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The usual monthly meeting of the Agricultural and Pastoral Association was held in the Town Hall on Saturday afternoon, at four o’clock, Mr. John Carter occupying the chair. There was, unfortunately, a very small attendance, for which it is difficult to assign a reason ; but perhaps four o’clock in the afternoon of a Saturday is not the most suitable time-for the Ashburton farmers, who, however, it must be confessed, do not seem to be very enthusiastic in attending these monthly meetings, notwithstanding their value, and the fact that the meetings have been instituted especially for the farmers’ benefit. __ MR. W. J. SILCOCK ON PLAINS LAND PALMING. Mr. W. J. Silcock read, as follows:—Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen,—The few remarks that I purpose making this evening cannot be classed with those more elaborate but highly useful and practical papers read by our worthy present and past Presidents. Many of you, no doubt, listened to Mr. Grigg’s ably-written paper ; on “ Will farming pay 1” which was so very lucidly explained and demonstrated beyond all doubt. Coming from a man of Mr. Grigg’s well-known experience and practical ability, the paper was enough to establish us in the faith we were fast losing—that farming will still pay. lam almost led to believe that, through the • agency of his paper, quite a fresh impetus will be given to farming in our district ; [ and, instead' of the hungry army of “ cockatoos” hitherto known in our midst, we will find legitimate farmers, men who understand the farmer’s business, and who, as the markets and the seasons frown on or favor .their efforts, will each be able to bank his L2OO or L4OO a year, according to the energy and skill displayed, or theparticular branch of agriculturepursued. With the advent of this class of farmer, the palmy days of Ashburton will again return will be few; commercial depression will be a thing of the past; and the County will be raised to that position which she is destined to occupy as one of the greatest food and wool-producing Counties in New Zealand. If this much-desired era is brought about, or in any way hastened, by r papers read under the auspices of this Association, you will agree with me that their efforts to do good and disseminate knowledge have not Been in vain. You will pardon me referring to Mr. Grigg’s paper when I tell you that my object this evening is very briefly to lay before you a few figures and statements in favor of that class of land of which he spoke so disparagingly. I must not he understood as speaking against Mr. Grigg’s 200-acre farm, his system, or his figures—l can agree with nearly every sentiment he expressed—but I think I can show (on paper, at least) that a farm of larger area, but equal value, will give as good or better returns fer skill and energy used. I therefore purpose, for the sake of discussion, to take a 1000-acre farm of the average quality of our plains land ; value, L 4 per acre—L4,ooo ; rent or interest on same-at 5 per cent., L2OO per annum. This farm should contain all necessary buildings, and be subdivided into at least five paddocks, or, better still, into ten paddocks. For profitably working the farm, the following should comprise the

Incredible as these figures may appear, I don’t think the picture is overdrawn, when we consider how little is taken out ' of the land in proportion to the amount of manure that is deposited on it by so many sheep. The yield of my wheat crop is below the average of the last three harvests, which have been notably the •three worst harvests ever known in Canterbury. I think that by such a system as I would advocate —that of only taking one grain crop in five years—the quality of the soil should certainly improve, not only forgrain growing but also for grazing purposes. The number of sheep kept is far below the estimate of many practical graziers whose experience should be worth noticing—their estimates being ' from two to three sheep per acre ; but my ; object is not to paint the scene in glowing colors, but only to present the thing as in my opinion it may be expected to be realised by any farmer under ordinary circumstances. Probably some of you will say-—why try grain growing at all when it has proved itself so risky in the past three seasons 1 My answer is—lt will be necessary for the maintenance of your grass lands to replenish by resowing every fourth or fifth year, as we all know that on light soils grass, after a few years grazing, becomes very thin, and will in ' 1 time almost die out. All who have had experience in keeping and managing sheep, know that to do so most profitably it is needful to provide some sort of winter feed more than ordinary grazing supplies ; and as the turnip is one of the best flesh and wool producers—the cheapest and most easily supplied—l should propose sowing 200 'to 250 acres of turnips every year on the lea land. If the farm is divided into 100 acre paddocks, you can commence feeding off the first .100 acres in ‘ May. As soon as the turnips are done, move the sheep and put in the plough, and so follow the sheep to the next paddock. By so doing the whole of the wheat crop can be sown by the end of July. I think it wise to have two 50-acre paddocks on the farm, on one of which it would be well to grow turnips to make a few weeks’ extra feed for the ewes and young lambs after which it might be sown with barley. As soon as the wheat is harvested; it is necessary to make all possible haste in getting the stubble land skim ploughed and sown with grass, clover, and rape seed, so that the young plants may get well rooted before the heavy frosts set in, : otherwise, if too late sown, a large per v centage of the grass, and nearly all the clover, will perish. The young grass and

