Memorandum to avoidance of loss of stock upon AACo’s Warrah estate.
After passing through a season of drought as severe as 1877, the first thought upon learning the extent of loss of stock in that season on the Company’s Warrah estate
is whether there is any, and if so, what is the best security against such loss in the future?
It will assist the answering of this question if I just state
shortly the events preceeding the ascenting of this loss.
The practice so far adopted by the company has been to make Warrah principally a breeding station
for sheep, in addition to which it has been customary to purchase store sheep for fattening, and also to fatten bullocks from the Company’s Gloucester herd.
number of sheep latterly depastured has averaged 100,000, the cattle being about 3,000. The area of the estate is 249,600 acres, all fenced and all available.
numbers of the stock on 30th June 1877 were 115,902 sheep and 3,994 cattle. At that time the run was not absolutely short of feed, but the weather had been dry and threatened a severe drought, markets had been glutted for months and numbers were
only to be reduced by selling at very low rates. Sales were made accordingly and on 30th September, the numbers stood at 94,933 sheep and 3,469 cattle, the whole of which together with 16,162 lambs shortly
afterwards weaned, were because of drought, in such poor condition as to be unsaleable to the butchers. There was no demand for store purposes, and no possible method of further relieving Warrah than to send a run to New England and make arrangements for agistment,
which together provided for 43,000 sheep and 747 cattle.
These arrangements were made in the last quarter of 1877, and the stock remaining upon Warrah amounted
to 61,187 sheep and 755 cattle.
The season changed in February 1878 and by 30th April, all the travelling
stock had returned and the drafting was completed. The numbers resulting were 74,586 sheep and 2,619 cattle.
There had therefore been a decrease in six months
of 36,509 sheep and 850 cattle of which numbers, deducting sales and slaughtered, 32,494 sheep and 798 cattle were dead and missing, mostly from those left at Warrah.
The loss shows the urgency of the circumstances which have to be encountered at such times and I may safely say, that without the refuge we had found for part of the stock, the loss as enormous as it was, would have been doubled.
It is my opinion that loss to some extent is inevitable in such a crisis. I do not believe that we would have been more free from disaster if we had started with fewer numbers,
because where there is a superabundance of old grass, it is impossible to prevent fires, and even if saved from burning, the old grass would be left untouched by the stock till it became perished and crumbled away. Therefore I look for no safety from understocking.
The country should in my judgement always be kept well stocked, but never overdone and it would be of great advantage that each paddock were allowed in rotation to seed to grasses occasionally.
In admitting that I see no method by which Warrah would be made competent to maintain in hard seasons the stock it carries with ease in a more prosperous time. I am not doing it an injustice, or ignoring it’s excellence
so far that I believe the estate is not to be surpassed in the colony either for its lasting power or for the use to which it may be applies at all times. Unless some improved system is found to be applicable, I think it must be admitted that a loss must be
But this admission increases the necessity to carefully consider the best plan of working this magnificent estate, so that the fullest advantage
be taken in more prosperous times, that the loss in times of drought shall be as little as possible, and that when it occurs it will be confined to the least valuable of the stock.
I can suggest an improvement upon the plan here to fore adopted, and I would recommend that the station bred sheep be supplemented as formerly by purchase of weathers for fattening and that the estate should continue to give its valuable aid to the
The number of breeding ewes has been limited by the court of directors to 30,000. I think that limit should be adhered to, and it will imply
that the average number of station bred sheep will be from 90,000 to 100,000.
We have seen that though estimated as being able to carry a sheep to the acre
and a half at it’s best, the estate in a time of drought has failed to keep 40,000 sheep alive out of 60,000. It is conceivable that with a strengthened under ground water supply, we might be hard pushed to keep even 20,000 sheep alive within the company’s
The saleable sheep would of course be removed as occasion required or opportunity offered, but there would also be a large balance of unsaleable
sheep, and the question arises what is to be done with the balance at such time?
In my opinion, cattle cannot outlast a drought at Warrah. Feed will supply
a sheep upon which cattle would starve, and I should think it be recognized as a necessity that the cattle should be removed whilst travel is practicable, either to Gloucester or to some rented ground within the influence of coastal rain.
Mr Hudson is of the opinion and I am quite in agreeance with him that the forest country might be very much improved by ringbarking the timber, and the country so treated
will do much more in a drought, as well as in fair seasons. In this respect, Warrah is capable of improvement, but I know of no other means of increasing its capabilities in a hard season. No storage of water will outlast the wells, although some outlay in
that regard would find acceptable help in ordinary times. The case I am now considering is what to do with high class ewes on Warrah in a failure of feed as complete as in 1877, and of feed and water as in 1849/50, and 1838?