The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 70
But, to return to farming. Government farms such as suggested would be worked by a small staff, in proportion to the number of animals kept, say from two to four men, and would do well if self-supporting. European Governments have gone much further than this in aiding the farmers to grow sugar beet, &c. That first-class horses and other stock can be raised by small farmers is a fact. The present breed of Clydesdale horse is founded on a number of Flemish mares, about one hundred, imported by one of the Dukes of Hamilton from Belgium; and the Flemish draught horse is still used in England. Belgium is the most thickly populated country in the world, and the farms are very small. Then the Vermont Merino is bred by American farmers owning two or three hundred sheep. This breed is the heaviest-fleeced sheep in the world, and has been introduced with advantage into some of the best Australian flocks. I had here some of this breed that, at twelve years, clipped 211bs. on grass only. Cham-pion of England long-wool sheep-prizes have been taken by farmers owning less than 500 sheep. The breeding of rams for sale is par-ticularly suited to small farmers if they understand the business. The large station-holders naturally keep most of the best rams they breed for their own use, selling the remainder. I have bought some of my very best rams from small farmers in this Province. I would direct the attention of farmers in this Bush district to breeding rams for the Woodville Bam Fair and Show. I have known small farmers in this country who have made fortunes on bush land by breeding rams. Say that a man with 150 acres of good sound pasture kept 100 good stud ewes, and a few cows, and sold 40 rams yearly at even £3. With the remaining produce it would be a fair living—or half the number of ewes would be a fair start; but it would be little use breeding anything but really first-rate sheep. It will be seen how a few high-class rams at a Government farm would be of great service in such a case. I see nothing to hinder the people of this immediate neighbourhood, if they are so minded, making the Woodville Ram Fair and Show attractive to all buyers in the country if they choose to breed rams of high quality here. Woodville will undoubtedly, when the railway line is open to the Wairarapa, be the most central and easily accessible position for this purpose in the North Island.page 37
I have given a lifetime to this subject, and should be glad to give the benefit of my experience to any settler to whom it might be of use, or to discuss the subject. That the soil and climate are suitable I have proved. The Mangatoro clip has always taken a foremost place in the Home market for quality among Hawke's Bay wools, besides being one of the largest clips in the Hawke's Bay district. I have bred rams here successfully both for show and sale from stock I had derived from small farms, the rams being bought for places in both Islands, and realising up to £45. I sent bales of wool to the Melbourne Exhibition under great disadvantage, and from wet ewes seven years old. This took first prize for the greatest value per fleece, practically beating the world, including the Hawke's Bay wool that competed, by 2s 6d per fleece. Next year, at Dunedin, the wool from the same sheep was placed third in value per fleece, with the judging open to some doubt. These fleeces were from sheep that I had originally derived on both sides from small farmers, and were from sheep that had never had anything else than grass. I hope yet to see rams bred in this district sought after by buyers from all parts of the country, and make the Woodville Ram Fair famous for the quality of the sheep.
That I believe in the future of the district is fairly proved by my remaining in it a settler for over thirty years, and I can claim to have advised intending settlers twenty-five years ago to try and get land on the bank of the river near where Woodville stands now, and, curiously, some of these, after various wanderings, are now settled a few miles from Woodville. How people laughed, and called it "a pretty word picture" when I talked of the valley of the Manawatu and on to the Wairarapa being opened by a road, dotted with homesteads and settlers some day; but the homesteads and settlers are there.
Fruit-growing is worth the attention of farmers as a help. There is now a market in London. If farmers informed themselves carefully of the varieties of apples or other fruit best suited to that market, a number of trees could be got for £5. Probably it would be best to plant so as to be able to send considerable consignments of one sort of fruit. The best sorts of trees would not take any more room or labour than inferior sorts. As long as I can remember, American apples have been imported into England; at one time in barrels, packed in dry sawdust. The seasons being the reverse, fruit would arrive in England at a different season to the English, American, and European page 38 Continental fruit. Apples carry better, I think, than almost any temperate climate fruit, except nuts. The chief expense is in protecting the trees from stock. A paddock of from five to seven acres would hold five hundred or more trees, and could be worked without stock until the trees should be beyond the reach of damage. It seemed almost needless to remind people not to plant too near the fences. Settlers would no doubt suit their circumstances in dealing with this matter. I have known an orchard of the latter size in this country yielding £400 per annum for fruit sold in this country. Very much les3 than that would do, and if all was used at home and none sold, it would be well worth having.
I do not propose to say much about bush-felling. You are all pretty conversant with that; but I think a few shillings an acre extra in preparing the heavier sort of bush for burning would be often well spent. A bad burn is hard to put right; it remains bad for many years. The felling of this class of bush particularly is often finished too late in the season. It ought, I think, to be ready to take advantage of the first burning weather of the season. A few thistles on the ground before the grass is sown does not matter, and I have on the whole found an early sowing the best in a growing season giving a heavy crop of rape for winter. If, owing to prolonged drought, some of the grass-seed failed to grow, which has never happened to me, it would be better to re-sow, probably at small cost, some of the ground than risk a bad burn by waiting. If there has been enough rain to wet the ashes before sowing, I think the sowing should be finished by the end of March at the latest. I have experimented in this for thirty-five years; have sown about 40,000 acres; have even burnt and sown early in October, with satisfactory results. Some of the grass is as good now as thirty years ago. I have cleared about ten thousand acres of bush, and have never had a bad burn nor had ten acres unburned, the ground being left nearly clear, except stumps, but I always took advantage of the first burning weather of the season.
You are, I think, aware that, from the first, I have advocated extending the sphere of this Club as much as possible, and to sink all petty differences for the common good. You will now be asked to consider the advisability of federating to such an extent with the other farmers' clubs or other public bodies so as to endeavour to bring about the united action and co-operation of all the farmers' clubs or other public bodies in this country in matters affecting the common interests page 39 and welfare. I ask you to give this question your careful consideration as one that may yet materially and importantly affect the interests of the farming community in this country and through them all other interests in the country.