A. L. McCredie December 1 1910


A. L. McCredie December 1 1910



A. L. McCredie

Wool is everybody’s business, because it affects the cost of everybody’s living. It makes Grits by nature, Tories by necessity. In the United States it makes “Insurgent’’ Republicans. If it were cheaper there might be less of the “White Plague.”

The following article by Mr. McCredie asks why it is that Canada imports wool and mutton when she should be able to grozu it. In fact, he asks why Canadian fanners have given up sheep ; and why, therefore, zee have to import the meat and the fleece from pretty nearly the Antipodes. Having put the question he proceeds to show that Canada, by utilizing her waste lands, could support sixty million of the zvool-bearers, and that the fanners of the country would do well to reconsider their prejudice against that animal.

LAST year 300,000 carcases of Australian mutton were imported into Canada—Canada, the foodsupply source for the Empire!

Last year 7,683,000 pounds of foreign-grown wool were imported into Canada—Canada, whose pure bred sheep have for years taken nearly all the prizes in international exhibitions!

We need mutton. Though we have an exportable surplus of cattle, the national taste will still for good reasons demand mutton as a part of the national ration, even if we have to bring it thousands of miles to the table.

We need wool. Until we are all wealthy enough to indulge in a universal use of silk, we must have woolen goods for daily use. Nothing is more truly a general necessity to rich and poor.

Yet—we are dependent on other parts of the world for both these staple and necessary products of the farm. More—though yearly our population strides forward our native sheep population dwindles. Why?

In 1871 Canada’s sheep population numbered one for every inhabitant. In 1901 (only 30 years later) our sheep had decreased until there was less than half a sheep for every Canadian.

But even in 1871 Canada was in no sense a sheep country. If we go into sheep raising, by all means let us go into it decently. Let us make it a business, as we have made dairying and wheat-growing. By supplying the demand now, as we did in 1871, we would now find on Canadian farms 6.310.000 sheep, all doing their part. The truth is, we find actually less than

one-third this number. Yet Canada can easily and profitably carry 60,000,000 sheep.

The census statistics of 1901 are interesting. In that year Canada had 2,510,000 sheep. Germany, with a total area less than one-seventh the size of agricultural Canada, had about four times as many (9,600,000). Great Britain, upon one-twelfth the area of our farming belt, carried 38,500,000 sheep, or fifteen times our little flock. In the Argentine Republic, which is only two-thirds the size of our farming belt, with only two-thirds our population, throve 67,211,000 sheep, or twenty-six times our number.

Lest some one suggests that these may be especially sheep-raising countries, please note that Germany had two cattle and two hogs for every sheep; that Great Britain carries on all branches of farming in balanced proportions ; and that in the Argentine there were five cattle for every inhabitant, while Canada had scarcely one !

With the same number of sheep per acre as Germany, Canada, in 1901, would have had 67,000,000 sheep. Compared with the Mother Country similarly, we should have had 456,000,000. And compared with the Argentine, Canada’s flocks would have shown 86,000,000 sheep. It seems then absolutely certain that Canada could carry at least 60,000.000 sheep without lessening her other farming activities in the least, provided our soil and climate would give the sheep a fair show.

But no one doubts that sheep thrive in every part of Canada. Our sheep supply the flocks of the whole continent with their sturdiest breeding parents. We have not the droughts of Australia, which periodically destroy millions of sheep and lambs. Unknown Ín Canada is the fatal “redwater fever” of South Africa, and the other deadly enemies of the flocks of the great sheep countries. It is simply a question of finding the acres to

feed them, the farmers to raise them, and the proper method of marketing sheep and wool.

Where shall we feed our 60,000,000 sheep? The land is the first and greatest consideration. The agricultural belt of Canada possesses a variety of soil, climate and other conditions. We have the rocky, rough, waste lands of Nova Scotia, Northern Quebec, Eastern and Northern Ontario and British Columbia. We have the fertile and rolling farms of the Maritime valleys, of the uplands of New Brunswick, of old Quebec and old Ontario. We have the vast prairies of the west.

On the present farms of Canada, assuring an average of 23 sheep on the eastern farm and 25 sheep on the western quarter-section, our sheep would reach the total of 21,731,000. It is a respectable number for us to undertake to possess, yet as easy and simple as anything can be, that is so well worth while. It simply needs that every farmer should start a flock. With a beginning, on the average farm, of five ewes, the fifth year’s end would see 21,000,000 sheep in Canada.

But five sheep for each farm would mean, to start, a sudden demand for some five million ewes in Canada, whereas our breeding sheep total at best about two million. Importation must greatly increase, export of breeding animals must cease, and native breeding be undertaken for this purpose especially, in order to see our farms each equipped with the foundation of a flock as suggested, even within ten years. In the meantime, it is safe to say the demand would constantly increase and prices steadily increase in proportion.

But 21,000.000 sheep are not 60,000,000 sheep. Where could we find the feeding ground of the extra 40,000,000? Where shall we get the parents of that gigantic flock? We shall feed them where to-day no useful plant or animal feeds—on our vast waste lands, that appear in desolate stretches from coast to coast. We will find their parents upon the aver-

age farms of Canada, when our farmers shall have set out to produce the

21.000. 000 stipulated. There lies our greatest market for the next generation. There lies the national aspect of this question.

