Progress of Dairying in the Harvey District, 1928.

Productive Irrigation Farms. (By the Agricultural Editor.)

Swapping horses in mid-stream is not generally considered a wise move, but there are times when something of the kind has to be done. The citrus industry at Harvey is a case in point. For the benefit of the orange orchardists an elaborate irrigation scheme was carried out, but the greater part of the district, from an orange growing point of view, proved a disappointment. There have been and still are some excellent orange orchards, but these lie on the deep chocolate alluvial soil fronting the river. Further back from the river experience has proved that there is insufficient loam on top of the clay to render the soil suitable for citrus culture. This discovery, however, was not made until large areas of orchard had been planted and tile drained.

Today as one drives around Harvey there is evidence that the days of fruit growing on a large scale are rapidly passing. Hundreds of acres of orange trees have been pulled up and permanent pastures established in their stead, and there are further areas where orchards may still be seen in various stages of decay. Orange growing is no longer the principal industry of the district. Unprofitable trees have been replaced by cows, and Harvey is coming into a new era of prosperity.

No doubt the false start that was made has cost many of the Harvey settlers dearly. It is an expensive matter establishing an orange orchard, tending it in its early stages, fertilising it and draining it, only to have to grub it up and use the land for something else. The soil, how-ever has responded to the treatment, and wonderful pastures and summer crops are being raised on land from which the orange has faded away.

Small Holdings. This adaptation of a fruit growing district to a dairying centre has led to a few problems. The outstanding difficulty is due to the fact that land values are high and holdings (I am speaking of the irrigable country) are, as a rule, small. In order to make a highly capitalised holding of 30 or 40 acres pay its way, every possible cow must be kept. Some such holdings are capable of running a cow to the acre, and it is not practicable in these circumstances to hold a heifer until she comes into profit.

Some three miles north from Harvey, alongside the main road, there is a small but very interesting experiment. Here about a quarter of an acre of jarrah and banksia foothill country, with clay subsoil, has been fenced off and was sown last winter with subterranean clover burr, and super. at the rate of 2501b. to the acre. This was done on the virgin country. Neither fire nor axe was used to prepare the way for the pasture. Today there is a very good growth of subterranean clover over the area, the long runners having interlaced themselves through the scrub and small ground blackboy rushes.

The Harvey Commonage. Hard by this experiment there is a commonage of 1,200 acres of virgin country vested in the Harvey Road Board. This, too, is country which would lend itself to cheap pasture establishment, and it has been suggested that the road board might carry out an annual programme of work upon it, with a view to making it, within a few years, a good revenue-producing investment. At the same time it would confer a boon on settlers who are in difficulties with their young stock and cows out of profit by providing good pasture for agistment purposes at a convenient point in the district for owners who might wish to exercise a little supervision.

Harvey does not yet support a butter factory, but it is said that one is shortly to be established there to cater for local needs, and to intercept a lot of the butter fat which is being sent down to the Bunbury factory from north along the line. At present Harvey dairy farmers are catering very largely for the whole milk trade, which they find more profitable than butter fat productions. Both Macfarlane and Co. and Pascomi Ltd., have depots in the district for receiving milk, cooling it, and despatching it to the metropolitan area. Being an irrigation settlement, Harvey is in a favoured position so far as the supply of whole milk in the summer months is concerned. When other districts are going back badly in their supply the Harvey irrigation area is just about at the peak of its production.

Harvey and the districts surrounding it are in the milking Shorthorn zone, and many good bulls are leaving their stamp on the herds. This applies mostly to the young stock, but not entirely to them, for there are in the Yarloop-Wokalup area a surprising number of herds of good grade milking Shorthorn cows.

Visit by the Director. Last week the Director of Agriculture (Mr. G. L. Sutton) visited the dairying districts of which Harvey is the centre, and was piloted around by the local agricultural adviser, Mr. G. K. Baron Hay. I was invited to join the party, and together we made hurried calls at a number of representative properties.

A Yarloop Dairy. Disentraining at Yarloop, Mr. Hay ran us out to Mr. H. Hicks’s farm just to the westward of the township. The West Australian dairying industry is obtaining recruits from all quarters. Mr. Hicks entered it about two years ago after having spent 25 years log hauling in the hills to the east of Yarloop. His property consists of 200 acres of which only about 80 acres is developed. It comprises flat red gum and blackboy country which around that district seems to hold a value of from about £5 to about £7 per acre unimproved, according to its distance from a siding.

