ASHBURTON AGRICULTURAL AND PASTORAL ASSOCIATION.
On the evening of Tnseday last, the first of the monthly meetings, of which the members of the Ashburton Agricultural and Pastoral Association of Ashburton desire to make an institution, was held in the new room in the Town Hall gallery. These meetings have been established with a view to the promotion or a healthy and independent feeling amongst farmers and those associated with them ; for the ventilation of subjects of interest and importance to those engaged in agricultural pursuits, and' for the interchange of knowledge on such subjects by the reading and discussion of papers prepared and read by farmers themselves, or by qualified gentlemen whose services may be secured. It has been decided to hold these meetings monthly, as near as possible to full moon, so that those attending them may be able to ride home comfortably in the moonlight. The arrangement seems to be a wise one, but if the first meeting is any criterion, its results are not the most satisfactory that could be wished, for only a very few members of the Association were present, and it will be matter for the Committee’s consideration whether it will not be better to decline the moon’s services with thanks, and hold the meetings in the afternoon, so that fanners may have an opportunity of getting home early. Country people as a rule do not care to keep late horn’s, and are averse to starting on a several miles’ ride home at an hour which, under ordinary circumstances, usually finds them, in the words of the old Scotch song—“hinting their cutty, And loosing their buttons for bed.”
The President, Mr. W. C. Walker, occupied the chair, and delivered the inaugural address, which we reproduce from his MS. as follows ;
I trust that the meeting of this evening will be the first of many under the auspices of our Association which may afford us many interesting subjects for discussion and thought, A paper will be read this evening on the advantages of such meetings. I shall endeavor not to in any way touch upon anything that we may have before us in that paper. I shall, however, take advantage of the present occasion to say a few words on our duties as members of this Association, and on the relations which may be considered as possibly existing between our Association and the Metropolitan one of Christchurch. First then as members of this Association I urge that we all ought to consider that this Association really represents what are the interests of every one in the country, that the prosperity and success of the Association will be merely the result of individual efforts, and a reflection of individual success, and that therefore individual members should consider it their duty and theninterest to do all they possibly can to advance the objects of the Association. The first and most practical step towards this must be to see that every farmer, merchant, or tradesman in the country is enrolled as a member. Each one of us can help in this. We all ought not to rest or be satisfied until we have induced every friend or neighbor, who does not at present belong to us, to join. If the enrollment of members is sufficiently attended to, it will follow as a matter of course that the Association will be able to do its best to pursue its various objects for the advantage of all. Our meetings will be well attended, our shows will grow in importance from year to year, and our officers with a strong and increasing body of members at their back will be kept up to the mark. I therefore feel most strongly, and I would urge on all members most earnestly, each to do his best to increase our present membership until our Association may be considered to comprehend everyone within the county interested in agricultural and pastoral affairs, as the most certain method to ensure success and prosperity. Next I would draw your attention to the relations between our and similar Associations, and the Metropolitan Association in Christchurch. I am afraid at present there are none, at any rate none occur to me. But I am of opinion that if there were definite relations once established between the Metropolitan and District Associations, material benefits would accrue to all parties. In the first place the Metropolitan Association would be strengthened by an increasing, and more intimate connection with the county. And in the second place all the County Associations would be most materially advanced and developed into lines of usefulness special to each one by a more definite connection with the parent Association, if the epithet parent be applied to the older Institution which hardly can be said to recognise even the title—much less the duties by right attached to such a name. It may be remembered that an attempt was made rather more than twelve months ago to hav e an Association for this island, holding shows at each of the centres of population in turn, and having the provincial Associations in some way affiliated to it. This movement has not yet matured so far as practical results are concerned ; but a similar relation I would advocate between the Metropolitan Association here and the local ones. The connection is one which can hardly be treated without going into detail, such as I am precluded from doing this evening. I will only throw out in brief some few points which such a relation would work out as far as one can forecast. (1). The local Associations would be able as a matter of course to apply to the Metropolitan for the judges at its animal show, and thus would be more certain of obtaining judges not belonging to the district, than is at present the case ; also they might reasonably expect to be assisted by special prizes and medals from the Metropolitan Association, which, if given only for special classes of stock and exhibits, might be attached to such as are of undeniable merit. Such a course is adopted by the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, the oldest Society in Great Britain and its medals are an object of the keenest competition to all local shows. (2.) Local shows instead of being gradually absorbed by the metropolitan ones, as I think is likely to be the case at present, would be likely from such a system of judging and prize-giving to increase with the Metropolitan Association, and possessing the power of conferring certificates of undoubted merit the shows would increase rather than diminish in interest. (3.) No one, however good his stock, or how successful as a breeder he might be in his own special line, could refuse or object to compete on the ground of there being no opportunity for reasonable competition, or could plead that the prizes would have no credit attached to them. (4.) The Metropolitan Association, by being in greater sympathy with agriculturists of all parts’of the country, and being obliged to consider local interest, as suggested above, would be able to extend its membership tenfold, at present but a small minority of farmers being subscribing members, and as a further result the Metropolitan Association would have a wider circle of members to select its officials from, and we should see the country districts much better represented in its committees than is at present the case. And lastly 1 , both metropolitan and local Associations would flourish in many other directions, more various than can possibly be even mentioned in this present sketch; and in general, the wider scope and closer connect tion of agriculturists in all parts of the Provincial District would promote activity and produce inestimable results. Such, gentlemen, are a few thoughts which suggest themselves as a fitting -consideration* for perhaps the youngest Association in this Provincial District, That
it may flourish is our desire, and I trust that the meetings which we inaugurate this evening may be one means towards that end.
