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SHEEP LEASES AND STATIONS.
diggings, which promises to leave the best flocks to the mercy of the native dogs, the blacks, and the chances of the wilderness, in a system of sheep leases.
A good shepherd, with a family of sons, two or three grown up, and enough money saved to carry him through the year, could afford to pay rent in wool, as shown in the following calculation by the author of “ Twelve Years in Australia in 1850,” which we do not, however, guarantee ; but the principle is right, and may be extensively acted on:
“ Scheme of Lease.—Two thousand sheep of the best class are worth £500. A proprietor might lease them to a competent shepherd with a large family of boys, and take a mortgage over them under the special colonial law. The father would act as watchman, and his sons as shepherds ; so he would have nothing to pay for labour, and would be able to keep his boys and girls all at home. He would grow his own wheat, and would have nothing to pay except for tea, sugar, extra expenses for shearing, and carriage down to port. At 10d. per pound, the wool would be worth £166 13s. 4d. The shepherd could take the increase, and afford to pay £100 a year, which would be 20 per cent., and undertake to deliver the same number of sound ewes at the end of the time agreed.
“Of course, this is an arrangement which could only be entered into where there was a certain degree of previous confidence between the parties.”
Our young colonist must not follow the example of a very dashing gentleman, who brought letters to the governor and all the notables, at the end of a month of fêtes and feastings bought ten thousand sheep, and when he had paid for them discovered that he had forgotten, under the advice of the merchant whose sheep (mortgaged) he bought, to secure a run for them; so the sheep soon ate their heads off. This is one example of the bargains to be had at the tables of Australian merchants.
Sheep Station. A good sheep station includes a superintendent's hut and a store, a detached kitchen, men's huts, a wool-shed, with wool-press and yards; a milk-yard, milking-pail, and gallows for slaughtering bullocks ; woolpress, horse paddock; a paddock for wheat, maize, oaten hay, potatoes, and other vegetables; a barn, corn and horse sheds, and steel mills, one or more.
The store contains not only the provisions, such as flour, tea, sugar, &c., for six or twelve months, but slop clothing and other necessaries, for sale to the men.
We do not venture to give the cost of these bush improvements because, the materials being on the ground growing, the cost will depend on the rate of wages at the time, and the distance the timber has to be drawn.
They may either be executed by contract, or by men hired at wages. The master will save by taking a turn himself at the work; but, without harshness or haughtiness, it is necessary to keep bush servants, especially old hands, at a certain distance, especially in leisure hours. It does not do to drink with your men, or to treat them, unless on a journey.
The Scab. The prevention of scab and the extirpation of scab in the native dog, almost entirely occupied the attention of the first Legislative Councils of New South Wales. The first is a scourge which has ruined hundreds, perhaps thousands. It is virulently infectious, and may be transmitted, not only by actual contact, but by clean sheep passing over ground where an infected flock has passed. For this reason, sheep once sent to a large town should never be allowed to return to their old run, but sold at any sacrifice; for in going they must pass over the scabs of so many foul sheep sent to be boiled down that they are not to be trusted. Once infected, and the character of the flock is gone: no one will purchase your ewes or rams, however fine the breed.
The master sees the sheep scratching, but will not allow himself to believe that the fatal curse has fallen upon his property. If he takes the trouble to examine the part affected, ten to one he pronounces it to be grass-seed, which much resembles incipient scab. “Pooh! pooh!” he exclaims, “these sheep never were diseased; it is impossible!" although the careless, sleepy, or revengeful shepherd has allowed the sheep to pass over foul ground. But very soon the ulcer comes out, so that there is no mistake; and the question is, whether to fatten and boil down the rest, or try to cure them.
The following recipe cured a large flock which had been given up as hopeless, but the application required the constant attention of the overseer :
First make a table of some stout old bark, raised a little at the upper end; then make a hut in the following manner.
Make a wooden frame three long and two feet wide, drive four legs into the ground of the same dimensions, nail the frame to them; then take a wet bullock's hide, place it over the frame, and press it down until it touches the ground; nail the hide to the frame, cut off the superfluous pieces round the edges, and you have a capital waterproof tub, if there are no holes in the hide.
Fill an iron pot of sixteen or thirty-two gallons with water, put it on the fire and for every gallon, throw in an ounce of arsenic: boil, and stir with a long stick for twenty minutes.
At the end of that time it is fit for use as soon as cool. The sheep must be carefully but not over shorn. Seize one, turn him on his rump, tie three of his legs, then dip him up to his ears in the tub, keep him in a few seconds until he is thoroughly wet, then let two men whip him on the table close at hand, and with a couple of horsebrushes, dipped in the tub and soft soap, rub him gently, but thoroughly all over.
Two men, with a third to attend to the pot, catch, and tie well, will dress about one hundred a day in this manner.
As soon as the sheep are dressed they ought to be placed on a clean run, four or five miles from the shed where they were dressed. If these directions are carried out to the letter they will be attended with perfect success, but not if the flock are kept on the infected run until all are dressed; it will probably fail. If the weather is fine, and there is no rain, you will not lose above five per cent.; but some will die in the tub. You must not scarify them at all, or they will be certain to die.
For lambs which are only slightly infected three quarters of an ounce of corrosive sublimate to the gallon of water is sufficient.
