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This article was published in 1938
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INSTITUTE OF INSPECTORS OF STOCK OF N.S.W. YEAR BOOK.

THE VALUE OF SHADE TREES FOR STOCK

R. P. MAYER. B.V.Sc., Inspector of Stock, Condobolin.

Owing to limited time, this address will be somewhat disconnected. Nevertheless, an effort will be made to briefly discuss the value of trees on holdings and travelling stock routes, with particular reference to their shade and shelter value. Fifty years ago the pastures of the slopes, tablelands and inner western divisions of this State were in a comparative virgin state. Wheat farming had made limited expansion and thickly timbered country was plentiful. During the past two decades settlement has progressed at a rapid rate and little thought has been given to the conservative stocking of pastures and judicious ringing of timber. As a result of this procedure, to-day we can see many thousande of acres of windswept and scalded country and an alarming annual increase in soil erosion of valuable land.

The average settler for the past twenty years has endeavoured to flog 'mother earth' to the utmost in order to obtain profitable returns in the shortest space of time. A common motto of our forefathers was, "you cannot have trees and grass," and apparently some Stock Inspectors were not without blame in this respect.

The following are some of the results of this foolish policy:-

(1) In my opinion, through lack of sufficient shade and shelter belts on many holdings, stock during recent years have been subjected to the full force of severe weather conditions and have had to exist on impoverished pastures, and as a result their constitutions have deteriorated. This may also apply to our merino sheep which, for the past 50 years, have been bred and selected for their wool only. Little attention has been paid to constitution, so that with adverse conditions, such as insufficient shade and shelter and inferior foodstuffs, their stamina has suffered and we now have serious annual mortality from diseases such as Entero-Toxaemia, Toxaemia of Pregnancy, Internal Parasites, etc. Furthermore, it is noticeable that good lambings from maiden ewes are now comparatively rare.

(2) Tremendous quantities of surface soil have, during recent years, been swept away or have become banked up on fences, causing much damage and rendering thousands of acres of land practically useless. The serious erosion of sloping, grazing and agricultural land is also very evident after each thunderstorm.

(3) Since there is little check to hot, driving winds, particularly on the flat country, water supplies often evaporate at an alarming rate on many holdings and T.S.R.'s.

Now what measures can be taken to correct or check this serious state of affairs? Firstly, let us change our motto to "Trees bring grass, check erosion, and improve the health of stock." It is contended that shade and shelter trees benefit stock, since—

(a) They greatly assist female stock during parturition. It is indeed a common and cruel practice to place poorly conditioned lambing ewes during the summer or winter months in paddocks devoid of tree growth.

(b) They have saved the lives of many thousands of newly shorn sheep during unseasonal cold changes.

(c) By promoting contentment they enable stock to do better and fatten more quickly.

(d) They lessen the consumption of food and water by stock.

(e) They often prevent scalding after dipping operations.

Since we are the chief field officers of important public bodies terming themselves the protectors of pastures, it behoves us to endeavour to set an example to district landowners. The following suggestions are made for your consideration:

(1) In all ringing work on Reserves and T.S.R.'s particular care should be taken to leave a belt of timber at least a chain in width on the side or sides of the Reserve from which the prevailing winds blow. If the timber on this side of the Reserve is of straggly growth, such as we find with stunted gum, then it is advisable to ring the trees and allow thick sucker growth to grow on these trees. Clumps of trees ranging from 1 to 3 acres in area should be left untouched, especially on Reserves of large area, so as to give protection to newly shorn travelling sheep or low conditioned stock. If the land has a steep slope, belts of timber half a chain wide should be left every five chains. Too often do we see a Reserve of low value timber completely rung out and within a few years gullies form or the surface soil becomes windswept. Timber on the top of a hill should only he lightly rung out. The above considerations are in addition to the regulations of the Forestry Department, which enforce the leaving of a certain number of honey trees, usetul timber, etc.

(2) If a Reserve or T.S.R. has only a few valuable shade or windbreak trees affected with mistletoe, an effort should he made to have them lopped. It will be many years before this parasite reappears on the new growth and often by this treatment cau useful trees be saved.

(3) Many straggly trees can be greatly improved by lopping, and a man expert at this work can cut the tops of from seven to ten large box trees in a day. If the freshly cut branches from these trees are drawn to the side of small gullies, and after being cut into 6ft. lengths are packed into them, they will, within a year or two, collect many tons of silt and check further erosion. Care should be taken to place the tops of the branches pointing upstream, and sufficient solid timber should be stacked on top of them.

(4) By establishing plantations and windbreaks on Reserves and T.S.R.'s, great improvements can often be effected. In forming a plantation on a much-used treeless Reserve, the site should be across the side of the Reserve from which the prevailing winds blow. A strip of land, say, 20 chains long and half a chain wide, should first be ploughed six inches deep during the autumn and then fenced with a sheep-proof fence. The latter can be moved elsewhere when the trees are well established. Holes 3ft. deep and 3ft. in diameter spaced 20ft. apart in a diagonal fashion should be carefully prepared and, if possible, some decayed manure or soil rich in humus should be added. It is preferable to plant the trees from April to July, and fodder trees for this purpose may be obtained free of charge from the State Nurseries. On the slopes many kinds of trees such as Beeches, Maples, Poplars, Elms, Peppers, Cedars, Acacias, etc., are suitable for this purpose, and can be grown to perfection. In the drier districts the hardier varieties such as Peppers, White Cedar, Sugar Gum, Kurrajong and Old Man Saltbush should be selected, and will invariably provide welcome shade and shelter for man and beast. For the first two years the young trees will need an occasional watering during the summer months and digging around about once each month to keep down weed growth. Before watering, the soil should be drawn well away from the trunk of the tree, and after thorough saturation the dry soil should be thrown back. If straw, stubble or dry grass is available and is bedded in around the base of the young tree, it will prevent evaporation of moisture to a remarkable extent. A number of plantations of this nature have been established on Reserves at Inverell and at Urana and as photos show, the trees are growing well.

On long, windswept or scalded T.S.R.'s, varying from 5 to 10 chains in width, a great improvement can be effected by ploughing a chain wide strip along the western boundary and erecting a cheap sheep-proof length of fencing parallel with an existing fence. This enclosed area can be sown with Saltbushes or planted with fodder or other drought-resisting trees if water supplies are limited.

In conclusion, the propagation of willows (weeping and basket varieties) along the banks of any permanent water course or river is strongly advocated. Holes should he dug with a bar and fencing shovel 3 feet deep or more, in order that the willow branch will be waterlogged. It is preferable to cut the willow branches from selected trees early in August, and they should be about 12 feet in length and 3 to 4 inches in diameter. After ramming them in the prepared holes a 6ft. length of 3-inch gauge wire netting should he loosely tied around the base of the branch to protect it from the bites of horses. The young willows may need a couple of good saturations during their first summer, and they are well worth growing since a ten-year old tree is said to have a fodder value of five pounds sterling.

 


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