Local Identities

Thomas Hayward and the Commission on Agriculture 1887–91

This Commission was appointed to enquire into the existing condition of agriculture, together with the factors influencing it, and to make ‘feasible’ suggestions of ways that were likely to promote it, and to ‘increase the prosperity of those engaged in agricultural pursuits.’

The members of the Commission were Messrs H.W. Venn, E.R. Brockman, A.R. Richardson, J.H. Monger and Walter Padbury.

The members took evidence on all parts of the agricultural districts and submitted two progress reports, the first dealing with the wheat-growing districts and the second with the lower south-western areas.

They took evidence in many centres and recorded the views of the witness.[1]

Although other farmers from the district were interviewed, Thomas Hayward’s interview was more wide-ranging.[2] In the years he had been at ‘Bundidup’ he had experimented with crops and livestock to suit the conditions in the district of Western Australian he now called home, so different from England where he had grown up.[3]

The article highlights the lack of markets due to lack of reliable, cheap transport – that all changed when the Perth to Bunbury railway opened in 1893.

Thomas Hayward from ‘Bundidup’ near Wokalup was examined by the Commissioners in Bunbury on 1 December 1887.  

Thomas Hayward examined.[4]

By the commissionWhat are you? A farmer and a storekeeper. I was born on a farm and have been a farmer all my life. I have resided in this district 34 years, my farm being about 24 miles from Bunbury.

What is the extent of it? 4,400 acres, all freehold.

How much of it is fenced in? You can see the object of the question: there is an impression abroad that the farmers of the colony have not made any effort, nor spent any money, in the improvement of their holdings? The whole of my freehold is fenced, and subdivided into 20 paddocks ranging in size from one acre up to 1,000 acres. Some of the fencing is all timber, but the greater consists of top rail and wire and some in wire netting. I could not state exactly at the present moment what they cost. The netting, I should say, cost about £50 per mile, and the 3-wire fencing cost on an average about £20.

Have you much land under pastoral lease in the district? 3,000 acres, none of which is fenced in.

Can you give any idea of the proportion of your freehold land, which if cleared, is suitable for agricultural purposes? I should say not more than one-tenth is fit for cultivation of any kind. Most of the remainder I would describe as hilly and rocky, but good grazing land.

How are you off for water? On the freehold I am very well off, being supplied by natural springs; but, on the pastoral lease, we have to sink, and sink pretty deep.

How much land have you cleared altogether, fit for cultivation? About 120 acres, of which I have 40 acres under crop this year.

Do you fallow your land? Yes. My usual system of cultivation is to have corn in about every third year, hay the same and graze the same. I have only a very small portion under fallow this year; the ground is too hard. I don’t find any great advantage in fallowing old land where I can feed it, but it is an undoubted advantage to fallow new land. I find by regular feeding every third year it keeps the land clean.

What do you grow chiefly? Wheat, oats, barley, peas, – nearly everything.

What has been your average yield? Wheat and oats about 16 bushels to the acre; barley about 20 bushels. I generally take the best land for barley.

Do you find it any advantage to change your seed? I have not found it advantageous. It may happen that the fresh seed is not suitable.

How do you treat your seed? I always use blue-stone, simply. I never had any smut in any of the corn I have grown, except on one occasion when I had some very smutty wheat.

And how many years has your land been under cultivation? Over 20 years.

Have you used manure, and what description of manure? All the manure I can get on the farm, and bone dust and guano as well. I find that the land does not do well without manures, after three years, on new land it would not be worth sowing without manure of some kind.

What live stock have you? About 150 horses, 180 cattle, and a few sheep. My stock are not kept in the yards at all, and therefore make very little manure.

Do you artificially feed any of your stock during times of scarcity of natural feed? No, I change them backwards and forwards. I keep the cultivated land principally for the cows, but they are all fattened on bush feed. I find cattle the most profitable description of stock, on account of the dairy.