But let us see if our waste lands are adequate to feed so many sheep, and if men will be attracted to the enterprise proposed. As to extent of unoccupied waste lands, useful for sheep-raising and less useful for other purposes, Canada has in all, of such land, in the climatic zone favorable to sheep, more than 360,000,000 acres. This is now lying undeveloped. Most of it is in the west, and may some day be largely brought under cultivation. Yet, under cultivation, it will still carry the same number of sheep as we propose that it should carry as waste. In the east there are nearly

100.000. 000 acres of land, deforested, burned over, or otherwise denuded, incapable of profitable farming in the modern sense, but providing, with a paltry preparation, the best sort of range for sheep. The same is true of another 60,000.000 acres of land in British Columbia, at the same conservative estimate, making a total of

360.000. 000 acres of land readily adaptable to sheep-raising.

We have a good example of the usefulness of such lands for sheep. Scotland grazes seven million sheep, most of them upon 9,500,000 acres of rough moor and mountain side. It is safe to say that one sheep can readily be supported by the growth upon nine acres, taking good range with poor. Thus we have our 40,000,000 sheep.

At present prices of lambs, mutton, and wool, taking one year with another, an average flock of say twenty sheep can be made to yield a good profit.

For instance, a careful comparison of actual profits from cattle and sheep was made recently by the Ontario Department of Agriculture. The sheep were common scrubs, running on the rough farms of northeastern Ontario, ill-bred, and in-bred

at that, as is too often the case. No special care, no fall feeding, were given. Compared with Stockers and dairy cows, the result arrived at was, to quote:

“Allowing the cost of wintering five sheep to equal that of one cow, it was found that the returns in the fall from an average crop of five lambs would be $21. Add five fleeces at $1.50 each; total would be $28.50, against $20 to $22 for the cow.” As to labor comparisons: “The lamb did the milking, and there was no time lost or expense incurred in sending milk to factory or creamery. The cost of 25/2-year-old stockers in the same sections included two winterings, the expensive feeding time, and they sold at $14 to $22 each.”

One farmer wrote:

“My flock is a grade one, well graded to good Shropshire stock. It consists of twenty-five breeding ewes, with five ewe lambs kept each year to replace old ones culled out. The lambs arrive in April ; the males are castrated, and all except those which are used for food, or kept for flock maintenance, are fattened the following winter, and sold in February or March. In short, my flock is one which could be kept on any farm in Ontario, in its proper place, as a sideline to other live stock farming. There is no special equipment or care, other than would be given to any other form of live stock. Let us see how this flock pays.

“During the year just closed, I have sold from my flock $234.80 worth of mutton, $39 worth of wool, while five lambs, valued at $6 each, have been used for food on the farm ; total returns, $303.80, of which $264.80 has been for mutton, and $39 for wool.”

This man thus gets a gross revenue of over $12 per head from his flock.

The farmer with a flock of ewes of sturdy character and headed by a well-bred, well-formed ram, should sell his lambs at not less than $7.50 each for the next twenty years’ average. With ordinary care he should

get a lamb from every ewe on the average. Such ewres should yield a fleece weighing an average of 7)4 pounds. With proper marketing facilities, the 'wool should net the farmer of eastern Canada at least 18 cents, the western farmer 17 cents per lb. This would total a revenue from each ewe of $8.85 at least, each year, or, say, $44 for five, $175 for twenty sheep. Not counting the value of the wool as anything, the annual revenue, not counting feed and labor, would equal 100 per cent, on the cost of the ewe.

Finally, we have to count in the gain to the farmer in the eradication of weeds by pasturing sheep. It is estimated that not less than $27,000,000 were lost to the farmers of Canada in 1909 because of weeds. It is known by all that the sheep is, as one puts it, “the most nearly perfect zueeding machine in the zoorld.” If this amount of money could be saved to Canadian farmers by sheep-raising, it would mean practically a credit, hr “pennies saved,” of one dollar per sheep. Add that—or half of it—to the revenues given ! And remember that weeds grow rapidly more numerous and more expensive, if not checked and eradicated.

But, some one will ask, if all the farmers of Canada go into sheep-raising, will not prices drop below the point of profit? Let us see. There are in the world now, according to census reports, over 400,000,000 breeding sheep. The demand for mutton and wool has increased steadily— must always increase, in proportion to the world’s population, yet the flocks of the world have not kept pace therewith. In consequence, wool and mutton have risen in prices. Add 21,000.000 sheep to 400,000.000, and you increase that number by 5 per cent. Therefore, if it were possible to raise our sheep in one year to 21,000,000, we could be sure the prices would not

drop more than 5 per cent. This would not affect the argument in favor of sheep-raising in any particular. But it will take us, try as we may, fifteen or twenty years to reach the figure given. There can be no fear that prices for mutton and wool will drop.

The great need in Canada, as regards wool, is organized system in getting the wool to its market. Until Canadian wool can be bought by standards, known in the wool markets of the world, where every user of wool finds his prices set for him, there can be no increase in price to the wool-grower. Until the world’s markets know what Canadian wools can be used for in manufacturing, how it compares with other supplies as to length of fibre, percentages of shrinkage, percentages of inferior grades, etc. ; until a buyer is assured that he can get in Canada a large quantity of one particular sort when he wants it, and get exactly the same sort again when it is required; until, in short, we can sell wool as the wool markets demand it, we cannot expect to get the prices we hope for. And until we can supply our home manufacturers with the wools their mills must have, as promptly and as satisfactorily as they can buy it in England or elsewhere, a duty could not well be placed so as to benefit the farmer.

First, then, we must have a standardization of our wool. This can be secured only by grading stations under competent supervision by experts. These, in turn, are not likely to be obtained except by the instance_ of the Federal Government. It is time the Dominion Government should devote the modest amount necessary to the establishment of a national sheep industry.

Let our Government take energetic steps to assist Canada in starting a National Sheep Industry.