Though comparatively new to the industry, Mr. Hicks has already got around him the nucleus of a very fine dairy herd. His 23 cows at present in profit are giving him from 65 to 70 gallons of milk a day. They and heifers and horses to a total of 35 head have been running on about 25 acres of country for four months past, and will be kept in the same paddocks for some little time longer. Mr. Hicks feeds roughly a bag of bran a day. Recently he acquired from the Department of Agriculture a bull, Rivoli of Berry, which was originally bought for group settlement. Rivoli’s grandsire was the famous New South Wales champion, Emblem of Darbalara. He is a line bred animal from high production stock and should be able to stamp the milk producing characteristics of his forebears upon his progeny. Already Mr. Hicks has two cows and two heifers in the herd book.

It should be mentioned that Mr. Hicks has a contract for the supply of 45 gallons of milk a day. Any surplus he separates, and sends the cream to the Bunbury factory. Last month his 23 cows enabled him to meet his whole milk contract, and in addition he collected a butter fat cheque for £9/5/4.

Mr. Hicks does no irrigation, but he conserves clover hay and the clay country in these districts, if ploughed in the early spring, will hold sufficient moisture to grow maize for fodder crops. We examined some land so treated and found plenty of moisture about three inches down. Mr. Hicks has not started maize planting, but is just about to do so. He mentioned that he had received no complaints during the season just past in respect to his milk being tainted by the subterranean clover. He attributed this to the fact that in the paddocks which he is grazing he never lets the clover get away from the stock, but keeps it fed down short.

Homebush. On the way down to Cookernup we called in at Homebush, the property of Mr. J. MacCallum Smith, M.L.A. Unfortunately the manager, Mr. C. Dennis, was away, but Mrs. Dennis showed us around the homestead and stock yards. There is ample evidence that Mr. MacCallum Smith has spared no expense in making Homebush a model farm. The buildings are substantially constructed, and the fences, sheep yards, stallion paddocks, etc., far beyond the capacity of the average South-West farmer to emulate, but it was not these so much as the avenues and shelter belts of pines, and other trees that excited my admiration. At Homebush the temptation to which farmers nearly always succumb, of placing the sheep-yards in the most exposed position available has been resisted. Pines have been planted around and through the yards and even if they are the cause of some delay at shearing time through keeping the sheep damp, they are justified at other times of the year for the shelter they provide.

Good Heifers. Our next call was at Mr. H. Hardy’s property at Cookernup. Mr. Hardy is a young Irishman who has been in Western Australia but a very few years. He is in reality only just starting, but he is doing the important thing, in that he is starting on right lines. Originally the holding he is on consisted of 100 acres of fairly good red gum country without any frontage to a watercourse, but he was lucky in obtaining it, with improvements, at a figure which must be considered cheap. He has since strengthened it by the addition of another 100 acres of virgin country adjoining the original portion of his property, and this gives him a frontage on to a permanent stream.

Mr. Hardy has lost no time in getting about him a herd of good milking Shorthorns. He has six cows in the herd book and a number of young stock coming on are a credit to him and to their sire, Bright Bill of Berry, also of the Darbalara strain and bred on very much the same lines as Mr. Hicks’s bull. There are 15 of Bill’s heifers on the farm. Six of them came in this year and averaged three gallons during the flush, while Mr. Hardy claims that one of his heifers gave four gallons a day when she first came in. At present he is milking 18 cows, a number of which have been in for eight or nine months. He sells cream (as distinct from butter fat), and his herd is at present yielding him four gallons of cream a day. As soon as he can get his second hundred acres developed, Mr. Hardy looks forward to milking 40 cows all the year round. On this farm we found maize planting in progress on clay flat which had been ploughed during the winter and again in the spring.