rape, if sown in April, under ordinary circumstances, should be ready for grazing in September, so that by following a system similar to the one I have sketched sheep during the worst months of the year would be fed principally on turnips and rape. Therefore I submit that I have considerably under-rated the stock-carry-ing capacities of the farm. My object is not to write a treatise on how to manage a farm, but as we have such a large area of plains, thought by many to be worthless, to try and show that, by a system of sheep farming and grain growing combined, the annual returns from land valued at L 4 per acre will compare very favorably with those from land valued at L2O per acre. If the returns are so'equal on both farms, I think that to many farmers the advantages are in favor of the dry land farm—(lst.) because, by making wool and mutton two of the principal items of income, the risk is reduced to a minimum, compared with the farm, however good the soil, whose chief returns are derived from grain : (2nd) because distance from the European markets will prevent us from successfully competing with the Americans in supplying produce of heavy freights : (3) because the farmer will be more at liberty than the man who keeps a dairy, and his family will not run the same risk of losing their education by being kept from school to tend cows and pigs, as is so often the case with many of our farmers’ children. In conclusion, I must say that I am not particularly wedded to this system of farming on paper—there are so many “ ifs ” about it ; and I think it is this glorious uncertainty that lends such a charm to farming. As Mr. Grigg says, “ The only absolute proof can be obtained by working it out, not on paper, but on the land itself.” I myself, in Canterbury, have worked it out on L 4 land with returns of less than four bushels of wheat to the acre, and also oil land worth L 25 per acre, with very little better results. But my case has been the exception, and not the rule. There is no trade or calling that is influenced so much for weal or woe by the seasons as farming, and as Dr. Lawes, the eminent agricultural experimentalist and statistician, says, how great is the influence on the results of the farmers’ efforts of circumstances entirely beyond his control, after he has employed all' the resources at his command tc obtain a good crop. After the reading of the paper a discussion ensued. Mr. F. B. Passmore said he had listened with pleasure to the paper read by Mr. Silcock, and he felt that they were all indebted to him for having read it. The reading of these papers caused discussion which might perhaps do as much good as the papers themselves. He had not noted all Mr Silcock’s figures as they had been read, but he had noted that Mr. Silcock had set down interest at five per cent. With this ha could not agree. Five per cent, was a rate of interest unknown in the colony. If he had taken eight per cent, he would have been nearer the mark, as eight per cent, was the almost universal figure in New Zealand, though frequently a good deal more was paid. Mr. Silcock valued the seed wheat at 3s. 6d., and the wheat grown at 3s. These figures seemed to him (Mr. Passmore) to be inconsistent, and Mr. Silcock had made no allowance for seed barley in the expenses, nor for turnip seed. He would also take a slight exception to Mr. Silcock’s allowance for horses. In England one horse was allowed for every 100 acres, and for such a farm as Mr. Silcock was speaking of four horses were to his mind too few. There were so many things wanted doing at the same time that plenty of horses were indispensable. The land had to be broken up, and if this work were left till late in the season it would be very risky to the crop. Land early broken up in his experience gave the beat return. Then the cross ploughing had to be done, and so many other things in the early season that it seemed to him that four horses would not be sufficient. They were very knowing people in England, and though he allowed that in many ways colonial farming was different from that at Horae, still, on the main points where the conditions were similar, it was wise to consider English rules, and he did not think the knowing people of England would think four horses enongh. Neighbors of his had got behind with their ploughing, and he had had to lend them teams, bo that they might be able to keep up with the season. He thought with Mr. Silcock that the plains land was not to be so lightly esteemed as it had been by some, and he was quite prepared to go the length Mr. Silcock had gone, for fairly treated and properly farmed the plains land would give a good return. He thought there ought to have, been some allowance made for fencing and planting. Trees at the sale that day had gone dear, and there had not been much inducement to buy ; but if every farmer planted a strip of trees On his north-west boundary he would do a good thing for himself. Trees inhaled and exhaled moisture, and had a wonderful effect upon the climate. Plenty of trees would tend greatly to neutralise the parching influence of the north-west winds which were frequent in this district. After tracing the course of the north-west winds from Australia, and speaking of the influences they were subjected to in their progress, Mr. Passmore went on to show that planting, while it would be protection against these winds, would also be a paying enterprise for the farmer. The Planting Act allowed L2 per acre for plantations, and this ought to bo an inducement, as when these trees had grown, in addition to the money thus earned, they would supply timber for all the purposes of the farm, and which had now to bo carried in some instances a great distance. They found in looking over their books that they had to incur a great many expenses they had not calculated on when they first began farming, and it was difficult to se down hard and fiast figures to repreaen expenditure. Regarding Mr. Silcock’s rotation, he would rather that he had said seven years instead of five. Mr. Silcock—On good land I would say seven—but on plains land five ; that is for grass, because on the plains it will not last five years. Mr. Passmore then apologised for not having prepared a paper as had been expected of him, but next meeting he hoped to be*ready with one. Mr. Lewis in a short speech referred to what had been said about horses. If a three-furrow plough were used, he should say that four horses were insufficient, though they may be plenty for single ploughs. If four horses were used with three furrow ploughs, he was sure they would be fearfully used up in three months. L2O was all that Mr. Silcock allowed for horse feed, and that was not enough. It cost him (Mr, Lewis), at the rate of L 7 for feeding a pony. Regarding capital, it was calculated in England that a man wanted to start his farm with five times the amount of his rent for capital, and his return should be three times the amount of his rent to make both ends meet. It was a moral impossibility for a man to jump into a farm, for it took two or three years to put it in working order, and a good deal of capital was absolutely necessary. Mr. Silcock, speaking of the ploughing, saidit didnofc take four extra good horses to plough four acres a day on these light plains lands, r and that rate which was under the actual quantity that could be done, left plenty of time for the other work.

