The New York Times, April 28, 1889, p. 20:|
FARMING IN NEW-ZEALAND
THE BEEF AND MUTTON AND THE GRAIN AND POTOTOES.
SUCCESS THUS FAR OBTAINED--MUTTON OF SURPASSING SWEETNESS--POTATOES IN GREAT PLENTY.
CHRISTCHURCH, New-Zealand, March 10.--The present season, which answers to the 1st of September in the latitude of New-York, being the harvest time for New-Zealand, I have thought that some account of observations which I have recently made in the provinces of Otago and Canterbury might be of interest to American readers.
These two districts comprise the greater part of the best grazing and agricultural lands of the south island, and a visit to them shows unmistakably that this country has enormous resources, which its inhabitants themselves have only just begun to appreciate. These two provinces are as unlike as possible in physical characteristics and in the quality of the people.
Otago, the more southerly of the two, is varied and broken in surface, and in its western portion, where the beautiful chain of lakes, comprising Wakatipu, Te Anan, Manipori, Wanaka, and Hawen, nestle among mountains from 5,000 to 9.000 feet high, strongly reminds one, both in scenery and climate, of the Scottish highlands. The appearance of the country on the southward-stretching plains, broken with hills and well watered by shallow rivers, suggests Southern Colorado--a resemblence further assisted by the immense flocks of sheep and herds of cattle which find pasturage upon the nutritious grasses of the district.
As a rich and picturesque bit of pastoral country, I have seen nothing in the world to surpass the province of Otago, which is rapidly coming forward as the chief source of meat supply for Australasia, and already furnishes most of the provision which is sold in England under the guise of New-Zealand frozen mutton. Everything is extremely favorable for the production of mutton, beef, and wool.
The climate, although cool all the year round, is never cold enough to make the housing of stock necessary, and although in Winter the sheep must be driven down from the mountains to the lower levels, the temperature upon the plains rarely falls below the freezing point. Upon the hills the snowfall is heavy, and the sides of the mountains show patches of white throughout the year; but the only effect of the Winter's rigor on the heights is to make the Summers salubrious, and afford a never-failing supply of water for the streams.
New-Zealand, indeed, thanks to the snow-covered peaks and glacier-seamed side of the southern Alps (as Capt. Cook named the chain of mountains running through the country on the west,) is "a land of streams." The present season is the driest ever known, no rain having fallen, except in the mountains, since Christmas; yet the rivers and creeks are generally full, and although the residents of Otago and Canterbury express regret that the visitor should find the country so parched, it appears like the Garden of Eden to one who has recently left the sun-browed plains, dotted with bony and haggard sheep, of Australia.
It is impossible that New-Zealand should ever suffer seriously from drought--a fact that is of immense importance to her over the other colonies--and may in itself settle the question that is now pregnant as to which colony is to be the permanent source of food supply for Australia.
The present year is a phenomenal one both in respect to Australia's famine and New-Zealand's plenty, and it is not unreasonable to suppose that similar conditions will often occur simultaneously, but that they occur at all in such a marked degree is significant, and the fact is likely to direct new attention to this country as a place both for settlement and investment.
A recently-published official statement shows that the yield of wheat in New South Wales this year is 15.1 bushels to the acre; that of New-Zealand is nearly 30 bushels. The total yield of New South Wales is about a million and a half bushels, a deficiency of some three and three-quarter million bushels on the average of the last twenty-seven years. As the requirements of the colony are over eight million bushels, and as Victoria, South Australia, and Queensland cannot more than supply their own needs--and probably not that--the immense deficit of New South Wales mus be made up by New Zealand. This the colony can easily do, and when to this item of wheat are added the accompanying supplies of oats, potatoes, beans, turnips, &c., which drought-stricken Australia demands, some idea may be gained of the important position which New-Zealand at present occupies.
This colony has been seriously handicapped of late by several bad seasons, and is still under a considerable burden by reason of a debt of some £30,000,000, which has been forced upon her by a too-sanguine Government in the way of railways, harbor improvements, and the like; but this seemingly extravagant policy will accrue to her advantage in assisting prompt and secure exportation of supplies if, as is to be hoped, the prosperity of the present year continues, and draws the attention of capitalists and settlers to the advantages which the country offers.
Although, as I have said, the district of Otago is chiefly remarkable for its flocks and herds, its wool product and its enterprise in the frozen-meat trade, its grain-producing capacity is not inconsiderable. The chief district for wheat raising is toward the north, where the province meets that of Canterbury, but in the matter of oats, barley, and other more hardy cereals the country bordering the mountains has few rivals in productiveness.
I have recently spent a week on two of the principal stations of Otago--the Five Rivers estate, owned by the Ellis Brothers, and Castle Rock, owned by the Hon. Matthew Holmes, the senior member of the upper house of the New-Zealand Parliament, and one of the oldest residents of the colony--where I rode through miles of oats which reached to my waist as I sat on my horse, and would thrash out, in their best portions, ninety bushels to the acre.
It is in the matter of stock, however, that these stations are most remarkable; and as they are representative of scores of others in the province, some figures regarding them may be of interest.
The Five Rivers estate, of which Mr. P. A. Vyner is manager, comprises 40,000 acres of freehold land, valued at over a million dollars, and 80,000 acres leased from the Government. There are 40,000 sheep upon it, from which 130,000 pounds of scoured wool are annually clipped; 2,000 cattle, and 1,000 pigs.
