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The New Zealand Journal, Saturday, June 06 (1840)



A Treatise on Sheep, addressed to the Flock-masters of Australia, Tasmania, and Southern Africa; showing the means by which the Wool of these Colonies may be improved, and suggesting ideas for the introduction of other Lanigerous Animals, suited to the climate and calculated to add to their Agricultural Resources. By Thomas Southey, Wool-Broker.
In our first article on the Commercial Prospects* of New Zealand, we pointed out a peculiarity in the circumstances under which wool is produced in Australia, and cotton in the United States, which confers upon the countries respectively named, a species of monopoly price, yielding to the producers something analogous to rent; a surplus capable of being maintained from year to year, because the production bears but a small proportion to the whole demand. We also intimated our opinion that New Zealand would hereafter enjoy a similar advantage in the production of the Phormium tenax.
With regard to the wool of Australia, the work now under notice confirms our views, and inclines us to believe that the Cape enjoys a similar advantage. There also seems reason to believe that New Zealand will produce wool to some extent, though, from the pre-eminence which she will enjoy as a wheat-producing
The work now under notice contains ample evidence of the rapid increase which has taken place of late years in the growth of wool in the Australian Colonies. Reminding our readers that our demand of foreign wool is now 40,000,000 lbs., we extract from Mr. Southey's book the following table:—
Wool Imported From The Cape And Sydney From 1829 To 1833, With The Annual Increase Per Cent.
Sydney and Tasmania. South Africa.
Pounds. Per Cent. Pounds. Per Cent.
1829 1,838,642 37,619
1830 1,967,309 7 33,407 Decrease 12 5/8
1831 2,493,337 35 1/2 47,868 Increase 27 1/4
1832 2,377,057 29 1/2 83,257 Increase 121 1/2
1833 3,516,869 91 1/2 93,325 Increase 140 7/8
1834 3,558,091 93 7/8 141,707 Increase 276 5/8
1835 4,210,310 129 191,624 Increase 409 3/8
1836 4,996,645 171 3/4 331,972 Increase 755 7/8
1837 7,060,525 284 468,011 Increase 1,146 3/4
1838 7,837,423 326 1/4 422,506 Increase 1,023
Mr. Southey's little book is purely practical in its character. His experience as a wool-broker has enabled him to point out defects in the mode of washing, packing, and otherwise preparing the wool for market, pursued by the Australian growers.
But our author is not merely a "practical man;" he is a practical man, and something more. He has evidently been in the habit of reasoning on his own observations, and the result is that his book is much more valuable than a mere dry record of "practical observations," which some worthy people deem all in all.
If New Zealand is to have sheep at all—and we suppose no one expects that she will not have sheep—Mr. Southey's book should be in every New Zealand farmer's hands. It seems to us to anticipate all that the sheep-breeder is likely to require to be informed of.
The effect of pasturage and of atmosphere, and especially of a saline atmosphere on the fleece, is carefully noted by Mr. Southey.
"We will suppose half a flock of South Down sheep reared in the centre of the South Downs, (known to be calcareous and chalky land,) and the other moiety transferred to some of the rich land found in the neighbourhood of Pevensey level, near Lewes. The contrast that would be perceptible in the fleeces of these two portions of the same flock, when shorn, is inconceivable to those who have not had an opportunity of witnessing the powerful influence of a change in pasture on the wool of sheep.
"Both the temperature of climate and herbage have an evident effect on wool, as may be seen in England on that of those flocks pastured within a few miles of the sea-coast, beginning with the Isle of Sheppy, round the coast of Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, &c. The wool of flocks which are fed within ten miles of the sea-coast, generally possesses a longer staple, and more pliancy of texture, and consequently it is better adapted to the use of the spinner than the produce of the same flock pastured further in the interior, on similar soil. This difference I am disposed to impute to the exhalations arising from the sea, which, like the smoke of London, extend inland at least ten miles, thus operating on the herbage as well as on wool.
"Herbage grown on chalky land being dry and less succulent than that produced on a loamy soil, it is consequently less nutritious; and the animal is thus deprived of the means of affording the requisite yolk to fill the pores of the fibre, which operates to nourish and soften the hairs of the fleece; while, at the same time, the small particles of chalkdust, which abound on the first class of land, raised by the wind or by the movements of the flock, intermingle with the fleece, and absorb that portion of the yolk which nature designed to support, soften, and nourish the fibres of which the fleece is composed.
"In order to counteract this objectionable property, the Colonial sheep-master will find it to be his interest to keep a reserve of superior land, into which his flocks may be driven a short time previous to the season of shearing. This change of pasturage will enable his sheep to afford to the fleece the required yolk, or nutriment, of which it had been deprived while feeding on a scanty sheep-walk of calcareous land. The benefits which he will derive by adopting the method here recommended are palpable. The fleeces will become softer, heavier, and consequently more valuable; and the owner will be thus recompensed for the increased trouble and attention he may devote to this branch of rural economy. Before I bring this part of my subject to a close, it may not be amiss to suggest, that, wherever the land will admit of irrigation, the utmost efforts should be resorted to in order to carry into effect so valuable and essential an improvement to a farming establishment, more especially in those warm climates inhabited by that class of persons to whom these pages are principally addressed."
Mr. Southey is very earnest in his recommendation of an admixture of salt. In the parts of Canada remote from the sea, salt is deemed absolutely necessary to the preservation of the health of the cattle.
"In those situations where pure and wholesome water cannot be procured, a small portion, or admixture of salt produces a favourable effect, by making it more palatable. I have perhaps dwelt longer on this part of my subject than may be thought requisite by many of my readers; but I was prompted to do so from a thorough conviction that the value of this needful mineral is not sufficiently appreciated by the generality of sheep-masters and agriculturists, even in England, and who might derive very essential advantage by causing a due quantity of salt to be interspersed through they hay-stacks, when erected in what is called "catching weather," as the stack is then composed of variable qualities of hay and not sufficiently dry."