Mr. 0. P. Cox moved a vote of thanks to the President, and hoped the Association would not lose sight of the suggestion made by him. The vote was cordially passed.
Mr. F. Guinness, who had been at Temuka on Court business that day, and had only arrived by the late train, apologised for being unready with a prepared paper. In a short speech he would endeavor to lay before them what ought to be the chief things these meetings should attend to. Subjects interesting to fanners included such a wide range that he could not, were he even able to treat them well, deal with them within the short limits of an address, so that lie had to content himself with making a few remarks on some of the most important ones that immediately presented themselves to him. He would begin with seed, which was an all-im-portant subject to the farmer. For instance, in selecting seed for a wheat crop, farmers had a choice of many kinds, and some would he far more productive than others, and it would be unwise not to sow what rvas the most productive seed, and would yield the most profitable crop. He counselled securing and disseminating the very best seed that could be obtained, so that the whole land would get a fair chance to do its best. Then he would refer to the knowledge possessed by farmers of tire implements of their profession, and their working. There was much of the land that was badly tilled from inefficient ploughing, and many of the farmers would make but a poor appearance in ploughing competitions. A well-known farmer had told him not long ago that much of the land in the district was badly ploughed, and of course poor crops were bound to follow inefficient tillage. It ought, therefore, to be an aim of the Club to encourage the acquirement of a comprehensive and practical knowledge of the use and principles of agricultural implements and machinery. Knowledge might be advantageously exchanged on such subjects as the production of good dairy produce. Butter, cheese, &c., formed no small item in the farmer’s income, and the better the quality of those, and the larger the quantity in which they could be produced, and the less outlay in their production, the bettor for the farmer. On these and kindred subjects the farmers could greatly help each other by the relation of experience gained and knowledge acquired. But tiro great object members should have in view in these meetings ought to be the storing up of facts they have ascertained. Every man, in the course of his experience learned something. He ought to learn ns much as he could, and when he came to these meetings he could tell, as opportunity arose, what ho knew of his own knowledge. ‘ He did not require to tell his story with the grace of an orator, but simply give utterance t.r it plainly, so that it can be understood and noted. There were a great many things which, to experienced men, seemed trifling, and not worth taking notice of ; hut all were not
experienced, and, mayhap, someone is in a difficulty with something just for want of that little item of knowledge which another thought was not worth retailing. Everything should be watched, and taken note of, and considered, and made use of in these meetings when discussion arises that will give an opportunity for its utterance, and there was no man so plain of speech but what could make himself understood to willing listeners. It was by the ascertaining and retaining of facts from all sources that made experienced men, and helped them to make use of science, which was a helpful agent to the farmer. Referring to the value of meteorological study, Mr. Guinness said meteorological knowledge was within the reach of everyone, and no one could overestimate its value. With an aneroid barometercarefully and patiently consul ted, and its readings recorded and compared, farmers would be bettor able to understand the climate, and from tbo knowledge his observations gave him lie would be in a position to regulate the times of his work and avoid for it and for his crops much danger from the weather. Were a more extensive meteorological knowledge general farmers would have an additional adviser at their side in the selection of land. Mr. Guinness concluded a very sensible and instructive address by urging upon members the duty of gathering up and storing facts. The Chairman hoped the advice of Mr. Guinness would bo laid to heart by the members, and that on a future occasion they would have the benefit of another address from Mr. Guinness. Mr. Cox was sure that from what had been given them that night by Mr. Guinness, members would take his address as an earnest of something very superior should he at any future time give them a more extensive paper, and a larger attendance than had assembled that night could easily be assured. Dr. Trevor proposed a vote of thanks to Mr. Guinness, regretting that so few farmers had attended.