A Soldier Settler. The next farms visited was that of Mr. G. H. Clifton, a soldier settler, who has a property of 80 acres of pasture and some scrub country. This property is also in the Cookernup district. Mr. Clifton caters for the whole milk trade during the summer months. At present he is milking two cows only, but in the immediate future he will have sixteen more in. A semi-permanent stream – Clarke’s Brook – affords Mr. Clifton opportunities for irrigation, of which he is not availing himself yet to any considerable extent. Last March his herd averaged two gallons of milk a day, which is not to be despised, considering the time of year and the kind of year it was. Mr, Clifton receives a trifle more per gallon for milk supplied during the summer; and he considers that this extra price compensates him for the diminished flow and additional hand feeding. Certainly he starts his cows off in the pink of condition, and he keeps them up with clover hay, bran, crushed oats, and linseed meal. His herd includes some fine cows – four of them in the herd book – and some good young stock.

A Prize Farm. From Cookernup we ran down to Harvey, and out to Miss Heppingstone’s 30-acre irrigated dairy farm, on the outskirts of the town. Miss Heppingstone’s farm, in a local competition, was recently adjudged the best dairy farm in the Harvey district. We spent only a few minutes there, but saw some of the pastures on the irrigated paddocks and learned that the property, does in actual fact run practically one cow in profit for every acre, and this despite the fact that quite an appreciable area is devoted to flower garden and orchard. This high rate of stocking is made possible by the application of water, from the Harvey irrigation scheme to permanent pastures of paspalum dilatatum and distichum, kikuyu grass, which is said to be giving excellent results and White Dutch and other clovers, and to the feeding of clover hay and summer fodders grown on the property.

The Harvey Settlement. Probably the first thing that would strike any visitor to Harvey is the manner in which the settlers have beautified their homes by planting ornamental trees and gardens, and the contrast between the green pastures and orange groves at Harvey, and the dried-up or rapidly drying pastures in most other districts. The irrigation scheme alone makes possible the wresting of a living from such small areas as are held in this district; but the settlers have to pay for the boon. Not only is the land expensive, but it is carrying a high capitalisation, on account of the fact that much of it was laid down to orchard and subsequently converted. On top of that comes the charge of 7/6 an acre for water rates which is levied on all irrigable land, whether irrigated or not. This rate amounts practically to a charge of 7/6 an acre for the first watering. Subsequent waterings are charged for at half a crown an acre. It is, therefore, not in the least difficult to spend up to £1 per acre per annum on water alone.

Some idea of the magnitude of the Harvey irrigation scheme may be gained from the following figures, supplied by Mr. K. Gibson [Gibsone], assistant secretary of the Harvey Road Board. The weir was completed about ten years ago, and has a capacity of about 520,000,000 gallons. This, however, is not the limiting factor, for it is simply the reserve to be drawn upon when the river itself stops running, as it does late in the summer. At the moment it is overflowing the weir in a strong stream, and looks like continuing to do so for some weeks yet. The irrigation area comprises about 4,000 acres. Last year 2,570 acres were watered, and subsequent waterings brought the total area irrigated to 5,069 acres. This area included 580 acres of orchard and 120 acres of potatoes and pumpkins, etc., the balance, of nearly 1,900 acres, being summer crops or permanent pasture.

Tile-drained Paddocks. The day after our arrival at Harvey we were shown around by Mr. Kay and Mr. F. Gardiner, the president of the Harvey Agricultural Society. The first halt was at Mr. L. Prince’s 65-acre farm, just out of the town. Here we met Mr. Timmings, the manager, who showed us round. Mr. Prince was about the first orchardist in the Harvey area to convert to pasture. His entire holding is irrigable and thirty acres of it – the old orchard – is tile drained. The property is divided into about 15 paddocks, an average of about four acres to the paddock. Paspalum appears to form the bulk of the pasture, and is mixed with kikuyu and White Dutch clover. There are 21 cows in the herd and at present 13 of them are giving 31 gallons of milk daily. Mr. Prince has contracted to supply 35 gallons of milk a day and he is hopeful of obtaining 60 gallons a day from the 21 cows. Last year 55 acres were irrigated at a cost for water of between £60 and £65. Mr. Prince has a departmentally supplied bull, Treasure’s Monarch, which was bred by Mr. D. Malcolm at Wagin, from a high production dam.