"In the first place, it would be the most likely means of preventing ignition, at such periods; and secondly, it would cause the hay to become more palatable to the poor animals destined to consume it. We may therefore infer that a portion of salt sprinkled with the chaff of hay, or straw, in the mangers of sheep or cattle, would tend to render the fodder palatable to the animals, and consequently they will eat it with greater relish and avidity."
Mr. Southey's remarks on the management of the ewes during the lambing season are extremely valuable.
"The English sheep-farmers generally possess spacious yards with sheds, into which the breeding-ewes are driven during a very hot, wet, or extreme cold season. There they remain so long as the unfavourable weather lasts, or while the lambing period continues. This kind of accommodation would prove of equal advantage to the Colonial sheep-owners, as the sheds might afford shelter from the sun's rays, which would otherwise prove injurious to both the dams ahd their offspring.
"The Colonial flock-master will, therefore, see the necessity of contriving the means of affording shade and shelter to the breeding flocks at this particular period; at the same time that he would do well to keep in mind the absolute necessity of having his flock driven into the shade at all times during the hours of excessive heat, or he will find himself exposed to severe losses from the effect of the sun's rays. This suggestion alone, it is to be hoped, will prompt the reflecting flock-master to guard against an evil which must inevitably be attended with the loss of property, besides adding to the catalogue the cruelty of exposing an helpless animal to the rays of a vertical sun.
"A thoughtful owner of a breeding flock will take care to have a reserve portion of land, into which he will do well to have the ewes driven a few days previous to the commencement of lambing. Such a precaution will cause them to produce a greater portion of milk than they otherwise would if compelled to traverse a wide extent of country for food. At the same time, the usual pasture ranges will be ready for the occupation of the ewes and lambs when in a fit state to be fed on them; both of whom should be well fed until the lambs are strong enough to follow their dams while in pursuit of scanty pasturage. This is a subject of great importance to the Colonial flock-master."
Two other extracts are all that we need offer, namely on "Washing" and on "Shearing and Classifying the Wool."
"In hot climates, washing should be carried on in the shade, or under a temporary awning; excessive heat having in numerous instances proved injurious both to the shepherd and the objects of his care. The persons employed can besides do more labour whilst thus protected from the vertical rays of the sun.
"In the way of contrast, it may be proper to explain the mode of washing sheep practised by English farmers, which varies according to the locality or custom of the country in which they reside. In some counties tubs are used; and this method is very generally adopted in districts where ponds and streams are not at hand; indeed, when the natural advantages of flowing water do present themselves, the artificial substitutes of ponds and tubs is often preferred, being found to answer every purpose of cleaning the wool. Experience has often shown that wool washed in pond-water, of rather a dirty appearance, is preferable to the generality of streams. Those more especially which contain a carbonate of lime should be avoided, as the application of such water decomposes the yolk of the wool, besides counteracting the soapy properties and oily matter found in the fleeces, thus rendering the wool harsh to the touch, a property which extends to any cloth made of the material so prepared, and consequently deteriorates its value.
"The author has consulted persons who have superintended the washing of some of the most esteemed flocks in Saxony, and ascertaiaed that there the farmers give a decided preference to pond or tub-washing. They assign the same reasons as the English farmer, alleging that the animal grease which escapes from the wool produces the same effect on the water as soap, and tends to soften it, thus enabling the washer to perform his task with greater facility
"The unskilful operator impairs the fleece by not shearing close to the pelt or skin; which reduces the value of the wool, and often renders it unfit for the purposes to which it would otherwise have been adapted. For instance, long wool, suitable for spinning, if not shorn close to the skin, is materially impaired in value for combing; or if applied to that purpose, is bought at reduced prices, in consequence of its being injudiciously shorn. The great art of shearing is mainly confined to that of clipping as near the pelt as possible, without snipping the skin; and when that does 'perchance occur, an approved unguent should be at hand, in order that it may be applied to the part injured.
"It would be advisable for sheep just shorn in Australia, Tasmania, and Southern Africa, to be folded and placed in the shade, or under a covering, and retained there during the heat of the day. By having recourse to these salutary precautions, the health and lives of a large portion of them would be preserved from diseases to which inattention too often exposes them.
"It may, therefore, be of consequence to those persons whose flocks are numerous, to take this suggestion into their serious consideration, and ascertain whether it would not prove to their advantage to have their sheep shorn after the following manner. In the first place, to shear from either the lambs or sheep all the coarser parts of the fleeces, such, for example, as are produced on the hinder quarters, and known by the name of breech; and afterwards that from the tail, which being coarser and inferior to what is produced on either the back or sides, it might easily be kept separate and packed into bales by itself. The wool shorn from the back and sides would, by this exclusion, be materirlly enhanced in value.
"Both kinds should then be packed in separate bales, and marked accordingly. It would also be desirable to have the teg fleeces—that is, the produce of unshorn lambs, and such as are of a long staple, and adapted for spinning—kept distinct from the shorter qualities; as it would afford the clothier (who is the consumer of short wool) the means of selecting such as he may require without being encumbered with a description of wool more valuable if applied to combing purposes, and vice versa."
We have now only to add, that every settler about to proceed to New Zealand by the Company's ships, and who is likely to pay attention to flocks, should possess himself of Mr. Southey's book.


The pressure of news from New Zealand, and other interesting matter, has prevented our continuing and concluding our articles on the Commercial Prospects of New Zealand. It is, however, our intention to complete them forthwith. country, sheep-feeding will necessarily be subordinate to agriculture.

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