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PLAINS FARMING., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 140, 17 August 1880
To the Editor.
Sir, —Permit me through the medium of your columns to reply briefly toMrSilcock’s letter, as published in your issue of Tuesday, the lOthinst., in which he seems to wish to consign my former letter to the limbo of exploded theories.. In the first place, Mr. Siloock appears to think it presumption on the part of any one to question the reliability and value of those agricultural papers read before the Ashburton Agricultural and Pastoral Association. I have no doubt that the reading of those papers will be productive of good, to the agricultural portion of the community, but I think that those who read or draw up the papers, should not shrink from criticism, nor can I believe that because a man is a member of such an Association, all his utterances upon agricultural matters must be infallible. I think when a man goes into print he invites criticism and discussion. And as there are differences of opinion on most subjects —agricultural ones not excepted—he should not be surprised if he finds someone who cannot agree with his hypothesis, or coincide with his views. Though Mr. Silcock professes to take my criticism “ all in good part,” yet there is an approach to acidity in the tone of his letter, which is an indication that his favorite corn has been trod on. In alluding to my letter, Mr. Silcock commences by misrepresenting its purport. He characterises it as an attempt to patch an unworkable scheme. F ow, sir, I will leave those of the public who have read my former letter, to judge whether that letter was not more likely to pull to pieces than to patch up Mr. Silcock’s scheme. Proceeding, he says, “ I can scarcely believe he is in earnest, for he commences by saying my scheme will be found somewhat expensive, and at once goes on to add more expense to it.” Now, sir, this also is a misstatement. What I said was that “ his system of working his 1,000 acre farm will be found —if anyone adopts it—to be somewhat expensive.” Does not Mr. Silcock perceive the difference between working the land and working on the land. What I meant was that his system of rotation of crops would be found expensive inasmuch as he proposes taking only one grain crop in five years, which would necessitate a large annual outlay in clover and grass seeds. He admits that he was wrong in his estimate of expenditure for this article, viz., ss. per acre. Mr. Silcock states that his estimate for rent or interest was based on Mr. Grigg’s figures, but I do not think Mr. Grigg’s figures were reliable either. If Mr. Grigg proposes to sell his produce at “present prices,” why not levy interest at current rates—namely, eight per cent. If Mr. Grigg or Mr. Silcock can obtain money at five per cent, interest, I believe they might make a very good living by doing so, for there are a great many farmers who would gladly give them two per cent procuration money if they could obtain a thousand or two at that rate of interest for a term of years. Then Mr. Silcock admits the rent is low, but thinks it will “ be more than I will be able to pay if he requires three men besides himself and seven horses to crop 250 acres. I did not say that it would require three men men besides myself, but tivo men or one man and a good strong lad. And then with regard to croping 250 acres, has Mr. Silcock forgotten his turnips, rape, and grass sowing, and the cultivation necessary for it, if he grows 250 acres of crop ? I suppose he would have the same number of acres in turnips previously, and that after the grain was taken off he purposes to put the land in rape and grass, and consequently the 250 acres would require to be ploughed three times, which would be equivalent to the ploughing of 750 acres every year. Mr. Silcockgoeson tosayhehas “carefully reckoned the time it would take four horses to do all the work required in ploughing, sowing, harrowing, rolling, and harvesting, and makes it 226 actual working days.” Mr. Silcock should have told us how much per day he intends doing of each of these operations. I, too, have carefully gone over each particular item or part of the above works, and I came to a different conclusion. And Ido not speak from hearsay or distant observation, but from actual practical experience, having worked at each of these jobs in its particular season for the last fourteen years, and in that time have done hundreds, and I may safely say thousands, of acres of “ploughing, harrowing, sowing, rolling, and harvesting. ” The acreage per day given below most practical men will see to be, above the average quantity done in the colony. I estimate as follows :
Ploughing 750 acres at 5 acres per day -ISO Days Harrowing 730 acres twice, IS acres per day ... ••• ••• 5° » Sowing or drilling, 20 acres per day ... ••• ••• Rolling do. at 18 acres per day ... 41 ~ Rraping 250 acres of crop at iS acres per day ... » Stacking do. at 25 acres per day 10 „