The motion was seconded by Mr. Hugo Friedlander, who thought some stops should be taken to induce more farmers to attend these meetings. Mr. Guinness was not disheartened by the small meeting. It was the first, and as yet farmers in the district scarcely understood what these meetings were to be like. He was sure the attendance would increase as the character of the meetings were better known. He thanked them for their compliment, and hoped that many papers would be given by practical men whose experience was valuable.
Mr. C. W. Parnell had written a letter to ,thc Secretary of the Association on the subject of native grasses, and the Chairman asked My. Jameson to read it, which he did as follows Sip., —l should like to call the attention of the members of the Association to a work lately published by the Geological Department of the Colony, entitled “ Manual of the Indigenous Grasses of New Zealand.” Ido so because the existence of such a wt rk does not seem to be generally knqwn, and it is one which might serve as a basis for experiments of the utmost importance to stock-breeders. It will probably surprise most persons who have not made the subject a study to learn that in this book are described nearly ninety different species and varieties of grass indigenous to New Zealand, of which about sixty are set down as more or less valuable to the grazier, either for pasture or fodder, while new species are still being discovered. A few of these grasses are classed as better than any of the pxqtio kinds in use, on account of their superior vitality and suitability to the climate, and other conditions of the country. A priori , we might conclude that the wealth cf native pasture which once clothed a large part of New Zealand, was that best adapted to its circumstances, qnd that exotic grasses should rather ha\ e been used tq supplement and enrich the qatiye sward than to replace it altogether. The mass of persons engaged in rearing stock, however, seem to regard the indigenous pasture as useful merely as a makeshift until the laud can be laid down in foreign grasses \ and there has been such an indiscriminate burning and stocking of the native pasture that it is become" deteriorated throughout tho country. Tho destruction of the larger and coarser grasses by fire of course involves that of tho finer sorts which grow under their shelter.
The editor of the manual (Mr. Buchanan) justly observes that the prejudice which exists against the tussock grasses, for example, may be ascribed' to a want of knowledge of how to use them ; and that the proper method of treating the coarser
kinds of native grass is to cut them while in flower and convert them into hay. Ihe general view of the subject, embodied in the following extract, appears to me to be a sound one :
“ On improving land intended exclusively for pastoral purposes or for the raising of large stock in districts exposed to cold winds, it may be questioned whether the entire destruction of the native grasses, especially the larger tussock kinds, is judicious, as their conservation or culture, where they do not exist, would certainly prove an element of profit, net only for their own intrinsic value as food, but also from their sheltering all kinds of stock, as well as protecting from the nipping winds tire smaller grasses which should form the bulk of every pasture. The indigenous grasses of New Zealand’are undoubtedly more permanent and fattening than tire introduced grasses of cultivation, and it might prove expedient in many districts, to adopt a mixed system, by which the larger tussock grasses both native and introduced, might be planted out as shelter, along with the main
pasture composed of the most permanent species of which seed can be procured, whether exotic or indigenous, as not only would increased profit accrue by the adoption of such a system, but the painful spectacle be avoided of well-bred sheep with no other shelter from the cold than a wire fence.” A feature of the case is this :—Some of the best pasture grasses have but a local distribution and unless measures are taken for their preservation, they stand a good chance of being exterminated. Year by year the work of burning and of breaking up the soil goes on, and the settlor able to procure as much foreign grass seed as he requires, and being familiar, moreover, with the nature of the foreign grasses, does not care to trouble himself to enquire into the value of the indigenous grasses or to experiment upon their qualities. He takes it for granted that when he has got his farm laid down in English grass, he has attained the highest excellence of pasture and that no sward, of anything like equal quality, could have been formed of New Zealand grasses.