Mr. Gundry said exception had been taken to Mr. Silcock’s figure of 5 per cent, as interest. Mr. Silcock had apparently based his figure on Mr. Grigg’s paper ; but they must base their calculations on what was the actual present ruling rate, and that was 8 per cent. Land had been bought in the district at L2O and down to L 3 per acre, and it would

not do to calculate for 5 per cent, inlerest when farmers actually had to pay 8 per cent.

Mr. Silcock said he had based his interest on the per centage of Mr. Grigg, and that was 5 per cent., and was further one of the points of Mr. Grigg’s paper that had not been attacked at all. If they allowed 10 per cent, interest on the dry ’aids they would still compvre favorably with Mr. Grigg’s. The Chairman (Mr. • Carter), said that planting greatly improved climate, and if they kept planting trees they would in short time bring in a lot of money. They could get Is, and Is. .fid. for blue gum rails, and it was evident the more of

these trees they put in the better. He liked paper returns very well—they wore very pretty —but he liked the actual returns better. He would like better to hoar of the actual returns per acre, and not per bushel, the actual return of wool per acre, and not per lb. It was a common calculation that just double the rent had to be paid away before anything could be taken out of the farm, and he thought theplainslandhad bcenahused, everything had been taken out of it, and nothing put in. He thought a white crop, and then a green crop was a good rotation, according to the land, with plenty of red clover. He believed in red clover. It had a good tap root, and lasted well in the land. Put on sheep, and he was sure if they treated the land properly they would get good returns. He did not agree with deep ploughing on light lands. It let in the drought too much, and he was astonished to see some of these light lands ploughed to a depth of nine inches. But it was a matter of opinion, and every man should back his judgment. He himself had ploughed some land deep, some shallow, and was waiting the result. The man who paid the fiddler had a right to choose the tune, and they could experiment on this ploughing question. They hoped soon to see the complaint of drought, to a very great extent at least, removed by the introduction of the much-talked-of water supply for the plains, and when that was done it would give point to Mr. Silcock’s remarks. He was quite convinced that farming would pay at present prices, but he would like to see oats just a little dearer. Mr, Jacobson said that in regard to Mr. Silcock’s remarks about American competition the difficulty was not in freights, but in the cost of loading, etc. The price of carrying grain from Ashburton to Auckland was not much less than it would be to London, and the grain producing states in America had to pay as much per ton freights for their grain going to England, as they had to pay from New Zealand to London.

Mr. Passmore said the freights were not so much the difficulty as the cost of labor. In America labor was cheaper than here, and the machinery was better there than here. In this colony if you offer a man 15s. as a rouse-about, he refused it, and wanted LI, preferring rather to take his swag as a “ sundowner.” Mr. Lewis thought Mr. Grigg had placed too high a price upon the land. In America land was far cheaper, too, and could be had in some parts at a dollar an acre.

