Every farmer, no matter how small his holding, can now find a profitable outlet for his fat lambs and fat sheep—fed on turnips—to the great benefit of his land.

There is, however, another side to this jubilant picture which will sooner or later, force itself upon us. I refer to the indiscriminate freezing of our prime maiden ewes and lambs. This is a question for farmers and flockowners to consider, whether or not they are not killing the goose that lays the golden egg; whether our flocks will continue to bear the drain of their best blood without ultimate deterioration. We all know that the earliest lambs are the best in constitution, and therefore the best for breeding purposes. Let our flockowners see to this before it is too late.

There is another aspect of this Frozen Meat trade which should be borne in mind. For every million of sheep we send out of the country, something like 2,700 tons of bones are carried away, which go to enrich the fields of Britain to the detriment of our own, this sooner or later must tell its tale on our soils unless means are taken to make good the deficiency. It is argued by some that the continuous grazing of land by sheep rather improves it than otherwise. The exhaustion is, however, more gradual than in the case of corn-growing, and so gradual indeed, that it may not be perceptible for a very long time.