But, after all, the cheapest way is to make them fat and boil them down, for on a good run scabby sheep get as fat as clean ones.
The foot rot, and also the catarrh, may often be stopped and cured by changing the run. No man can tell what will make a good sheep run by mere sight: there are districts which appeared admirable when first discovered, but which on trial proved productive of catarrh, of foot rot, and even poisonous, although no poison plant could be detected.
The scab may also be detected in sheep after they have been shorn, if they are fed on green grass.
Before purchasing a run it is advisable to ascertain from old hands, who must be conciliated, whether there is water in dry seasons, taking in at least seven years, and whether any, and what, proportion is flooded.
Buy sheep at three and four years old, not a day older, according to the marks ; a sheep is four until five; ewes with lambs at their side are sure not to be barren ; but with ewes buy as many wethers as will serve for your own eating for two years; so you will save the expense, the trouble, and the risk of disease, of buying them from your neighbour. Pay a competent and safe person to examine and mouth every sheep, and see he does it. See that—1, their udders are sound; 2, no ruptures ; 3, no foot rot; 4, eyes bright and clear, not yellow or inflamed; 5, not too many black faces, ears, and legs. A few black sheep are useful, as marks to count by.
When satisfied, march away at once; by no means stop the night ; you might lose one or two if the seller's shepherd wanted any to make up his number. Ten miles is a full day's journey, half starting at daylight before breakfast. Let them camp during the heat of the day, as they will have been feeding as they came along, and finish the journey by sunset. Drive the rams before the ewes, and make a bushyard to keep them in at night.
In choosing a run avoid a sandy country. Plant your huts on the northern or eastern side of the range, which will give the advantage of the morning sun for drying the folding-ground. In a hilly country the low grounds will be found the colder in winter; therefore the folds should not be pitched there. Catarrh has been attributed to folding, with show of reason, in winter, on low ground, near water.
In travelling never hurry sheep, especially with lambs at their sides. If you should have bought ewes in lamb, and they should begin to drop whilst on the road, you must stop (about six weeks) till the lambing is over. A lamb three days old can travel as well as the mother.
Cattle and Bullock Teams. The colonist may have to purchase a bullock dray and team to convey his family and goods immediately after landing. Horse-teams answer best where roads have been made ; but in travelling over a wild country a bullock-team will draw up almost perpendicular ascents, and, in descending into creeks or gullies, drag a load out of depth where a horse would fall and break his back.
For such work a two-wheeled pole-dray is best; yokes, bows, and chains, all capable of being made or replaced by a bush blacksmith, answer best; on roads the shaft dray is often preferred to the pole.
A dray complete with harness and eight bullocks used to cost from £16 to £30.
But before purchasing a dray a good bullock-driver must be engaged—as rare an article as an honest competent groom in England. In capacity there are none equal to “old hands," men who have been prisoners in the old times; they understand the bullocks and the bullocks understand them ; each bullock answers to his name, and the bullock-driver, wielding a long and formidable whip, will make them drag a heavy load over an apparently inaccessible range. Some of these men, although rude in appearance and coarse in speech, are honest as the day, and, if properly treated, thoroughly to be relied on. At any rate a good bullock-driver is a treasure. He will examine the dray, unless you have given a wheelwright 5s. to pass his eye
THE RETURN OF THE DRAY.
over it, and see that the wheels and boxes are all right; and he will also select a team of bullocks that will all work together. Some persons have been in a fix from buying all near or all offside bullocks ; and although a good bullock-driver will make them work, if not very old and obstinate, it is much better to see them yoked first, and drawing comfortably together.
The bullock team and dray form one of the peculiar features of Australian bush life, whether descending to the port with wool, or returning with stores.
The return of the dray is a great event in the bush, especially when the dray has carried to market the first load of the frugal settler, who, after a certain probation as servant, has emerged from the condition of servitude to be his own master and a freeholder.
Sugar, perhaps, has been long exhausted, and so have pepper and mustard; the bottom of the tea-chest can be seen, and the salt-bin is almost empty ; purchased flour may have been superseded by homegrown wheat or maize; but the family are almost in tatters. At length, when for many days the one universal answer to the children has been, “Yes, you shall have it when the dray comes back," just as the sun is getting low, far off through the clear atmosphere, the panting longhorned heads of Blackbird and Bluebeard appearing over the crown of the dividing range, close followed by Boldface and Pieball, and all the rest, the young ones set off with a scream to meet father, and soon the long procession draws up before the hut, and the happy owner forgets his weary hot days of journeying in the pleasure of unpacking his treasures, “ the sweeter because paid for by the produce of his own frugal labour.”
“ There is the tea-chests and the sugar, and a bonnet and a shawl, and a piece of gay cotton to make gowns and dresses, jackets for the boys, and a gun, to the surprise of his wife, for · blessed if he don't mean to have a shot at the game laws hisself!'”
With a good dray, properly loaded, and a three-poled tent, a new colonist, with even a large family, need not be afraid of “bushing it” at a pinch. He should on no account allow any spirits to be taken on the dray. As Job Thorley says, “Mister Teetotal is good at sea and in the bush.” A person in a small
should have a written engagement with his bullock-driver, not only to drive, but to make himself generally useful, and help to put up any necessary buildings, yards, hurdles, &c.
The timber of Australia is so different from that of Europe that English workmen are very helpless until instructed by bush hands.