Total 303 Days 303 days’ labor to get in bis turnips, rape, and grass, and grain crop, and harvest the latter ; and then there is the threshing and delivering of the grain to come yet; and with the fetching and removing of threshing machine, and the carting away of 4,000 bushels of grain or thereabouts (to say nothing of time consumed in cutting chaff for horsefeed ; wet days, &c.), would take at least 30 days more, which would bring it up to the sum total of 333. Add to that at least 52 Sundays,_ and you have 385. So you see the year isn't long enough by 20 days. We shall have to get “ an extention of time ” Mr. Silcock, and have the year elongated. Then with reference to the horse-feed. Mr. Silcock admits being a “ little undgr the mark but thinks I have erred much further on the other side,” and then he immediately adds “ I did not say that the quantities of oats per horse allowed by him is too much.” Will I call that “confusion worse confounded?” My estimate was half-a-bushel of crushed oats per horse daily (my own teams are eating much more than that at this present time), and Mr. Silcock admits that half a bushel per day is not too much feed for a working horse. Well, then, let us take his own figures, and see how they stand—4 horses at half j|a bushel pep horse a day would be 2 bushels per day ; 2 bushels per day for 225 days, would be 450 bushels, 450
bushels at Is. Gd. per bushel would be L 33 15s. Whereas Mr. Silcock only makes it L 25 12a. Wrong again, Mr. Silcock.
Mr. Silcock says, moreover, that if I reckon up my oats and my acres, I shall find it will cost me nearly three shillings per acre for oats. I can’t help what it costa per acre for oats, that never enters into my calculations in my way of managing. My theory is that a working horse has as much right to bellyful of good food as a working man has, and I have always acted- on that theory, and am not “ on my last legs yet.” I cannot understand Mr, Silcock’s system of reckoning the wages and keep of the ploughmen at per acre, so I will pass over it.
He admits having made a mistake in his estimate for clover and grass seed. His “reply to my query re gorse fences is, if I can’t trim them "myself, I am to pay for them out of the annual returns.” Quite so, I suppose most of the expenses would have to be paid out of the annual returns, unless some other fund was started. The error over which I waxed poetic was the printers’, not his. All right, I accept that explanation, I thought “ someone had blundered.”
With reference to the questions with which Mr. Silcock concludes his letter.
1. With respect to the well* I forgot that. But if Mr, Silcock is only content to “ Bide a wee ” until the water supply scheme is an accomplished fact, he can have a supply for Gd. per acre, which would only add L 25 to allowance for rates and taxes. 2, I do not think it would be cheaper to buy or rent rams every year, than have the trouble and risk of keeping them'.
3. You might not require a paddock for the calf of one cow, but if you “ kept on keepin’ on” breeding a calf every year, you would want some, place for them, as I see there are no account sales of any cattle in the annual returns ; and, moreover, you might want a small paddock to run your sheep in which you want to kill and use on the farm, unless you run theta in a one hundred-acre paddock alone, which would scarcely pay, or run them with the mob, and when you wanted one get the whole mob up, which wouldn’t be a good practice. 4. “Won’t working horses be more profitable on the plains than brood mares ?” Answer—l hope all the plains farmers will think so, and then horses will go up in price. 5. “ Are two wires a good and sufficient fence enough to keep out crossbred sheep?” To this I answer -No ; but I think if there was a sod wall about two feet, or two feet six inches high, and then two wires on the top of it, perhaps it might do, and that was the kind of fence I meant; and I suppose that Mr. Silcock knew that two wires and a stake every five yards wouldn’t cost seven, or even six shillings per chain. 6. “If you break up your 1,000 acres all at once, where will you keep your 1,000 sheep while the grass grows ?” My object was to show what it would cost to place the farm in working order, or to reclaim it and place it in a state in which it could be worked in the way Mr. Silcock suggested. I may have “ made a mistake,” but I don’t know. I think I’m in the right, and I’m very stupid when I think I’m in the right. “ I am not , bound to please thee with my answer.”—Merchant of Venice, Act. iv., Sc, I. I am, &c., Yorkshxrebitk.
PLAINS FARMING., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 140, 17 August 1880
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