The pastoral industry

Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), Wednesday 26 February 1908, page 6



[III.— By our Special Reporter.]

Although sheep, horses, and cattle have played a part in the history of Kangaroo Island, that part has not been particularly prominent. For a long period every acre of land cleared for cultivation was considered too precious to be devoted to the growth of feed for stock. With the opening of the country, however, farmers, realizing the immense revenue-producing possibilities of the pastoral industry, began to improve the standard and the numerical strength of their flocks and herds. Among those intimately acquainted with the latest developments in this respect are Messrs. Campbell and Ayliffe, whose exhaustive fund of information proved exceedingly useful to me.

—The Golden Fleece.—

Thirty years ago or more Messrs. Taylor Brothers & Stockdale transported about 25,000 sheep from the mainland to Kangaroo Island, and turned them adrift in the scrub. Some time afterwards they mustered the flock, but only about 4,000 could be found. Then they understood the full import of the terrible mistake which had been made. They had expected the 'jumbucks' to pick up sustenance anywhere, and too late discovered that they had sadly over-estimated the carrying capacity of the land. As a result of the heavy financial losses which they suffered the island for several years afterward bore a bad name as a locality for sheepraising. Through the resourceful enterprise of a few pastoralists, however, it has been convincingly demonstrated latterly that a regrettable injustice was done to the place by the condemnation passed upon it. Though its defects are admittedly numerous, they are counterbalanced by advantages which do not prevail in other parts of the State. The practice of farmers at one time was to crop 40 or 50 acres, and allow some sheep to run in the bush. Now, not only are the latest methods in the cultivation of the ground pursued persistently and successfully, but skilful attention is given to sheepraising, which is regarded as an essential department in the conduct of a truly progressive farm. The class of sheep which eked out an existence in the early days has largely disappeared, and has been replaced by breeds which give substantially the most satisfactory returns. Generally speaking, the persons who own the biggest and best flocks are those who have spent money in the cultivation of the land before placing their stock upon it. Experience, often bitter, has taught them that it is out of the question to look for the fullest success without the adoption of this plan. Now they are reaping their rewards. An illustration of the wisdom underlying the principle if given in the case of Mr. Richard Chapman, of Point Marsden, the largest sheepfarmer on the island, who has 4,000 sheep besides between 100 and 125 big stock on 2,600 acres; and they do extremely well. Indeed, it would be difficult to discover a finer lot of animals. He shore 70 bales of wool last year, and dispatched part of it direct to England, where it brought 1/3 a lb. in the grease. Mr. Chapman's land is of a slightly superior character to the larger portion of the country elsewhere, being particularly rich in limestone.

—Other Pastoralists.—

One of' the next largest sheepowners is Mr. William Howard, of Cuttlefish Bay, who has about 3,000, including some magnificent fat wethers, and who obtained from 10d. to 10¾d. a lb. for his wool last year. The country on which he resides is rather hilly. Messrs. Warne & De Rose, of Wisanger Park, about 12 miles from Kingscote, also have 3,000 sheep on their estate; and Messrs Hart Brothers, of American River, run a similar number. Lake Farm (part of the Graves Estate, managed by Mr. Bertram), Messrs. William Buick, of Kangaroo Head; Robert Clark, of Antechamber Bay; and John Trethewey, of Cuttlefish Bay, each possesses about 2,000. Messrs. Fred Buick of Hog Bay, and O. H. Thomas, of Point Morrison, have 1,500 each, and among the smaller breeders are Messrs. Edward Burgess (Mount Pleasant), A. C. Burgess (White Lagoon), John Turner (Smith's Bay); C. J. May (Rocky River). John Hirst (Snug Cove), Ayliffe and Ewens (Karatta). A. H. Dawe (Hawk's Nest). P. Dewar. H. Ayris. Charles Wilson. T. Wilson. G. Gobell, G. G. Ayliffe Nepean Bay). G. Wright (South-West River), A. Neave (Cape Cassini). W. R Chapman (near to Point Marsden), and S. W. J. Buck, and Mrs. Florence (Cygnet Park). Allowing for the disabilities under which the growers labour, and the nature of the sheep stocked, the wool produced on the island is very good. At the recent sales in Adelaide there was keen competition among American buyers for small clips from Kangaroo Island. As a consequence of the introduction within the past 12 months of pedigree rams there should soon be a further all-round improvement in the quality of the fleeces. Merinos and Lincolns predominate on the island. The late Mr. E. M. Pitts, who was widely recognised as a clever wool expert, always firmly maintained that in consequence of its superb and temperate climate the island was ideally suited for woolgrowing. To the climatic conditions is attributed the superfine character of the fleeces, their comparative freedom from grease and the fact that seldom if ever is there any break in the staple of the wool. It is believed that if only good grasses and artificial fodders such as are produced on the mainland were grown extensively here, and careful attention paid to the industry, the breeding of lambs could be made highly profitable. At present the trouble is that the ewes are short-fed in the winter. Approximately 75 per cent. of the land is covered with dense scrub, some of which is burnt off by the farmers each summer. Sheep fare well on the fire-swept area for a couple of years. Then the undergrowth takes command again, and annihilates the natural grasses which have supported the sheep. Meanwhile another patch of brush and timber has been devastated, and the stock is moved on to it, for where fire has been the feed springs up with amazing rapidity after a rain.


