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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 1

I Groping In A Strange Environment: 1788-1851

II Farmers Take The Initiative: 1851-1888
i Setting the scene for change
ii A transplanted community; a transplanted technology
iii The development of appropriate technology
iv Importation, adaptation and innovation in cropping
v Introduction and innovation in livestock husbandry

III Enter Education And Science: 1888-1927

IV Agricultural Science Pays Dividends: 1927-1987

V Examples Of Research And Development 1928-1988

VI International Aspects Of Agricultural Research

VII Future Prospects

VIII Acknowledgements



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Introduction and innovation in livestock husbandry

Investment in major capital improvements on pastoral holdings was kept to a minimum until the graziers obtained some legal rights of long-term tenure to the land; usually the freehold. This they achieved, at least for part of their runs, during the post-gold period with the passing of successive land settlement Acts in the various colonies.

Because disease control measures were overlooked during the turmoil of the gold rush period, scab and catarrh became more prevalent in sheep and then pleuropneumonia began to spread through the cattle population. The fencing of property boundaries, particularly along roadsides, therefore became an important step not only for marking the limits of a property but also for controlling the transmission of livestock diseases. Internal fences were then built and the labour of shepherds dispensed with. The new fences controlled the sheep and hunting and baiting drove the surviving dingoes further inland and into the mountains.

During the earlier years of settlement fences had been made from whatever materials were to hand, such as brush, logs, posts and rails split from local timber, or stone. These materials continued to be used where they were readily available and, for example, many miles of stone walls were built across the basalt plains of Western Victoria. From the 1850s fencing wire was imported and became a common component of post and rail and other fences at a time when labour to split materials was so expensive. The introduction in the 1860s of the Bessemer process in the steel industry made possible the supply of wire relatively cheaply, and this was to transform the problems of fencing (and therefore the management of grazing animals), particularly in districts such as the southern Riverina that were short of timber. When internal fences were erected it became necessary for graziers to provide a water supply in each paddock, where previously streams and creeks had been relied upon for stock watering. For this purpose, small horse-drawn scoops were purchased to dig water-holes, creeks were dammed and wells dug. The first artesian bore was sunk in New South Wales in 1880 and from 1885 onwards large numbers of both artesian and nonartesian bores were drilled in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia. More permanent shearing sheds were built, and sheep and cattle yards, blacksmiths' and carpenters' shops, stables, shearers' and workmen's quarters and various other buildings were erected or improved. Thus capital investment in grazing came to be represented much more by land, fences and buildings where, in the early years, it had been almost entirely accounted for by livestock.[29]

These changes were accompanied by an extension of pastoral settlement further and further inland into the drier country, particularly in New South Wales and Queensland. As a result sheep numbers grew steadily to a total of 89 million in the eastern colonies of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland by the beginning of the 1890s, before drought decimated the population. All these sheep had to be shorn individually each year using hand shears, so there was good reason to try to develop a shearing machine.

Various attempts were patented before Frederick York Wolseley finally succeeded in developing a practical hand piece with a comb and reciprocating cutter driven by power transmitted from a stationary engine. Wolseley had come to Melbourne in 1854 and worked for his brother-in-law on his sheep station for five years before acquiring an interest in several stations himself. He began developing a shearing machine in about 1868 and after some progress and a visit to England, R. P. Park joined him in his venture in 1874. Work continued for a further eleven years until 1885, when Wolseley was sufficiently satisfied with his shearing machine to arrange for public demonstrations and to set up a company to make the new machine. The demonstrations showed that an experienced shearer could shear equally as fast with hand shears as with the shearing machine, but the machine was less tiring to use, and an inexperienced shearer could shear more quickly and with less damage to the sheep if he used the machine. By 1888 nineteen sheds were using shearing machines and from then on the number steadily increased.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Co. Pty Ltd

People in Bright Sparcs - Austin, Herbert; Park, R. P.; Wolseley, Frederick York

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 14 - 15, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher