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  ― 101 ―

Price of Cattle, &c.

The price of all manner of stock is almost incredibly moderate, considering the short period which has elapsed since the foundation of the colony. A very good horse for the cart or plough may be had from £10 to £15, and a better saddle or gig horse, from £20 to £30, than could be obtained in this country for double the money. Very good milch-cows may be bought from £5 to £10; working oxen for about the same price; and fine young breeding ewes from £1 to £3, according to the quality of their fleece. Low as these prices may appear they are in a great measure fictitious; since there is confessedly more stock of all sorts in the colony, than is necessary for its population. It accordingly frequently happens, particularly at sales by public auction, that stock are to be bought for one-half, and even one-third of the above prices; and there is every probability that before the expiration of ten years, their value will be still more considerably diminished. To be convinced of the truth of this conjecture, we have only to look back a little into the annals of the colony, and see how prodigiously cattle of every description have multiplied. By a census taken at the end of the year 1800, (twelve years after the institution of the colony) the number of horses and mares was only 163;


  ― 102 ―
of horned cattle, 1024; and of sheep, 6124. At the end of 1813, the horses and mares had increased to 1891; the horned cattle to 21,513, and the sheep to 65,121: and in the month of November, 1817, the last year of which we have received the census, the numbers were as follow: horses and mares, 3072; horned cattle, 44,753; sheep, 170,420. Thus it will be perceived, that in the space of seventeen years, the stock of horses and mares has increased from 163, their highest number for the first twelve years, to 3072; the stock of horned cattle, from 1044 to 44,753; and the stock of sheep from 6124 to 170,920. This is of itself an increase great beyond all ordinary computation; and it would appear still more surprising if we could add to it the immense numbers of cattle and sheep that have been slaughtered in the same period, for the supply of the king's stores, and for general consumption.

From the foregoing statement is will be evident, that the future increase in the stock will be still more prodigious, and still more considerably outstrip the advance of population. The price therefore of cattle, great and rapid as has been its past declension, must annually experience a still further diminution. Of what will be their probable value in ten years more, it may enable us to form no very inaccurate estimate,


  ― 103 ―
by referring to what it was ten years back. In 1808, a cow and calf were sold by public auction for £105, and the price of middling cattle was from £80 to £100. A breeding mare was at the same period worth from 150 to 200 guineas, and ewes from £10 to £20.

These immense prices, however, were the result of monopoly, and consequently in a great measure fictitious; for in 1810, two years after this, a herd of fine cattle were sold for £13 per head. This almost incredible reduction in the value of cattle in so short a period, was occasioned by the supercession of this monopoly by the governor, who in the year 1808, was induced, from the considerable increase that had taken place in the public herds, to issue cows at £28 per head, payable in agricultural produce, to all indiscriminately who chose to purchase them. Hundreds of them, therefore, at this epoch, were distributed among the settlers, and their extreme value insured that degree of care and attention from their owners, which was naturally followed by a rapid increase, and produced in the short lapse of two years, that declension of price which would at first sight appear so astonishing.

Thus it may be perceived, that within the last ten years, stock of all sorts have decreased


  ― 104 ―
in price, from £700 to £1,000 per cent. and it is not unreasonable to conclude, that in ten years hence, they will have experienced at least a similar reduction. Should this conjecture be verified, they will be of as little value in the remote parts of the colony, as the horses and cattle on the plains of Buenos Ayres, where any person may make what use he pleases of the carcase, provided he leaves behind him the hide.

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