With regard to sheep generally on farms, as applied to this district, do you think it necessary to keep sheep, or do you think farming can be successfully carried on without them? I think they ought to be kept more generally by our farmers, in small numbers.

You do some dairying? Ever since I have been in the colony. My average is about 30. I grow green stuff early for them, and give them some of it every night; after that they are put in the bush in the day, and on the cultivated land in the evening.

Under the system of feeding what is your average yield of butter? There is this difference between my neighbors, who feed their cows entirely on bush feed; their average yield of butter is about 2lbs. per cow; my average is about 5 lbs. I may say without exaggeration that I get as much from one cow that they get from two. I don’t mean that we make 5 lbs per cow all the season, only when there is pretty good feed. We milk twice a day, and our calves are hand fed.

Have you seen or used any labour saving machinery for dairying, such as the Cream Separator, the Buttter Worker, or the Patent Churn? As a storekeeper I have imported several Separators, but I have none in use myself, simply because I have no one I can trust to work it. I have a Butter Worker in use.

It is somewhat remarkable that throughout the Eastern Districts these machines have not as much been seen or heard of, judging from the evidence before us. What is your opinion of them? My opinion is that butter ought not to be touched by hand at all, and these Butter Workers obviate the necessity of doing so.

And in the hottest weather, you think you can work the butter out better than with the hand? Yes, decidedly; the human hand communicates its own heat to the butter in addition to the heat of the temperature. My churn is what is called a box churn, with revolving beaters. We put all our butter in kegs, and, taking all the season, it averages from 1s.5d. to 1s. 6d.

This railway question comes in here, and we are desirous of collecting as much information as we can, of a reliable character, for the guidance of the Legislature upon the subject. What facilities have you at present for selling your butter to the metropolitan market? We have no facilities at all except the mail coach which charges 2d. a pound.

If you could get your butter into the market as fresh butter, instead of in kegs, how much more do you think it would realise? It would realise 3d. or 4d. a pound more.

Is your dairy above ground or below? Above, but it has very thick stone walls and a very thick thatched roof, and a verandah all round it.

Have you found any distinct breed of dairy cattle better than others? I always weed out any cows that are not good milkers. I have not gone in for any particular breed.

Have you been told that there is nothing like Devons for beauty and for dairying? I know they are not so regarded in England.

Are your calves fed on artificial food at any time? We always give them some pollard.

Have you ever tried cheese-making? Yes, a little; but we did not consider it paid so well as butter. The market price was about 1s. per lb. Good cheese can be produced in the district no doubt, equal to the imported article, if made at the right time, and not left until the weather is too hot for making butter.

Don’t you think that is a question of regulating the temperature of the dairy? Underground dairies don’t answer, for the air is not fresh enough. You must have ventilation.

Do you think we could produce cheese at a price to compete with the other colonies? At the present time the price of cheese in New Zealand – as good cheese as we can make here – is only 2¾d. or 3d. per lb. ‘as good cheese as you would wish to taste’ – so we have been told. Of course the freight and expenses upon that would be equal to 100 per cent. additional, which would bring it up to 6d.

Do you think we could compete with that? That is an exceptionally low price. I doubt it.

What is the lowest price at which you could produce butter? I should say that butter at 9d per lb. would pay better than corn at the average prices of late years.

We come now to another branch of the farm – do you keep pigs and how many? About 50. I sell all in the shape of pork and bacon.

Will you, kindly, explain your method of curing? We dry salt it, and use a little sugar for the bacon and ham. With pork, we just damp the salt, and put it sometimes in the cask at once, and at other times on trays, and if there is not sufficient brine, we add it.

Do you wash your bacon before you smoke it? I may say that some of the witnesses have told us they found it a wonderful improvement and that it prevents the bacon from tuning rancid or turning yellow? I have not tried it; I was not aware of it.

What do your bacon and hams usually realise? The general market price here from the storekeepers is 10d. for bacon and ham and 6d. for pork (wholesale).

