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PLAINS FARMING.

To THE EIJITOH. Sir, —I have read with interest and care Mr. Silcock’s paper on the above subject, as published in your issue of the 27th instant.

I fully agree with Sir. Silcock that “ plains farming ” is not the forlorn hope that many represent it to be, and that plains farmers are not on their last legs, for I fully believe that for the persevering plains farmer, “there’s a better day coming on.” But still I think Mr. Silcock’s estimates and figures will scarcely stand muster, and that his system of working his thousand acre farm will be found (if anyone adopts it) to be somewhat expensive. In the first place I must take exception to his estimate for rent. He is going to rent his thousand acres, all subdivided, all necessary buildings erected thereon, for the yearly rental of four shillings per acre. Now, I ask, where is he going to get such a farm at such a rental 'I It is scarcely possible to obtain such a block of land as that at the Government price. So 1 will take the lowest price at which I have known land to have been bought second hand in the Ashburton district —viz., L 3 an acre. Now, to get such a farm into form would necessitate the outlay of another L 1,300 at least, which sum I make up as follows : Fencing—lf the farm were a four square, in one section or block, and divided into hundred acre paddocks, together with small paddocks about the homestead for rams, calves, foals, etc. (and two or three small paddocks are a necessity on every farm), and with the fencing in of garden, house grounds, farm yard, rick yard, plantations, etc., I estimate that altogether there would be required little less than 1,000 chains of fencing, which, to be made “ a good and sufficient fence,” would need two wires, and a stake every five yards, and then planted or sown with gorse. Such a fence would cost 6s. per chain. A similar fence to the one I suggest, erected not far from here last winter, cost 7b., without the gorse planting. But for the sake of keeping down the expenses I will estimate the fencing on an imaginary farm at 6s. per chain. Well, I estimate the cost of fencing, breaking up, and erection of necessary buildings as follows; £ s. d.

And it leaves a total of ,£4300 o o Now, I should much doubt the possibility of obtaining such a farm at the annual rental of 4s. per acre, and here I think Mr. Silcock errs in the first instance. Then, with respect to the catalogue of stock and implements required, I think there are one or two errors or omissions in it. I find one item is four horses at L 25, LIOO. Now, I doubt the ability of four horses to perform the work necessary for a 1000 acre farm, especially when I find that he intends to grow 200 acres of wheat ; and from 200 to 250 acres of rape and grass to be put in every year ; and also 200 acres of turnips, which make 650 acres of land to be cultivated every year. And my experience of horses and horse power leads me to believe that it would be a sheer impossibility for any four horses in New Zealand, or any other land for that matter, to do it. I should say it would take six good horses, with two double-furrow ploughs, and two men, or one man and a good strong lad, to do that amount of tillage. Then,, in addition to the cultivation and ordinary field work, there is a great amount of extra horse work, such as carting out manure, carting in bedding for stable and stock yards, journeys to town, and innumerable little petty jobs where a horse is wanted which would not pay to stop a team to do, and which would, therefore, necessitate the provision of an extra horse, which would swell the number to seven instead of four. And with the addition of another team there would be required—-

added to the plant required, to say nothing of the need of single-furrow plough swingletrees, extra set of harrows, or chain harrows —implements which every farmer needs. Mr, Silcock’s estimate for the purchase of clover and grass seeds is also, in my opinion, somewhat low, as I do not think 200 acres can be properly laid down for LSO. • I recollect a paddock on my father’s farm costing, a few years ago, more than 16s. per acre for clover and grass seed, when laying it down. His estimate, too, for horse feed is also very low—Ls for each horse, and he does not give the riding horse any. Now, horses working regularly, as those would have to do, would require at least half a bushel of crushed oats per day, for, I was going to say 300 days in the year, but I believe they would want it 365 days in the year, which would be bushels for each horse. This multiplied by seven (for I only reckon half quantity for the riding horse and the <l rouse about ’) would tot up to bushels of oats for feed. Valued at Is. 6d. per bushel (for I hope sincerely I may never again live to see the day when oats will be Is.), would make over LBB. This added to the additional horses and implements, which I have shown would be required, would make a total of L 238 to be aded to the stock and implement fund. And then, if we have another team —and I think practical men will see the necessity of one—we shall want another driver, which will add another LSO to the annual expense account. Then, Mr. Silcock, what would you have us do with our gorse fences ? Shall we let them run wild, or shall we cut them once a year ; and, if so, how shall it be done ? shall we let them by teiider or shall we buy a gorse cutting machine of Wood, Shand and Co., for L 75 ? If we choose the latter it will help to swell our implement account “ a few.” Moreover, in the annual expense account I see no provision for shearing, though I see there are 700 fleeces to be got rid of somehow. Or do shearing and gorse trimming come under the head of incidentals ?

There appears to be a slight mistake in annual returns also. I find Mr. Silcock paying for the threshing of 4250 bushels of grain, but he only sells 1250 bushels. Where are those other 8000 1 Echo answers where ?

He counted them at break of day, But when the sun set where weie they?

I don’t object to the prices at which Mr. Silcock chooses to sell his produce from his imaginary farm ; but I should very much object to selling produce from a real farm at that rate, viz.—Wool at 9d. per pound, and wheat at 2s. 6d. per bushel. If such prices are to rule, I’ll quit farming and try something else, such prices don’t agree with the constitution of a Yoreshirebite.

Fencing 1000 chains at 6s. per chain 300 0 0 Breat mg up 1000 acres at 7s. per acre 35° 0 O Farmer’s house 35° 0 O Stable and chaff-house ... too 0 O

Barn IOO O 0 block vavd ail'd sheep yard, together with, implements shed. milking shed, fowl house, piggeries ... ... ... ... ' 75 0 0 Plantation and orchard ... 25 O 0 1300 0 0 Add to the above, purchase of land 3000 O 0

£ s. d. Another plough, costing say is 0 O Another dray 20 0 O Other harness ... is 0 O Which, with 3 horses at £2$ each 75 0 O Would make... ... ,£iS° 0 O

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PLAINS FARMING. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 133, 31 July 1880

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