[By our Special Reporter.]
It is wonderful what a lot of wholesome enjoyment one can crowd into a day, especially a day spent in the country. I realized this to the full last Friday, when, with the babble of politicians still ringing m my ears, I caught the early train North and journeyed as far as Mintaro. What a different picture the country presents now compared with what it did this time last year! There is every prospect of a really good season. All we want to assure this is spring rains. A way up in the Far North and North-East during the recent awful drought I saw the lambs dying in all directions, with the grim sextons of the overway hovering around for their prey, and to remember that scene and look on the picture that presented itself as the train sped along—ewes lying down peacefully in the abundant feed and the lambs skipping about in the fulness of young life—was like a benediction. Mr. F. H. Weston was waiting at Mintaro with his buggy and pair, and we were soon spinning alone the road on the way to Kadlunga, the picturesque property of the Right Hon. S. J. Way, situated about six miles west of the Mintaro railway station, and eighty miles north of Adelaide. En route we called in at the Mintaro flag slate quarry, the workings presenting quite a busy sight. The old quarry on the other side of the road, which is now full of water and used in the warm weather for bathing purposes, was worked originally by Mr. Priest. It then got into the hands of a company of Melbourne speculators, and languished in consequence. The present Company which opened up on the other side of the road, had a hard struggle to keep afloat at first, but it is progressing very satisfactorily at present. The quarry is not only, on account of its freedom from breaks and by reason of the excellent texture of the stone, one of the first flag quarries in the colonies, but it is admittedly one of the best in the world. The Company, which has been in existence about five years, and is well provided with machinery, is at prevent carrying out a big order for the City Corporation. We saw a piece of slate with a perfect face which had recently been raised, and which weighed four tons. The heavy freight mars the success of an intercolonial trade. Passing through the village of Mintaro, which name Mr. Weston thinks is of Spanish-American origin, I was shown the old police station, a solid structure, which cost £1,000 to erect, and which at present is bringing in a rental of 1s. 6d. a week—very good interest on the original outlay! Ere long we drew up at the entrance to the Kadlunga Estate. Kadlunga means ‘hills and water,’ and any one visiting the property at the present time would realize the appropriateness of the name. The homestead is surrounded by ranges some 2,000 ft. above sea level, while mention of the fact that 23 in. of rain has fallen this year will give same (sic) idea as to whether there is any water about or not. The estate since it came under the able management of Mr. F. H. Weston has been greatly improved and the natural beauties of the place added to by extensive plantations of sugar-gums, pines, English trees, and well-selected shrubs. The homestead is situated at the head of a glen on the dividing ridge of the watershed, one fall making for the Wakefield and the other for the Broughton. The outcrop of weather-worn rocks gives a rugged grandeur to the surroundings which no artificial methods could impart. Among the harmonious confusion of rocks the wattle has found a footing, and the wealth of yellow flowers lends a glow of colour to the verdure-clad elevations which is particularly captivating, while the presence of a rock wallaby now and again darting in and out and round about adds further life and pleasure to the scene. The music of running waters is a feature which never fails to charm in South Australia. The creek, which was dried up by the drought, is quite sportive again, the waters careering along at an exhilarating rate. On the banks, which are composed of peaty soil, at present quite marshy and sodden owing to the bountiful showers, weeping willows grow. But one might as well attempt to paint the lily as try to describe the natural beauties of the homestead at Kadlunga. But it can safely be said that the view from the top window of the dwelling looking away over the huge basin with the delicate blue line of the Barossa Range in the distance does not easily fade from the memory. The average rainfall is between 28 and 30 in.
I went up to see the Shropshire sheep, and I haven’t said anything about them yet. To
the Right Hon. S. J. Way belongs the honour of introducing the farmers’ sheep into Australia. It is a wonderful sheep, and under the Southern Cross it has more than justified its high reputation. The Shropshire sheep is descended from a breed which has been known to exist in Shropshire and Staffordshire for upwards of a century, for Plymley, writing in the ‘Agriculture of Shropshire’ in 1803 thus describes this sheep—’There is a breed of sheep on the Longwynd that seems an indigenous sort. They are nimble and hardy and weigh nearly 10 ld. per quarter when fatted. The fleeces on the average may yield 2½ lb. of wool.’ Though sometimes confused with the Southdown the Shrop is a bigger sheep and a better-woolled sheep. The original Shrop was horned, and though some few writers state that the Southdown was used in the first attempt at improvement of the breed and to effect the removal of the horns, many men equally well qualified to give an opinion adhere to the statement that the present uniformity of character and perfection of form is the result of selection from the best type of their own species. The Judges at Birmingham thus describe the Shropshire:—’A well-developed head with clear and striking expression of countenance, a muscular neck well set on good shoulders, the body symmetrical and deep, placed as squarely as possible on short legs, due regard being paid to grandeur of style, a well-covered head, and wool of the best staple and most valuable kind, rejecting as much as possible all animals showing black wool or dark skins. The skin should be a nice cherry colour, and the face and legs a nice soft dark, not sooty or a rusty brown, and free from all white specks. The belly should be well covered, and all inclination for the wool to peel at the jaw and legs should be avoided.’ No matter where it has gone the ‘Shrop’ has become immensely popular. Breeders have everywhere became enthusiastic in rearing this what has been described as a ‘farmer’s sheep; a rent-paying sheep; a tenant’s sheep; a money-making wool-producing, mutton-carrying sheep; a Bank; a save-all; a frugal-living and quick-fattening hardy sheep.’ It has caught on wonderfully in South Australia, and with the healthy market for frozen lambs in view the highly favourable impression it has created is likely to be increased with each succeeding year. It his been very easily acclimatized, and the improvement that has taken place is the breed since its adaptation to our clime has been most marked. Its wool properties have been decidedly enhanced. Comparing the early importations with those sheep Mr. Weston now has on view, there is not the shadow of a doubt about this. Shropshire studs are now to be seen at Kadlunga, Werocata. Watulunga, Kindaruar, and Narrung, and within recent years quite a number of farmers have been using Shropshire rams in their Merino flocks. The breeders of Shropshires in England formed themselves into a Society in 1882, and in 1895 the South Australian breeders also formed a Society—the first in Australasia. This is affiliated with the English Society. The Kadlunga is the oldest-established flock of Shropshires in Australia, having been founded in 1888 by an importation from England of 10 two-year-old ewes and 1 ram. Great care was taken to secure the best type of sheep for forming a stud in Australia. Three of the original ewes are still living, one having already reared 15 lambs, and will shortly lamb again. In 1894 the imported ram Fenn wait purchased from Mr. Raili for 100 guineas and added to the stud. This ram gained first prize as a yearling at Ludlow, Shropshire, in 1891, and was illustrated in the English ‘Live Stock Journal.’ He was admittedly one of the finest specimens of the breed ever seen in Australia. After two years’ service Mr. Weston unluckily lost him, but fortunately he left stock behind him well fitted to fill his place; one ram in particular—His Majesty—being a very fine animal, and said by a gentleman who has recently been through some of the leading studs in Great Britain to be bigger than anything he saw there. Mr. Weston remarked:— ‘Although this breed of sheep has been brought to a high state of perfection by skilful breeders in Great Britain, it is my opinion that with the more favourable conditions which obtain in Australia its fleece can be improved upon without sacrificing any of the mutton qualities. In England the same attention is not paid to the wool as here, for the simple reason that it only represents about one-eighth of the value of a full-fleeced fat sheep, while here it would probably represent fully one-third of its value. Whether I have done anything to justify my opinion I will leave others to judge, but I am certain the Kadlunga Shropshires to-day are infinitely better woolled than those on which the flock was founded. There has always been a good demand for rams from this flock. With the exception of three or four reserved for Melbourne and Adelaide sales Mr. Weston has sold out. He could have placed many more this season if he had had them. Kadlunga usually runs 4,000 Merinos, and Mr. Weston never finds any difficulty in disposing of his Merino rams. Wherever they go they always justify their reputation. Having partaken of luncheon, we proceeded to inspect the stud. Almost the first sheep we met was Princess Royal, one of twins by His Majesty out of Modesty, a twice champion ewe. This young lady, who is twelve months old, is a perfect little model. She is beautifully symmetrical, her lines being wonderfully true. She carries a grand fleece, the wool being of especially good quality. I was next introduced to Modesty, who although aged is a wonderful sheep. She has had a very successful record. She took first prize in Melbourne as a yearling, first honours in Adelaide the same year in the under eighteen-months’-old class, the next two years she secured champion honours, and last year she was first in her class. Model, another champion ewe, next attracted our attention. She is two years old this month, and is by Fenn, and is a wonderfully well-woolled ewe. When fourteen months old she cut 11½ lb. of wool for 11½ months’ growth. She will probably cut 14 lb. this year. We then walked over the hill, which was quite spongy owing to the excessive wet; indeed we had to be careful not to get bogged, and had a look at some sixty stud ewes, which are splendidly quartered in a well-sheltered paddock. The ewes, which range from two years old to twelve years, are a fine, big, shapely, bold lot of animals, and characterized as well by their good-wool properties. There are twenty other ewes to lamb, and about forty maiden ewes, or 120 odd in all. The lambing was just commencing. We then proceeded to one of the stalls, and bad a look at His Majesty and Crown Prince, these two rams having been brought in for the occasion. His Majesty, who is by Fenn, is three years old. He is of wonderful proportions and a great length, and yet his top and bottom lines are perfect, there being no suggestion of dip despite his great measurement. He carries a heavy fleece, the wool being of a robust character. But the beau ideal of a Shropshire was Crown Prince, the twin brother to Princess Royal. He is a thorough little gentleman, and as Mr. Weston says, ‘the best youngster I have seen here.’ He is a picture to look at, and will take a lot of beating in the eighteen-months’-old class at the Adelaide Show, when he will be thirteen months’ old. His fleece is as dense as a Merino’s, the wool being beautifully serrated from base to tip. The quality of the staple is wonderfully fine. As Mr. Weston said, ‘I have seen many a Merino with wool nothing like the character of Crown Prince’s.’ He gets this quality from Modesty. He carries his wool well down, and he is set off by a perfect head surmounted by a beautiful cap. He is very close to the ground, and his marking leaves nothing to be desired. The delicate soft black velvety points shows him off splendidly. He is very full behind, but his legs are set well back, and he stands like a little champion. His skin is of a delicate cherry colour, and his lines are exact. In fact, Crown Prince is a true type of his breed. He is bound to excite admiration at the Show. Saying good-by (sic) to father and son we walked up the rise. Dodging some more marshy-like country, we had a chat with three other rams. One of this trio was as pert and cheeky as the proverbial Australian youth. He cocked his head on one side and rubbed his nose against our hands in a most nonchalant manner. He is no respecter of persons, as recently when His Honor was on a visit to the station he was every bit as familiar. His Honor took quite a fancy to the ram. But docility and tractability are characteristics of the breed. With a little handling the ‘Shrops’ become as playful and affectionate as pets. Time was up, as I had to leave to catch the afternoon train, and I departed full of regrets that my pleasant visit to Kadlunga had been all too brief.