Is that the lowest price at which you think you can profitably produce it, or do you think it might be done for less if carried on, on a large scale? I think it might be done for less than that. I don’t think it could be under 5d.

Do you think that pig-raising, bacon, ham, and pork curing on a large scale could be profitably carried out here? I think it could, if we had a bacon factory, so that the farmers would be certain of a market.

You approve then, of the factory system? Yes, you would ensure a much better article for one thing, and we could better compete with imported articles, and there would be a larger supply.

Have you any distinct breed you approve? I always get the best pigs I can. Mine are a cross with the Berkshire.

How do you feed your store pigs? To a great extent in paddocks devoted to that purpose. We fatten them on grain and root crops generally. As a matter of fact, our pigs cost us normally nothing, except when we finish them off.

Have you found poultry profitable on the farm? They are profitable if not too many of them are kept. The selling price of eggs here is about 1s. a dozen, and fowls about 4s. per pair. I don’t think they could be raised at much more than that.

As an adjunct to the farm, have you found horse breeding profitable? I have produced a great number of light hacks from time to time and found them profitable in years gone by, but not lately. There has been no certain market of late years and I got rid of them as fast as I could, finding cattle more profitable.

We want to get to the cost of production in each district as near as possible, will you tell us what you consider it costs you to put in a crop of cereals including sowing, harrowing and seed? I have never kept any particular account; it is generally done by members of my family. I may be able to supply you with the information hereafter.

What is the general rate of wages you pay your farm labourers, single and married men? I generally employ married men, and pay them 24s. a week, and certain perquisites, such as a house to live in, and a garden, and as much skim milk as they like.

Can you tell us what is the lowest price you can produce wheat, per bushel? I never think I make any profit out of wheat even at 5s a bushel. I sow my crops by hand, and use a single farrow plough.

What description of machinery have you? Ploughs, harrows, threshing machine, winnowing machine, chaff cutters; I don’t use the horse rake because the ground is rough, I prefer the hand rake. I have seen the reaper and binder, and I should say it would pay well where a person grows a sufficient quantity.

You say you use guano and bone dust, which do you consider the most suitable for the locality where you reside? If I wanted quick results I should use guano; if not, I should use bone dust.

Do you consider the present cost of either bone dust or guano beyond the means of farmers generally? They are both expensive, considering their intrinsic value. No doubt they would be more generally used and more liberally used if the cost were reduced. It does not pay anyone in this district to put in crops of any kind without artificial manure of some kind – that is, in the absence of good stock manure – except just on the coast. There is one thing I should like to mention with regard to the application of bone dust or guano; I find it has not only increased the production of butter, but also beneficially affected the health of the cattle. I have hardly had any loss to speak of since I have used it. Before I commenced to do so, I used to lose about one third of my cows, from causes which I could not understand – not from want of feed certainly.

In your opinion, Mr. Hayward, and you have had a long experience, what should constitute the minimum area of a farm upon which an industrious man could expect to bring up his family in decency and comfort, regard being had to the average quality of the land in this district? Not less than 500 acres. Upon that I think a man who would himself work and who had a family to assist him, might do comfortably well. He would want not less than £200 to start with.

Are you now engaged in clearing any fresh land? We generally clear 6 or 7 acres every year. Taking out the blackboys and the very small trees – which is all we attempt at first – costs about £2 an acre. To clear the land completely would cost not less than £10 an acre. I have not used the Tree Extractor.

What is the depth you plough for cereal crops generally? About 5 or 6 inches. I have not done any subsoiling – too many large roots. I always plough for my hay crops; never scarify. I get better hay crops than I do of corn; it averages over a ton an acre, and it generally realises about £4 a ton on the farm or £5 delivered in Bunbury.

Have you done any ringbarking, and what has it cost you? It has always been done by our own hands at odd times; no contract work. But I think it is being done in the district at 2s. an acre. I find it far more profitable to ringbark several years before clearing.

Have you tried any English artificial grasses? I have tried early all of them and found the result not at all successful. I attribute that to our long drought at the latter end of the summer, from December to March. It kills them all. Couch grass is the best grass for summer time; that grows very well.

