One of the most important duties of the stock inspectors at the present time was the control of the rabbit pest, declared Mr. Max Henry (chief veterinary surgeon) at the annual conference of the Institute of Inspectors of Stock of New South Wales, which was held in Sydney this week. Mr, Henry, who opened the conference, said that the prime factor in the spread of the pest appeared to be the financial position of graziers. A contributing cause to the Increase in rabbits was the favorable seasons experienced in the western districts, which allowed the pest to breed rapidly. Reports indicated that the situation was improving, and the dry spell in the west was causing the death of great numbers of the pest.
Mr. Woollett said that in view of the extension of the dairying industry, and seeing that it was part of the stock inspector's job to watch the interests of stock owners, generally, he wished to refer to the large number of persons travelling about the country selling "medicines" for the cure of cattle ailments. Lismore seemed a happy hunting ground for the "go getter." A large number were illegally practicing as veterinary surgeons, but two successful prosecutions for infringement of the Veterinary Surgeons' Act had the desired effect. "I cannot advise you too strongly to put your stock owners on their guard against the medicine peddlars, unless they are travelling for reputable and well known firms," Mr, Woollett said.
He added that the time had arrived for this kind of commercial robbery to be restricted by legislative action. The claims made for some or the preparations were extraordinary. Farmers would be saved very large sums of money in the aggregate if the sales of nostrums were controlled by some competent authority.
Referring to the Swine Compensation Act, Mr, Woollett mentioned that the sooner the diseases of swine were materially reduced the sooner would the tax be reduced. He quoted figures supplied by Norco Co-op. Co., Byron Bay, which showed that of 36,877 pigs killed in 1930, a percentage of 3.69 was condemned for tuberculosis; in 1931, 3.47; in 1932, 2.39. Figures supplied by a proprietary firm in his district, which killed pigs mostly bought at sale yards, showed that the percentage of condemnations for tuberculosis was 2.33 in 1930; 2.36 In 1931, and 3.95 in 1932. On the one hand a decrease was noticeable where pigs could be traced through branding and a much greater percentage increase in the incidence of the disease where they could not be traced.
Obviously a pig branding act was most urgently required. The sooner it was mandatory to brand pigs the sooner the impost would be reduced.
The conference decided to ask the members to do all in their power to expedite the passing of legislation to make branding of pigs compulsory.
In the course of an address on veterinary science, Mr. Max Henry said that air traffic provided the most serious challenge to animal quarantine services which had ever appeared. The introduction of diseased animals by sea or land could be carefully watched, but air traffic was almost uncontrollable. An increase in the number of private and semi-official aerodromes would magnify the danger. It was becoming Increasingly clear that responsibility must be thrown on the country of export. Australia with her empty North was perilously open to invasion by disease in this manner. The future must see, pending the possible evolution of international control, arrangements for the carrying out of necessary veterinary police measures along the air traffic routes leading to Australia.
A further change would be a more marked departure from drugs and drug administration. The old-fashioned habit of forcing perfectly healthy and normal animals to consume large quantities of drugs persisted today, and it was encouraged to persist by those directly interested in the sale of preparations. A healthy animal required no medicine.
Recent events regarding patent medicines, nostrums, and cure-alls in many countries made it clear that one of the functions of veterinary science in the future would be to protect the stockowner against exploitation (Mr. Max Henry continued). One of the most astonishing features of the last few years had been the multiplication of firms, and agencies selling patent stock medicines to the farmer. These medicines might be divided into three groups. The first one fairly numerous, consisted of sheer swindles; another, also fairly common, in which reputable drugs were sold at outrageous prices; and a third, very small group of really satisfactory medicants sold at reasonable prices.
Mr. R. N. McCulloch, in an address entitled "Some External Parasites of Sheep," dealt with the merits and limitations of jetting in the control of the blowfly. He said that in a series of field tests, two new mixtures were compared with sheep dip and arsenite of soda, and showed up as definitely superior. Although there was evidence that the mixture in general use could be improved, it had not yet definitely been ascertained that jetting was a payable practice. Personally, he thought it was, and he hoped to be able to show that it offered the cheapest way of protecting flocks from the fly.
"Rabbits and rehabilitation" was the title of an address by Mr. F. F. Forster, of Goulburn. In reply to a question, he said that there was sufficient legal machinery in existence to enable them to cope with the rabbit pest.
Mr. W. J. Smith (Young) said that the machinery had not functioned properly. Even in the western division, in certain periods, the landholders, if they were sincere and thorough in their efforts could cope with the rabbits. If they had fulfilled their part there would be no rabbit invasion now. The only way to grapple with the problem was to conduct an all-the-year-round drive. For many the ground was too hard in the summer and too wet in the winter, he cynically added. Some men were waiting for a disease to wipe out the rabbits. They had one at their hands—"shovelitis."
"These men are not sincere; they are not thorough," Mr. Smith declared. "If the rabbit is a menace to the financial stability of the State and if it is considered that the law should remain that you must destroy rabbits, then enforce it."
Mr. Smith added that it was the Government's duty to clean up forest reserves, railway property and other Crown land that were breeding grounds for rabbits.
Mr. J. Faulkner (Flemington) said that the rabbits from the west could be netted out, but this was not possible with the rabbits from Crown lands, some of which were "rabbit sanctuaries."
The election of officers resulted as follows: President and hon. treasurer, C. J. Woollett (unopposed); council, F. J. Madden, T. K. Ryan. J. V. McCulloch, E. A. Lucas, A. Hessin, A. F. Ellis, E. J. Quinn, H. W. Copeland, O. L. Fielder, and W. J. Smith. Messrs. F. F. Foster, C. W. Sabine, and J. Faulkner were nominated for appointment as vice-presidents. A postal ballot will be held to determine which two shall be appointed.