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THE LAWS OF GRAZING.—I. . (By J. R. Wilkinson, M.A.,Chertsey.) ? Looking into the rain-book kept here, I notice that our ; summers have from the 'fcnrr" ri:vnfT °f th« record in January, 1881, \ip to ii!«; iii'-'-ci"! date been droughty, or '. ]>-r.ii'ly ■», wnii the exception of 1883-4, ' .!**•*» ■.">," I <S7 -S. VVe may, therefore, say that there is generally a sutnmer period, more or less continued, of no growth of grass on those - parta of the Plains that are wholly dependent „ on .local rainfall for moisture. The winter " records of temperature show also a period, more or less continued, of no growth on account of frost. These two periods will, I believe, make a total of three to six months every year, during which the pastures are devoid :of growth, and it might prove useful . iif bur. weather recorders would accurately : \note, the extent of these annual Beasons. As ■t sheep; need regular- daily; food, though •, astonishingly little suffices in summer, and as , ( the,-natural supply is limited to spring and ;•' autumn, the argument for artificial feeding ,>i , during seasons of no grass, has a reasonable basifl. -..■-'. . .•. : ■„',, Artificial food will consist of hay, oaten i food,,and turnips—the two former being our a., method of storing surplus spring growth, 1 jth,e latter the surplus autumn growth, and it to me that this is the right, indeed ,; the, only, way to provide a continual and regular supply of feed, and to get over the ; irregular; provisions of Nature in these draughted and frosted uplands. : „; There seems no question about the utility of feeding hay to sheep, but the advisability i ' of, giving, oaten stuff is a good' deal questioned, and the problem, along with all others on,'grazing,i i 3 now of great importance, .owing to the certain stability of the mr.+Vn : 'trade: *J A wriicr :i::.l pi '\:-\ "il :\u::u:;,: Mr Oliver of Chelmsford, in a capital opening-up paper, lately in the Ashburton "Mail," gives Randall's quantities, 3£ bushels oats and 1J cwt. chaff, as needful for ! keeping a. sheep at 901bs live weight and '■, ;housed during 3 months of winter, and states • i»8 his opinion that every lb.a sheep puts on in winter by oat-feeding costs 4d and is therefore unprofitable. With regard to the it flatter ..statement,, the cost of fattening x>n 1 "oats" aiiicl'chaff,* Mr Oliver's opinion is not an inference from anything in his paper, as ,v there, is not a fact or figure in the whole ,* article that has any immediate connection ' with the question. If Mr Oliver would give his reasons I am sure they would be examined with closest interest. With regard .to Randall's values, we may, of course, make a reduction for this colony, on account of j »the mildness of onr winters compared with ' the American. Let us say 3 bus. oats and ' 1J cwt chaff, and'consider this quantity as one-tenth of the produce of one acre of oats with4oolb3 additional chaff. We can find , the cost of producing this quantity of feed, and thus we shall see the actual cost of keeping a sheep for the winter. This method, it will be seen-, provides oats and chaff for the sheep at the cost of producing, and not, as ,in-Mr Oliver's table, at market prices. It seems to me unreasonable to reckon on profits-, both from the sheep feed and the niutton produced. ;. Table A—shewing cost of producing one Acre of oats and chaff feed for sheep, and 4001bs additional chaff:— ;.v s a Putting in crop, reaping, and stacking 19 0 Threshing and crushing 30 bushels... 8 9 Cutting l2oolbs chaff ,„ ... ... 6, 6 . Rent, .•„.«..« ... 6 0 . . Total - 40 3 ' : ;. ■ .-. ■ s d Gross cost per sheep, one tenth ... 4 0 Deductions as given by. Mr Oliver — . Wool Is-6d, Manure Is 6d ... 3 0 . Net cost per sheep for 3 months .... 1 0 This does not include fattendance, cost of constructions, interest, and insurances. It secures mortality nil, percentage of lambs 100, unbroken growth of wool, pastures preserved, and a general feeling of comfort and happiness both to owner and flock. A shilling a sheep for the winter is a very different thing from 3s 6d—the result obtained by Mr Oliver. It means about a Id a week per sheep and the inference is that oat feeding is a practicable method, and that if fattening is done smartly the cost of lib will be nearer 2d than 4d. It should be nofcfced that if the items threshing, crushing, and chaff-cutting are struck out of the table, and the food given to the sheep , as oat sheaves or oaten hay, cut as late as . possible, the cost of feeding will be reduced apparently to nil, but really to the value of the loss of condition that will result from a crude form of food. Experiments are needed to show the most profitable form of oaten food, and also to show the value of combining oaten with turnip feeding. The values in table A have been given me by a high class farmer of the greatest experience of these plains, and the practicability of oat feeding receives further proof from the fact that one of the largest farm-stationß of the county hi*s for some years, as its bookkeeper .informs me; given its oat crop to the sheep in preference to selling. It is hardly worth while to spoak of hay : under the present method of grassing. The actual facts of the past ten years among us, show that it is only very rarely that a field can be spared in the Spring and saved up for hay. Under an artificial system, hay would be regularly secured on account of its cheapness and certainty. Again using Mr ' Oliver's quotations from Randall, who gives 31bs a day as requisite for one sheep for the winter, and reducing this to 2f lbs on account of our milder climate, it can easily be „ calculated that the cost of hay feeding is 3s per sheep; and this cost is balanced of ■ exceeded by the Talue of the wool and - manure as given in table A. The net cost is therefore nil or even a profit, and is a shilling or more a sheep cheaper than oat feeding. ' Let us now look at the negative side of the question. If we do not adopt artificial ''' feeding, what is the cost of the non-artificial, the difference between net profits on the sale of oats and chaff and the loss incurred by ..letting the sheep starve on bare fields through the winter. Reference to table A ; shews that the cost of producing oats is a little over Is a bushel. The net profit on 3 .. 'bushels, at the selling price Is 3d per bushel is therefore 9d. Also chaff costing 12s a ton for cutting, and selling, strange to say, at 30s, gives a profit of about Is on 1J cwt. The net profit therefore totals about Is 9d. Now with respect to the dismal subject, loss by grazing oare fields, there are four counts, which though their values are not • exactly aacertainable, cannot be doubted to exist, and that too in grim reality, Table B—shewing assumed loss of wintering sheep on pastures without artificial food. - lOlbs loss net weight, at 2id per lb, 2s Id Mortality among ewes and lambs Is Od Damage to wool ...... 9d Damage to pasture » » ... Is (id Total _ ... .« 5s 4d " Deducting Is 9d, the profits on sale of oats and chaff, and Is 9d, say for wool and manure, we have Is lOd left as the cost per sheep of wintering on grass, This is clearly above the "cost of feeding on crushed oats and chaff, and when we consider tha^th.e artificial means also the best phance of getting improved and co^p^iial breeds, and also greatest produce from pastures, and cheerful life for $1 concerned, while -the present system brings the opposite results, it will be hard indeed to escape conviction. As we accumulate capital and are able to make greatest net produce rather than least ou,ttyy the primary consideration, ajs a? we get rereliable data and successful examples before us, thejtn, w^ll hunger and bare fields, store gheep, and shortness of feed, the signs of a primitive system whose law is least expense a.nd least produce, go away to the past; and drought and frost, the adverse powers of Nature that prevail over us in these- high and dry lands, be foiled by artificial skill. In conclusion, I beg to offer as the first law of grazing—sheep snould be taken from the ... - pastures and fed artificially during seasons of no growth of grass. '*"' 'A second andthjrd will fpllpvr,

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SHEEP FEEDING., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2432, 17 May 1890

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SHEEP FEEDING. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2432, 17 May 1890