Have you cultivated any root crops? I can grow very good mangolds, and swedes too, but I prefer mangolds, as they are less liable to the ravages of insects.

What process do you generally adopt in their cultivation? I get a piece of clean land, and plant them in drills about 2 ft apart. I let that stand, and afterwards single out and transplant. I use guano generally and all the manure I can get.

What do you consider a good crop? I should think about 20 tons to the acre would be a good crop in my locality.

Do you consider this district adapted for their cultivation? Very well adapted for mangolds and swede turnips; but they are liable to be attached by aphis, and there’s no preventative that I am aware of. They are not grown generally around this district.

Have you cultivated maize, holcus, Farmer’s Friend, or similar crops? Yes, they grow very well. The district everywhere is suitable for such crops, but they want a great deal of manure. It is no use attempting any of them on our land, even on the best of it, without proper cultivation.

Have you cultivated field peas or beans? Peas I grow every year. I reckon 20 bushels to the acre a fair crop. They don’t require any special cultivation, but I generally pick a piece of dry land for them.

Does the yield here compare with the yield in England? They are a very hazardous crop in all parts of the world. I have had as fine crops here as could be seen in any part of the world, but they were almost totally destroyed by caterpillars. If however you study the time for planting them, you can get them out of the way before the caterpillars come about. If you get them in about the end of July they are not so liable to be attacked as they are if planted later on.

Have you grown pig-melons or pumpkins or field turnips? I have grown pig melons and turnips, the latter do very well but pig-melons do better near the coast.

Have you an orchard or vineyard attached to your farm? I used to have a vineyard, but not now. I have made excellent wine from the Verdelho grape, but only for home consumption. I consider the district well adapted for vine-growing, properly managed; the quantity of suitable soil is almost unlimited. All fruit do well – oranges, apples, peaches, apricots, walnuts, almonds, plums of all descriptions, all do well.

Have you any local market for all these? Not in ordinary seasons, oranges I have sold here from 10d. to 1s. a dozen.

Have you had any experience in fruit preserving? My wife has, and also fruit drying.

Do you consider the industry could be carried on profitably if there was a market? That is just the drawback, the want of a market. Raisins perhaps would pay, by using an evaporator, but I think the climate is too dry for the ordinary process at the time of the year the raisin grape is ready, around February.

Do you ever dip your raisins? Yes, in soda and water generally; it makes them dry quicker.

Do you think the factory system would apply to this industry also, the green fruit being purchased and dried by evaporation? If within a short distance it would. You couldn’t carry grapes any long distance without injuring them.

Coming back to the labor question, how is your district served for farm laborers? They are generally very scarce and very inferior as a rule.

Do you think if there were plenty of good useful labor in the place it would be utilised? More so than at present, but not to any great extent. It is difficult to get a man when you want one – a man that can do anything and who understands his business.

Do you think there is any depression or poverty among the farmers of this district? I don’t think the district is any worse off that it has been for a number of years past; I don’t think there is any great depression amongst those who try to make their way. What we want is a ready means of transit to market.

Supposing a man coming here from England, or the other colonies, wanting to purchase land anywhere between here, say, and Pinjarrah or the Canning, do you know whether there is any quality land alongside the surveyed line of railway which that man could select from, say 500 or 600 acre blocks? Very few blocks, I think, could be found. The land is mostly in the hands of private individuals.

Do you think the new Land Regulations are likely to have any effect, either way, of stimulating or retarding agricultural settlement? I have not studied them much. I think the old regulations were very good provided they were carried out.

Is there much Crown land suitable for occupation adjacent – say within 10 or 15 miles – of the proposed railway between here and Bayswater? I think there are a great many small blocks that could be selected, but no large ones. A man may pick up 400 acres perhaps, and out of that would he would get about one-fourth suitable for cultivation.