The English grasses have attained their present standard by means of long cultivation : and to evoke the full utility of the New Zealand grasses, they must in like manner be diligently studied and cultivated ; and any intelligent farmer, who will read Mr. Buchanan’s Manual by the light of his own practical knowledge of the subject, will be convinced that the native grasses, if rightly used, could be made of enormous money value to the community. I write as an observer only, and not as an expert ; but I thought I might be pardoned for mentioning this important subject, because it is just one of those in connection with which the Association could do really useful work. I possess a copy of the Manual, and shall bo glad to show it to any member of the Association. The grasses described in it are also figured by the photo-litho-graphic process.—Yours faithfully, C. W. Purnell. The Chairman said the}' were indebted to Mr. Purnell for writing on a most interesting subject well deserving thought. But the subject opened up a wider one—namely, that of grazing generally, and the laying down of these plains in grass. This was a thing that had yet to be done, and while any information on the subject of grasses was valuable he would like to see accumulated all the knowledge possible on the subject of English grasses. Still, any contribution to what they already knew on the subject of grasses was valuable. Mr. Cox, referring to Mr. Purnell’s reference to the burning of tussock, said all practical men know the destruction of the tussock was a mistake. The dry tops' of the tussock were devoid of all feeding qualities, and once in three years these w r ere burnt off, so that the young shoots which succeeded the burning may be obtained. They afforded excellent feed, and it was for this feed that the tussock was burned every third year. Of the shelter to other grasses given by the tussock he could only say that it was not a good shelter, for no stock would eat the grasses grown under the tussock. They were sour and disagreeable, and cattle avoided them, and they could only be sweetened by exposure to the atmosphere and the sunlight. Native hay was nothing new, and good hay made from young tussock had been used in the early times, but hay of this kind was costly and troublesome to make, and so settler’s were glad to take to the use of English grass for hay as soon as it was available. At one time the sweet vernal had been very plentiful in New' Zealand, and it made a good feeding hay ; but it did not endure, for as soon as the country became settled and stock began to eat down this grass it gradually gave out, and no w it was not to be seen. There still existed amongst the hills the snow grass, which was very nutritious, and had been fancied by horse-trainers as better than anything else. The fact that Mr. Purnell held the ideas he did about the burning of tussock showed how indispensable it was that a knowledge of facts regarding these matters should be obtained and spread, to the unlearning of erroneous notions, and their replacement by correct information that may be added to by further facts gained in the future. There were a number of other native grasses of value, but they wanted to be experimented with, as English grasses had been. The prairie grass and the blue grass were good feeding ones, but they were usually exterminated the first year by cattle that fed on them, so fond are the animals of them as feed. Gardeners and seedsmen who thoroughly understood the cultivation of grasses ought to make experiments with these grasses, as had been done with English grasses, and then it would be ascertained perhaps how best the known good qualities of these grasses could be enjoyed and permanently retained. After a reference to rye grass, which he said was not the most suitable for these plains because of its want of root, and its similar action upon the soil in regard to the properties it extracted from it, Mr. Cox went qn to express his favor for clover, which did not exhaust the soil but added to its grain producing qualities. Lucerne would go a great many feet down for moisture, and so would red clover, and those deep sinking roots were the most suitable for our dry plains, as they would often give grass when the upper surface of the soil appeared to bo quite parched. At an expense of ss. or 6s. an acre for clover seed, farmers would have an earlier clover hay crop with an excellent after feed. In fact cloyer on these plains would give five or six times more feed than any of the short-rooted grasses. Mr. Cox instanced, as an illustration of what he meant, a field of Mr. Joseph Hunt’s that a few years ago had been sown down in clover. Mr. Hunt told him that only a pound and a half of seed to, fho acre had been used, yet the crop was a splendid one, and Mr. Hunt had a better crop for his one-and-sixpence an acre, than he would have had in rye-grass costing more than 20s an acre. Mr. Mayo knew the field to which he referred.
Mr. Mayo remembered the crop, which had been put in, after barley, the two previous crops having been wheat and oats. Half the seed had been left in the machine after, sowing. A vote of thanks was passed to Mr. Purnell for his letter, and after some discussion as to the suitableness of the evening as a time for holding these meetings, it was suggested by Mr. Cox that one more evening meeting should be held, to see how it was attended, and, if not satisfactory a change could be made to the afternoon. It was decided to hold the next meeting at the next full moon, the date to be announced by the Secretary, and the meeting separated.
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