In 1844 there was only one horse on the island, but "he was big enough for two, being more than 17 hands high." Others, including many excellent specimens, were subsequently imported from the mainland, though little was attempted in the direction of improving the stamp of animals prior to 1902. Since then a noticeable advance has been made, mainly through the instrumentality of Messrs. William Howard. J. N. Davis. W. R. Chapman, and Campbell and Ayliffe. These gentlemen have introduced good draught and light stallions, and are losing no opportunity to build up the best kind of horses for the country. As a rule the animals are prolific and hardy, and possess great bone. They mature splendidly, especially in the limestone areas, and bear most favourable comparison with the general run of those on the mainland. Mr. Gavin Barr, of Salt Lagoon, whose property includes 400 odd acres of magnificent grassland, is the principal horsebreeder. His animals are in splendid condition all the year round, and when herded together they present an inspiring picture. Clydesdales constitute the bulk of them. As a judge of this particular breed Mr. Barr is probably unrivalled in the Commonwealth. The present sire on the station is Glen Wallace, whose progeny have worthily perpetuated that horse's fame. Visitors to the island are astonished at the ease with which the light horses travel long journeys of between 10 and 50 miles a day on execrable roads. They speed along over boulders and stumps and through heavy, shifting sand as though enjoying the exercise, and seldom do they need stimulus in the shape of applications of the whip. That they are sturdy goes without saying, and it is only necessary to ride or drive them to realize their mettle, and thereafter for ever sing their well-earned praises. Of course, there are poor, useless things among them; but these are the exception. Several natty, clean-limbed, and powerful polo ponies are found here and there, and on Saturday afternoons may be seen at play on the racecourse about five miles distant on the Cygnet River. Owing primarily to the fact that most of the agricultural land is utilized for barley and oats, there not being sufficient inducement for the settlers to go in extensively for hay, the larger part of the horse feed consumed in Kingscote is brought from the mainland.


As with the sheep, for a long period the cattle on the island were largely mongrel bred. Eighteen months ago, however, a commendable innovation was made by Messrs. Chapman and Ayliffe, who imported a number of Shorthorns from the south-east. Mr. F. H. Ayliffe, of Karatta, also introduced a pedigree Shorthorn bull, from Nalpa Station and some heifers of similar breed. Mr. Ayliffe, whose herd on the south coast aggregates about 90 head, is the biggest cattleman on the island. Next to him is, Mr. Chapman, at North Cape. It is interesting to note that, notwithstanding the inferior class of cattle that has held sway for half a century or more, the growth which some of them have made has been phenomenal— a circumstance which points to the entire suitability of the climate and the country to cattle raising. For example, a team of eight bullocks that had been bred and worked here for a considerable time were conveyed to Adelaide and disposed of for £100— an average of £20 a head. One realized £28 10/, which was a record price in the Adelaide market to that date. The purchaser was Mr. S. Kidman. In summer the cattle live principally in the creeks, where the rushes and other water grasses form their food. The chief proprietors of cattle, in addition to those named, are Messrs. J. G. Bates and A. H. Hamilton (Emu Bay). W. H. Hamilton and J. N. Davis (near to Kinsscote), W. J. Campbell (Harriet River). E. Burgess (Mount Pleasant), and G. Gobell (Salt Lagoon). Strictly speaking, dairy farming is practically unknown on the island. Farmers in odd places churn quantities of butter for sale in Kingscote, but nobody has sought to promote the industry on wholesale scientific lines.

—Small Live Stock.—

Miscellaneous stock of' all descriptions thrive on the island, but, with the exception of pigs, are not raised to any great extent. Mr. John Turner, of Smith's Bay, grows immense turkeys, which make delectable eating. There is, however, a splendid opening for judicious and systematic poultry breeding, and no doubt in due course some energetic persons will avail themselves of it.

—Interesting Figures.—

The appended statistics compiled by M.C. Thorpe show the number of horses, cattle, sheep and pigs respectively on the island, and the quantity of butter manufactured during the four years ended on March 31. 1907:-1904-579, 588, 31,250. 233, 5,760 lb. 1905-669, 669, 34,870, 312. 6,970 lb. 1906— 884, 873, 36,248, 360, 7,280 lb. 190-978, 1,088, 38,466, 323, 4,710 lb., cheese 200 lb.

KANGAROO ISLAND. (1908, February 26). The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), p. .

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