Castle Rock station comprises 45,000 acres of land, all freehold, upon which there are 50,000 sheep, 2,000 cattle, and 100 horses, of which the most valuable stock are the Clydesdale draught horses. A specialty of this station is its herd of "polled Angus cattle," black and without horns, which are such favorites with Scotch breeders. There is a stud herd of 50 of these which are kept distinct and pure, and are undoubtedly the finest selection of cattle to be found in the colony, nearly all being prize winners at the various New-Zealand fairs. It may be of interest to American stock raisers, who, I believe, have paid from two to five hundred pounds for these pure-bred Angus cattle in Scotland, to know that in New-Zealand they can now be bought for £40.
I may remark, en passant, as an interesting fact not connected with the purpose of this letter, that at Castle Rock Station the rabbits, which are such a serious pest in many districts, are almost wholly destroyed. To accomplish this result a ferret-breeding estabishment is maintained on the estate, which will let loose this year 800 ferrets; $10,000 annually was spent for many years on poison, ammunition, &c.; 400,000 skins a year were sent to market from the station, and, although the rabbits are now pretty well under control, over $3,000 a year is still expended in keeping them so. It may be imagined with what affectionate regard the station owners mention the misguided individuals who imported these animals into the colony.
The chief breeds of sheep which are raised upon the two stations are the Southdown and Hampshiredown, merinos, Cheviots, (these at Castle Rock, where a flock of 500 pure-bred sheep of this stock is kept up,) Leicester, and Romney Marshes, of which the last two mentioned produce, in order, the heaviest fleeces.
The average weight of fleece on these two stations is six pounds. The Leicesters and Romney Marshes average nearly ten pounds, and clips fo from twenty to twenty-five pounds are not uncommon. The scoured fleeces show a loss of from 25 to 30 per cent. on these figures.
The merinos on these stations are chiefly from the studs of Tasmania, where rams of this breed have fetched from 400 to 600 guineas in exceptional cases. There are no American merinos among the New-Zealand flocks, or, at any rate, only a very few--this not because of prejudice against them, but because sheep raisers know little about them, and are quite satisfied with what they have.
As is natural in a district where the grasses are rich and abundant, and mountain streams of pure, cold water run through all the region, Otago is noted for the delicacy of flavor in its mutton. Never have I tasted meat of equal sweetness and richness; in the matter of beef, however, Otago and New-Zealand generally can not compare with the United States.
The milk and butter produced in Southern New-Zealand are, however, very fine, and the rapid springing up of daries and cheese factories is likely to make the southern provinces famous as providers of butter and cheese, and important factors in the world's trade in these articles.
The population of Otago is of a predominant Scotch character. The first immigrants were all communicants of the Free Church of Scotland, and impressed the province which they settled with a quality which is maintained to the present day.
Dunedin, the capital of Otago, is a handsome, well-built city, picturesquely situated on a series of hills which rise above the harbor, and very strongly suggesting bits of Edinburgh in its architecture and arrangement. It is the pleasantest of all colonial towns, by reason of the openness of the streets and squares, the commanding views which it affords, and the homely kindliness and hospitality of its inhabitants. Its population numbers between forty and fifty thousand, and it is the headquarters of a large and growing colonial and foreign trade.
In it is esatablished the main office of the Union Steamship Company, whose splendid fleet of forty steamers commands a monopoly of the carrying trade between New-Zealand ports and Australia, and undoubtedly shows the most complete local service in the world.
Travel by the best of these boats is as luxurious as by those of the Cunard or Inman Lines, and their appointments greatly surprise the stranger, who has naturally prepared himself for a certain degree of roughness in his experience of colonial voyaging.
Another remarkable commercial enterprise of Otago is the Mosgiel Woolen Company, whose manufactory is just outside Dunedin. It was founded by the son of Dr. Burns, pastor of the first Prebyterian Church established in the colony, who was himself the nephew of Robert Burns, and who gave the name to the town where the factory was built after the poet's "Mosgiel" farm in Scotland.
This enterprise has assumed large proportions, turns out woolen fabrics, blankets, yarns, stockings, and underclothing of the highest class, and is obliged to run day and night to fill its orders. Its goods received the highest award over all countries represented in the late Melbourne Exhibition, and it illustrates one of the movements that are being made to bring New-Zealand prominently to the front as a manufacturing as well as an agricultural country.
Several other woolen companies have their headquarters in Dunedin, which is also the seat of large establishments where sheep are slaughtered and their carcasses frozen for shipment to London.
It may be of interest to American readers to know the prices that prevail for fresh mutton and lamb in Dunedin and generally in New-Zealand. Roasting pieces, legs, or chops are 4 and 5 cents a pound, and when the market is overstocked, as often happens, half a sheep can be bought for from 37½ cents to 50 cents.
Canterbury is as typically English as Otago is Scotch. One observes this the moment one crosses the Waitaki River, a broad, shallow, and uncertain stream which divides the two provinces.
Canterbury was first settled by colonists who came out under the auspices of the Church of England, and it has never departed from the character which they gave it. Otago, as far as improvement of natural beauties goes, is to-day pretty much as its settlers found it. Canterbury, however, is marked all over with hedges, long lines of willows, plantations of English, American, and Australian trees. Nor are the mud-walled and thatched cottages, which often from such a picturesque item in the English landscape, wanting in the view. What with the hedges and the hay and grain ricks, the willow-bordered streams, the mills with water wheels and solid styles of architecture, both in town and country, the traveler at times fancies himself in Yorkshire or Devon.
In the neighborhood of Oamaru, just before the train reaches the Waitaki (and an exasperatingly leisurely train it is, taking twelve hours to cover the distance of two hundred miles between Dunedin and Christchurch, although "express,") the richest agricultural country in the Southern Hemisphere begins. The traveler has intimation of its appearance long before he reaches it in scattered farms, which grow more and more neighborly, and finally run together to make the whole country a broad, golden carpet dotted with white houses and ricks of ripened grain.
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