Orchardist, Breeder and Dealer. The next farm visited was that of a man who will have nothing to do with dairying. Mr. O. Rath settled at Harvey 32 years ago, started orange growing very early in the history of the settlement, and still has about ten acres under citrus along the banks of the Harvey River, and another ten acres or so of mixed orchard. He has 69 acres, all of it irrigable and what he does not use for fruit growing he has down to permanent pasture for fattening cattle and sheep for the local and metropolitan markets, and for his small but growing flock of breeding ewes. His pasture country is carrying a tremendous sward of grass and in one of the ten acre paddocks which Mr. Rath showed us, he declared that he had topped off twenty head of big cattle. As he owns another property two or three miles out of the town which he uses as a change paddock, it is difficult to give a fair indication of what his irrigated country will do in the way of fattening stock, but Mr. Rath considers that with management he would be able to fatten ten store sheep to the acre.

On his other holding Mr. Rath showed us how he was converting a property which was formerly held in very poor esteem into a valuable grazing proposition by means of surface drainage, burning, and sowing subterranean and cluster clover with a hundredweight of superphosphate per acre. This holding consists of a very much lighter type of country but it has the clay subsoil which is characteristic of much of the poorer land which has responded to subterranean clover. Mr. Rath, who by the way seems to be generally regarded as one of the soundest farmers in the neighbourhood, was quite open in expressing the opinion that in using an initial dressing of one hundredweight of superphosphate he was not using enough. He spoke of men who were using up to five hundredweight at the time of sowing, and not topdressing again for three years. Mr. Hay’s opinion was that it would be better to apply two cwt. at time of sowing and to top dress regularly afterwards.

A Hills Farm. We then ran out to the weir, westward of Harvey, and beyond it to where Mr. A. E. Taylor is converting an old sheep property into a dairy farm. The place is situated above the weir in the hills and is consequently far beyond any possibility of irrigation. To provide succulent feed for the summer months Mr. Taylor has had erected an 85-ton silo, which he filled this year with a mixed crop of oats and peas. With the help of this silo he caters for the whole milk trade in summer. He has 420 acres of which 200 acres are cleared. He runs a herd of 50 head of mixed ages, and milks something over 20 cows throughout the summer. Although this is a dry farm Mr. Taylor makes his cows average somewhat better than two gallons a day each by culling.

Esperanza. In Mr. R. A. Johnson’s farm which lies north of the Harvey River, there are 298 acres, 21 acres of which is under citrus orchard without irrigation. Along the bank of the river the oranges have been preserved, but back from the river 61 acres of orchard have been pulled up and laid down to pasture. Dairying on this farm is of very recent development. Two years ago last Easter Mr. Johnson’s two boys made a start with three cows. Today the milking herd has grown to an average of about 18 all the year round. Next year Mr. Johnson and his son (there is only one of them on the farm now) hope to milk up to 30 cows. Last year 55 acres, including 15 acres of oat crop, kept 18 milking cows in good condition throughout the year. Mr. Johnson feeds bran and pollard to his cows throughout the season, but reduces the ration during the winter months. The boys took some trouble in finding out for themselves just what ration of bran and pollard was profitable by weighing the amount given and the milk return, and by varying the former until the most profitable result was obtained. The Johnsons have a milking Shorthorn grade herd and three heifers in the herd book proper.

Good Herds at Wokalup. In the afternoon brief calls were paid on Mrs. C. Settor and Mr. J. P. Hocart both at Wokalup. Mrs. Settor came second to Miss Heppingstone in the dairy farm competition recently conducted. She has a compact holding of 120 acres on which she runs a very good, typical herd of 14 milking Shorthorns, a good bull bred by the Claremont Hospital for the Insane, and their progeny. During October this herd averaged 2.9 gallons of milk a day. Top-dressing on a liberal scale is practised and the owner contemplates erecting new milking sheds and installing machines in the very near future. There is no irrigation in this area. Mr. Hocart was also able to show us a number of outstanding heifers which will soon be valuable additions to his herd.

We left Harvey the same afternoon convinced that what we had seen in 24 hours was but a small portion of what the district has to show to the interested visitor.

(Western Mail, 20 December 1928, p. 46)


The following information concerning the dairying industry in Harvey has been obtained from a well informed source. It is estimated that the female cattle in the Harvey closer settlement area number 2,400 head, while dairy produce for the year ended June 30 last (that is to say, butter fat and whole milk) is estimated to have been worth £30,000.

In addition to this, there is a small income derived from the sale of vealers and the returns from pigs. At present at least a truck load of prime bacon pigs is being sent from the Harvey station fortnightly, while in addition an unspecified number of porkers is also sent away.

(Western Mail, 20 December 1928, p. 47)