Do you think the fact of them having been such large areas in the hands of private individuals has had any effect whatever in retarding settlement? I think it has been a very great bar to settlement and still is.

Would not the owners be prepared to sell their land, do you think, if purchasers were forthcoming? That I cannot say.

With regard to Agricultural Societies, do you think the local society has done any good beyond holding its annual Show and bringing people together? I don’t think it has done anything to develop agriculture. It has tended to improve stock by competition and inducing importations.

Do you think the establishment in the district of an Experimental Farm, or Agricultural School, would be to the permanent advantage of the farming interest? I am afraid our farmers are too hard worked to have much time to devote much attention to theories. I don’t think that, under the present circumstances of the colony, such institutions would answer. The expense would be too great in proportion to the results, I think. Some years ago, I tried to induce our farmers to meet together to discuss agricultural subjects and methods of cultivation, but I failed to create any interest in the matter; and I don’t think that with our present class it would be much use attempting what you propose. I believe in such institutions, but I think it is premature to talk of establishing them in this colony.

With regard to potatoes, Mr. Hayward – we have been informed that £16,000 worth of potatoes have been imported into the colony this year – don’t you think this district capable of producing potatoes to an extent to prevent such importations, if you had the facilities to convey them to market? We have produced potatoes at £4 a ton, and it paid better than growing corn.

If entered into on a large scale, and with every facility of transport, do you think it would pay at the rate? I think it would pay very well indeed at £4 per ton. But the great drawback of course is the want of a cheap means of transport. At present it costs £1 per ton from Bunbury to Fremantle, and a little over.

The witness withdrew.

Held at Bunbury. Monday 5 December 1887.

Thomas Hayward recalled.

By the Commission. We have recalled you, Mr. Hayward, because we hear that you grow the locust bean or carob tree, and we are anxious to obtain some information with reference to it. Will you kindly state your experience? I have three or four trees, and I think it ought to be much more largely cultivated here than it is. It wants no special cultivation, and more than any other fruit tree, and it will grow in almost in any soil. Mine are about 15 years old, and they are about the highest trees I have on the place. It’s a very handsome tree, and affords a delightful shade. It is not deciduous. I started mine from a seed, which I obtained from Mr. George Leake, in Perth. It was eight or nine years before it bore anything, but it now bears regularly. It is loaded this year, and has been for several years. Of course there are two kinds, male and female, and they won’t bear unless you have both.

Is there any distinction between them in appearance? A little, in the leaf.

Can you give us any idea as to the yield per tree? A great deal of the fruit falls off and the stock eat it, but we get several sackfull’s off each tree; I should say there would be about 3 cwt. on each tree.

For what purpose do you use it? All kind of stock, and pigs especially, and cows, will eat it. It is very nutritious and full of saccharine matter. Children will eat it. Wholesale it would realise 1d. per lb. I think the tree might be easily layered – in fact I did layer one, and it is now a beautiful tree. But I think a better way is to plant the seed in a box, and then transplant box and all without removing the seedling. I had the seed about seven years before I planted it, yet it germinated all right. I shall be happy to supply anybody with some seed. Mr Rose, of Parkfield, had a large tree, and it never used to bear, but on one occasion he came and lopped a male tree of mine that was in blossom, and he stuck a twig in his own tree, and he immediately had a crop. But he has had none ever since – the result of the want of inoculating.

[1] Maurice Cullity, A History of Dairying in Western Australia, University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands, Western Australia, 1979.

[2] Others interviewed from this district were Alfred Crampton, David Eedle, J Forster Johnston, John Crampton, M Waller Clifton and Robert Henry Rose. Note that James Rogers [Rodgers] was also interviewed and that interview is transcribed on this website.

[3] For more information on Thomas Hayward, see ‘Bundidup’ on this website

[4] First Progress Report and Minutes of Evidence / Western Australia Commission on Agriculture, 1888. Printed in Perth (WA) by Authority, Richard Pether, Government Printer, 1888. Presented to the Legislative Council by His Excellency’s Command.