In reply to a remark by Mr. Jameson, Mr. Silcock said he could plough, riding on the new gang plough, and driving three horses, six acres in eight hours. The gang plough left no ridges, like the ordinary plough, but turned everything down. Ha did not know that the gang plough was suitable for grain crops especially, but he favored it for grass and rape, for which it was as good as an ordinary ploughing and two harrowings. On the motion of Mr. Zouch, a vote of thanks was passed to Mr. Silcock for hia paper. Mr. Passmore did not think the reception given to Mr. Silcock had been encouraging. The meeting had not been so well attended as the others had been, and he thought but scant courtesy had been extended to Mr. Silcock. These papers and discussions could not fail to be beneficial, and the farmers ought to attend them. Mr. Gundry said that the papers and the discusions on them were published in the County newspapers, and were read by the farmers in +he whole district, who were fully grateful for the papers, even if they were not always able to attend the meetings. Mr. Silcock, in acknowledging the vote of thanks, moved that the meetings be held at seven in the evening, instead of in the afternoon, which was agreed to. THB CATTLE YARDS. Mr. Silcock was sorry to place his opinion against that of the County Engineer and County Council, but on looking at the saleyards plans, he saw that the posts were to be of black pine and the rails of blue gum saplings. This was a mistake, as he was quite sure that in a few years the posts would be rotten, and the blue gum rails would not in that time bear the push of a bullock. He was a native of New Zealand, and had had every opportunity for observing the timber of the country, and spoke from actual experience when he said neither of these woods lasted like totara. If anyone wanted to test the truth of this statement he had only to walk through the bush, where he would never see a fallen pine tree that bore evidence of having lain any length of time, but he would see plenty of fallen totara well preserved and bearing evidence of having been lying for years. Mr. W. C. Walker, Chairman of the County Council, had not studied the specifications so much as the general plans. He was not aware that blue gums formed a part of the specifications. So far as the rails went, he thought blue gums were only on the alternative plan, but he would see the Engineer on the subject, with a view to having the best timber used.

Mr. Passmore thought Y.D.L. timber should be used instead of blue gum. Mr. Jameson—lt will be for the sheep yards. Mr. Walker said that Carson’s paint had been suggested to him as a good thing for coating, and on this subject, Mr. Passmore spoke highly of the Nelson hematite paint, which was remarkably cheap, very durable, and specially suited for snch work as the cattle yards. The Government had so far approved of this paint that they had adopted it for all their bridges, and other structures that were exposed to the weather. The hematite paint gave what it was applied to a coating of iron, and if mixed with varnish would take a gloss like any lead paint. After some further remarks by Mr. Walker on the subject a vote of thanks was given to the Chairman and the meeting adjourned.

Stock and Implements Required. . £ S. d. l, boo Sheep at 6s. each ... 300 O O 4 Plough horses, at each ... IOO O O I Hack 12 O O 7 Cows ... 7 O O 2 Sows, at £3 ... ... 6 O O Poultry . ... 5 O O 1 Three-fun ow plough 25 0 O 1 Set harrows 8 O 0 I Roller ... IS O O X Drill 25 O O I Chaff-cutter ... 20 O 6 I Dray 20 0 O Harness ... 20 O O Reaper. and Binder 5° O O Seed wheat, 200 bushels at 3s. 6d 35 O 0 Seed barley, x00bushels, at 3s.... 15 O O Grass and clover seeds 5° O 0 Rape and turnip seeds ... 5 P 0 Oats 20 O O Small tools ... 5 O 0 -£743 O O Annual Expenses. Man’s wages 5° 0 0 Extra labor in harvest 30 0 O Seed as per first statement 105 0 O Threshing — 4,250 bushels, at 4d. 70 16 8 Wire IO p O Road rates ... 5 0 0 Blacksmith and saddler ... 20 0 O Horse feed , 20 0 O Rent 2CO 0 0 Incidental expenses, otherwise unprovided for ... 50 0 O 60 16 8 Annual Returns. Wool — 700 fleeces at Slbs. each, 5,6oolbs. at pd. 210 0 0 300 fat sheep at 12s. each 180 0 O 200 store sheep at 6s. each 60 0 0 .200 acres wheat at 15 bushels per acre — 1,250 bushels at 2s. 6d... Pigs and poultry ... 156 5 O 50 O O 60 sheepskins at 2s. 6d 7 10 0 Gross returns ... r ... £*> IZ 3 IS 0 Less annual expenses 560 16 8 Nett annual returns £552 18 4

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AGRICULTURAL AND PASTORAL ASSOCIATION. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 131, 27 July 1880

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