Optimistic references to the value of the Swine Compensation Act were made at the opening of the stock inspectors' conference yesterday. The president of the Institute of Inspectors of Stock (Mr. F. F. Forster) presided.
"We are in the happy position today of being able to meet without the danger of a swine fever outbreak," said the Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Thorby), when opening the conference. "We can safely say, I think, that the disease has been stamped out. The Act we have been able to pass I regard as a just measure, and I feel that it will be of great assistance to you as stock Inspectors. Before it came into operation there was certainly an inducement for the average stockowner to hide the fact that his pigs had become affected with disease. He had then to face the possible loss of all his stock, without compensation.
"The Act will also be a great help in outbreaks of tuberculosis. It has always been difficult to find the source of such outbreaks, but the cooperation of owners in the future should make this much easier, and the control of the disease more feasible."
"I venture to say," Mr. Thorby added, "that the day is not far distant when the owners of other classes of stock will see the wisdom of asking for a similar Act."
The State's freedom from swine fever, the Minister went on to say, was only made possible through the cooperation of stock owners and departmental officers. "A little incident that has occurred," he added, "brings to my mind the necessity for emphasising that the officers must have a sense of loyalty to those they are working with. In any case of difficulty they must recognise that they are units in one big organisation, and have a duty to their fellow officers to work in harmony with them."
"The present attitude of stockowners towards the scientific application of proper principles to the live stock industry has brought a position unique in the State," said the Chief Veterinary Surgeon (Mr. Max Henry).
Everywhere, Mr. Henry added, owners were showing keener interest in scientific knowledge, and hence there was an obligation on the officers dealing with stock matters to maintain their knowledge in such a state as to be ahead of the owners.
"We can't stop," he said, "and we shall go on demanding a higher standard of knowledge of animal pathology and husbandry in those appointed as stock inspectors."
"If a rapid survey of animal husbandry in this State is considered, it will probably be generally admitted that the greatest weakness is to be found in feeding," said Mr. Henry, in an address to the conference on "Feed and Disease."
The time had come, Mr. Henry continued, when, instead of stressing the prevention of disease they should rather concentrate on the preservation of health. It must be admitted that the productivity of much country was diminishing, and that the decrease could be arrested, and the pendulum forced in the opposite direction simply by proper attention to feeding. Productivity was decreasing because the stock were not in perfect health. They were not in perfect health very largely because their feed was deficient or unsatisfactory.
"There is no district in this State in which the carrying capacity and the productive value of the stock carried cannot be increased by attention to the food supply," he said. "The question is intimately bound up with that of management. It is fairly safe to say that the idea of associating management directly with the preservation of health has received far too little attention, and yet, if such an idea is aimed at there will automatically result increased production. Naturally enough at the present time, top-dressing of pastures occupies perhaps the first place, and in this regard it may be stated that every officer concerned with the health of live stock appreciates the work of the agrostologlst and his officers on the agricultural side. Instances of the fine results obtained from top-dressing are also quoted from Bombala, Cooma, and, of course, Goulburn, where the results obtained on Gundowringa are outstanding. Gundowringa has departed from the too common practice of waiting until disease has appeared through lack of feed before taking stops to deal with it. Second to pasture improvement comes, perhaps, the supply of lucerne, so valuable a food in the prevention of disease through its richness in lime and nitrogen and general high feeding qualities. The beneficial effect of a judicious ration of lucerne in the health of all classes of stock cannot fail to have been noted by anyone with experience of it."
"Possibly next in importance comes the provision of ensilage. Comment is made in more than a few reports by stock inspectors and district veterinary officers, on the primitive and wasteful methods so often employed in the feeding of maize and sorghum. Ensilage provides the basis of a mixed fodder for three months, and maintains milk production during the worst three mouths of the year. The drudgery of the old method is cut out, nothing is wasted, and the health of the stock is maintained. The subdivision of paddocks, with its natural corollary of spelling, also has an intimate bearing on the health of live stock. The tendency naturally is for stock to concentrate on the more palatable and nutritious grasses and plants. Spelling gives these plants an opportunity to maintain themselves. Stock when put back into a spelled paddock will gain in health through the greater abundance of such growth.
"A matter associated with the question of subdividing and spelling, and one which has always been somewhat of a bugbear in this country, is overstocking. The deplorable results on health are too obvious to require any stressing. It is simply a question of food deficiency, a deficiency which may be of quantity or quality, but which is usually of both. Over-stocking is, of course, a relative term. So far as the eastern half of the State is concerned the term that certain land is one sheep to the acre land, and so on, will rapidly become obsolete, because the carrying capacity will vary so enormously with the state of real improvement to which the land has been subjected. The 'improvements' of land in the past have been ringing, clearing, and fencing, etc. The 'improvements' of the future will include 'top-dressing,' 'laying down of subterranean clover,' 'planting of lucerne'," and so on.
"So far," Mr. Henry continued, "the question of actual food has been under contemplation, but it is desired to comment more particularly on one class of food material, and that is the mineral matters. Of the results of the deficiency of mineral matter, in the food in this country there can be no question. Most of the coastal inspectors draw attention to it, and to the fact that much of our country is going back as a result of the continuous grazing and of the failure to replace what is taken out of the land. Some districts, which have been more recently developed, are approaching, or are at the peak. They are still living on the reserves of food material stored up in the soil through unknown periods of time during which the demand on the soil was practically nil. When that reserve becomes exhausted they will begin to go down hill, and the result will be malnutrition and ill-health in the stock. The thing is a mathematical certainty. The length of time before such a tendency is exhibited will depend on the original richness of the soil. Now is the time to take action in districts which are not yet suffering. By doing so a vast amount of future disease will be prevented."
"It is possible on practically every property in Australia, to wipe out liver fluke in one year by eliminating the pond snail, which is its intermediate host," said Dr. I. Clunies Ross, in the course of an address on parasitic diseases of sheep.
Dr. Ross advocated the broadcasting of fine copper sulphate, mixed with sand, over fluke-infested areas. By this means the snail could be destroyed at a cost of about 30/ an acre. Recent work, he added, had proved that infested sheep could be definitely cured with one or two doses of carbon tetrachloride, though this treatment should not be considered a preventive measure. It were far better to remove the intermediate host, and the fluke with it.
Stomach worms, Dr. Ross went on to say, presented greater difficulties. There was no medicinal treatment which would kill every worm, though some would reduce the pest. This method, however, must he relied on as a main line of control. Repeated treatments, begun in the last cold winter month, would kill off worms affecting the sheep at that time, and give them a good start in the spring. Burning off the pastures from which the sheep became infested would also be found valuable. With a judicious balance of both methods it should be possible to run sheep profitably on even the worst worm areas.
None of the present treatments for nodular worms, Dr. Ross said, could be depended upon to remove the pests, though some might reduce the infestation. Recent work in Africa, however, had evolved a new method of treatment, which, while not applicable to large numbers of sheep, might be valuable where stud sheep had become infested.
The conference will be continued this morning.