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Title: John James Murphy to Martin Murphy, 22 December 1867
CollectionArgentina - Murphy
SenderMurphy, John James
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationcattle breeder
Sender Religionunknown
OriginUncalito, Argentina
DestinationHaysland, Co. Wexford, Ireland
RecipientMurphy, Martin
Recipient Gendermale
Doc. No.
Partial Date
Doc. Type
Word Count1022
Genreweather, cattle, farming, local economy, settling payments, profits
TranscriptFlor del Uncalito

My dear friends,
The first news, and that which I believe will be most interesting to you all is the enjoyment of good health, which I am happy to inform you we all here are in perfect possession of, thanks to the giver of all gifts. The season has, and still continues to be, very dry. We are preparing to draw water as there is none now in the camp, unless in large rivers, that never go dry. There is plentiness of grass, at least with us, but is now getting dry and seasoned that for the future we shall have to provide the sheep with water to keep them in a healthy state during the summer. The langostas (or in other words the locusts) is causing destruction to the camps in other neighbourhoods, but they have not yet reached near here. They clean all the camp as they go when very plenty, but that doesn't happen every year. The profits in sheep-farming has gone down very much these last two years owing to diverse causes, but the principal one is that all the good land suitable for the business is already I may say over-stocked, and there is not consumption in preparation to the increase, and it's come to that now that people scarcely know how to dispose of them. Every one wanting to sell, and no one desirous to buy sheep at prices a little more than nothing. There are thousands wanting to sell now, and would be glad to get 2s. 6d. per head for sheep that a few years ago would have got purchased any where at 8s. a head. There are many establishments now through the camp for rendering down sheep for the fat. This well prove a means to keep down the increase, so soon as all the land owners get them erected on their establishments, strangers which process sheep will be brought to a certain value in proportion as they pay by melting down. From the way the sheep-farming business appear to cause now, I cannot but think that after some time the business will be confined to the owners of landed property, or at least I should think in a great measure. Otherwise, new on rented camp, or in partnership, must bring themselves to live again as they did some twenty years ago, that is live on meat alone, and very little clothing, the latter which is now selling at about 300 per cent over than at that date. Groceries &c. at about 400 per cent. This latter class of sheep-farmers are principally those that are selling sheep at the above prices. They are forced sales, and the only purchasers are the creditors, so this is the principal cause why sheep are selling at these reduced prices. If we only had means of disposing of stock as it increase earn at this reduced price of say twenty dollars per head (3s. 4d), the business would earn them on well managed establishments pay from 18 to 20 per cent on the capital invested. The cry on all sides is that sheep-farming don't pay, but the majority of people take a very superficial view of the business. Those that bought sheep some four years ago at 50 dollars each, and lease at one million dollars the league, and have to sell now at 1/3 that price, no doubt have lost heavily. But if a man only value his stock and land at the price it's worth today, I say the business pay good interest on his capital invested. This last way is I think the just way to view the matter, because in opposition to the first case I with thousands others that bought sheep at 4 dollars are low at from 60 to 100 thousand the league, might argue the point, and with justice say that sheep pay enormous profits. Dear brother, you may continue on giving the money to Frank Doyle's mother. He says if you think a little more would be necessary to keep her, to let her have it, say a couple shillings more in the month if you thought it necessary. I got clear of Barry & Walker & Wilks pretty well. I took up the amount in groceries and squared my account with them and then paid the amount (£64 due to Royden & Sons) to Captain Sanders' son, who was [torn] on his way home. He has a perfect knowledge of the [torn] whole transaction. I am loading the remainder [torn] of my wool now and expect to go to Bs. As. about the first or middle of February, or perhaps sooner. We are commenced sending in troops of fat sheep to the slaughterhouses in Bs. As. to be killed on our own account. In these establishments they charge so much per head for slaughtering and melting them down. I sent in from here before shearing 700 and the other day dispatched 800 from here, and 1,120 from the Caldera my new place. This we must continue until such times as we are prepared to erect a melting-down place of our own. This doesn't cost much but there are a deal of trouble in working it afterwards, in consequence of the uncertainty of working now remaining long in any one place. The advantage in this business is that we turn to profit all our old sheep that we can not dispose to advantage in any other way, and by doing so improve our flocks, and rid them of unprofitable stock for which the same expenses and care is required as if they were good. I am surprised to learn that you did not receive the papers I send you regular. I will try another plan now and let me know if they reach you safe. Ellen & me join in sending our love to you all, and also to Father Reville. Hoping this will find all friends in the enjoyment of good health, we remain your dear and affectionate brother & sister,

Ellen & John J. Murphy