Pioneer livestock for the new colony

<p>”Sheep & Lamb”</p>

Planning and preparation were critical to establishing any new colony. South Australia’s founding fathers were well aware of the problems experienced in earlier Australian settlements, including Governor Arthur Phillip’s struggle to feed New South Wales in its first two years. They also believed that Australia’s native animals were unsuited to domestication, and its plants to agriculture. Thus, it was essential that the settlers had the means and skills to feed themselves as soon as possible after they arrived in 1836. As would be expected, the emigrants brought with them the animals, plants and practices with which they were familiar.

Animals taken on board for the trip to South Australia in 1836 included cows, sheep, hogs, sucking pigs, fowls, turkeys, ducks, geese, goats, rabbits and horses. While some provided fresh food for the cabin class passengers on the voyage, others were saved to become the pioneer stock of the new colony. No doubt some seeds and seedlings were included, given that the 1835 prospectus of the South Australian Company made it quite clear that pastoralism and agriculture were to be encouraged in the new colony.

Some settlers bought livestock from so-called ‘restaurant ports’ on their way to South Australia. For example, Captain Duff of the Africaine and his business partner, John Hallett, bought livestock in Cape Town. When Duff arrived in South Australia, Colonel William Light almost immediately despatched him to Tasmania to obtain provisions for the settlement. Indeed, much of the pioneer stock was brought in from Tasmania, but not all. Before William Ferguson sailed on the Buffalo, Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm arranged to send him ‘a few of the finest Merino sheep’ from New South Wales, once he arrived in South Australia. William’s wife, Rosina, expected only about twenty sheep. In November 1838, however, the first large flock of sheep was ‘overlanded’ from New South Wales to Adelaide.

The first official census was conducted in 1841 and revealed that the five-year-old South Australia had 200,000 sheep and 15,000 cattle. The first substantial crops were harvested in the same year. By this time the colony could support the 14,160 Europeans who lived in South Australia, thanks to the foresight of the planners and first colonists.

See also Livestock onboard

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