The war has brought new duties to Stock Inspectors and you probably feel that already you have more work than you can satisfactorily handle. In spite of this I suggest that in addition you can play an important part in the maintenance of adequate food supplies of animal origin during the war period. It is unfortunate that because in peacetime Australia has produced plenty of beef, mutton, eggs and dairy products, and was developing an export market for pig meats, it has been assumed by many that adequate supplies would be available always. The reduction of manpower on farms and stations and the great influx of allied troops has altered the situation and it has become necessary for the authorities to give serious consideration to our food resources.
It is obvious that the enlistment of rural workers and the consequent depletion of farm and station staffs must lead to less efficient animal production. The fewer the workers on the property the lower is the degree of supervision and control that can be exercised over stock. The following are probable results:—
(1) Delay in the recognition and reporting of disease. In the cue of infectious disease this may have wide spread effects.
(2) Delay in adopting remedial measures.
(3) Delay or abandonment of what are in many cases routine procedures such as drenching, dipping and vaccination.
(4) More tardy recognition of the nutritional status of the pastures and delay in the provision of adequate rations.
(5) Abandonment of measures directed towards infectious disease control such as tuberculin testing and bleeding for serological tests.
(6) Failure to maintain pens, yards and animal houses in a sanitary condition.
(7) Poorer management generally resulting in lack of maintenance of fences, gates, water supplies and pasturage.
Bearing the above in mind, the inspector can emphasise the necessity for maintenance of health in his visits to stock owners and will be able to draw attention to the disasters which may occur if recognised principles are not observed. It should be our object to ensure that every food producing animal reaches maturity and that all preventible losses are prevented.
But this is not the only sphere of activity. Not only do we need to conserve what we have now but we need to expand our production in many directions. It has been stated that there is a shortage of pig meats, eggs and dairy produce and a probable beef shortage. Hence we must encourage the production of more and more of the foods required, and this in the face of depleted manpower. The following suggestions are offered:—
Pigs: Mortality in young pigs is the greatest source of loss. Probably 50 per cent. of pigs born do not reach the market. The losses are due for the most part to preventible disease and poor nutrition. Without increasing our breeding stock and by saving but half of the little pigs that die, we will increase our pig production by 50 per cent. A drive to improve sanitation of piggeries and to feed adequately would be most profitable. If, in addition, young sows were not sold for slaughter but kept for breeding and the farm were to give up the practice of purchasing store pigs for fattening, many of the losses due to introduced disease would not occur.
To overcome the difficulty of obtaining building material and fencing, pigs should be grazed in paddocks and not enclosed in small yards and pens. Special crops could be sown for them to harvest. In the paddocks they will pick up much food, keep healthy, and will not require elaborate shelter. The fencing problem might be solved with an electric fence.
Beef: With regard to beef production, something can be done to encourage this. In the first place, there are many farms which could raise and fatten a few head of stock for beef. Each man's contribution might be small but the combined results of many farms would result in the provision of a number of steers which would have an appreciable effect on the beef supply. Again, some dairy farmers do not raise many calves but depend upon purchased heifers for their replacements. Such men should consider the advisability of using a bull of beef breed to fertilise their cattle. The calves so obtained would make good beef animals. The raising of such calves would, of course, entail more work and require a certain amount of milk. It might be necessary to divert some of the skimmed milk that now goes for processing to calf feeding. How far this could be done in your districts you know best, but it is a possible method of production of beef cattle for finishing on farms outside dairy areas.
Dairying: In dairying, more efficient farming is necessary in many cases. It has been stated often that on a lot of properties the farmer could obtain better returns from fewer animals if his management was better. The disposal of low producing animals, the culling of poor breeders that are often kept in the hope of getting a calf, the improvement of methods of calf raising so that the commonly encountered enteric infections are avoided, would all assist in increasing the returns and would reduce labour. Attention might be drawn to the reports from other countries where it has been shown that stripping after milking is not necessary and that at the end of the lactation period cows can be turned out without the usual tedious practice of "drying off." Two great sources of loss are the diseases Mastitis and Contagious Abortion. The use of Entozon infusion of the udder has proved its worth in the treatment of the first-named. Rigid control of the infection alone offers satisfactory results in the second. With dairy cattle, diet wants careful attention and fodder conservation must be encouraged. Here, however, labour difficulties may be a serious obstacle.
These notes do not claim to be a complete treatise on the subject of wartime food production but rather to point out some ways in which the Stock Inspectors can perform a valuable service to the Commonwealth.