Greetings loyal readers from far away places, like Cambodia. Do you like the photo? Mummy saw it last night when she was coming home from work and she couldn’t resist taking a photo. It is coming up to the first anniversary of my blog and it all came about because of Tux, but more about this later. The following is an article mummy wrote for the Wanganui Chronicle last year about sheepand given the photo is about sheep she thought she would share it with you all. Mummy writes an article for the paper every week about local history.
The farming of sheep was very much the backbone of New Zealand’s economy in the 19th and 20th century. From 1856 to 1987 sheep farming was the most important agricultural industry in New Zealand, and wool was the country’s single most valuable export for 89 of the 112 years between 1856 and 1967.
In the nineteenth century the most popular sheep in the Whanganui district was the heavy fleece bearing Lincolns. The Lincoln sheep was bred to adapt to the cold wet conditions of the Lincolnshire fens with its low, marshy soil. It is was one of the largest British sheep and grew a coarse fleece. Lincolns were brought to New Zealand in the early 1860’s and were popular in wetter districts and on heavy soil. However, the technological innovation of refrigeration caused sheep farmers in the Whanganui district to undergo a fundamental change in their attitude towards sheep breeding. The Lincoln sheep was unsuitable to the English meat markets because buyers did not like the fattiness of the carcass. Cross breeding between Lincoln rams and Merino ewes resulted in a sheep which was better suited to the English market as the fat was more evenly distributed and good prices were achieved for their finer wool. In May 1891 there were 147,109 sheep in the Wanganui County compared to 137,109 the year before. In the whole of New Zealand there was 16,116,113 sheep.
A traditional tool of the sheep farmer, unaffected by the needs of technology, was the sheep dog. Without sheep dogs the cost of farming would be much higher because of the difficulty of mustering extensive numbers of sheep in large areas. The importance of sheep dogs to farmers has been highlighted by the numerous times the National Sheep Dog Trails have been held in the Whanganui district. Trials were held on the Parapara-Makirikiri Club’s course at Lismore in 1948. National trials were held at Mangamahu in 1957, 1965 and 1983 at “Te Rimu”. The Mangamahu course was highly regarded because the three events of dog trails; longhead, zig zag and shortheard could all be seen at the same time. The Mangamahu Dog Trial Club was formed in 1923 and within two months the first trial was held, such was the enthusiasm of the founders of the club. With so little time for preparation there was a lot of work involved and there was not a gate left on some of the local farms as all had been requisitioned for hurdles etc. The trials were held in “mud up to the neck” and there were over 100 entries, a remarkable number considered the difficulty of access to Mangamahu in 1923.
Feeding contestants, visitors and doggy participants was an on-going endeavour. Feeding the dogs was a straight forward task. There was plenty of ”dog-tucker” (old ewes) to be had for the hard working unpaid four-legged farm workers. Feeding the human population often proved for problematic. For them the first cook house was a corrugated iron lean-to. It was a primitive building with simple facilities. There was an old fashioned copper for boiling water, a wood stove for cooking potatoes and heating pies. The water had to be carried from an outside tank to the copper and there was a continual battle with the wind, wasps and wet weather. Considering the conditions the fare sounded pretty good. The menu included cold meat, wild pork, corned beef mashed potatoes, pickled onions, jam and chutney for lunch with cakes, scones and pikelets for afternoon tea.
Isn’t is such a good article. Here is a photo of Nellie looking adorable, as usual, but also rather gubby. Love Nellie and Jasper