A sheep doctor

Joseph Docker's flocks, like those of many other pastoralists, suffered from scab mite - a common, yet financially devastating infestation.  This letter from Docker to William (possibly his brother in Sydney), reveals the cost of treating his flocks - tobacco washes came to be accepted as the most effective treatment. The letter also illustrates the complicated juggling of finances that pastoralists had to engage in, to ensure creditors were paid, and bank accounts were not overdrawn during the depressed economy of the time.  Remote pastoralists were wholly reliant on the slow, unreliable postal service, to communicate with their business associates such as agents, bank managers, and the Commissioner of Lands.


Joseph Docker, Letterbook, 1845


Accession number: MS 10437


From the State Library of Victoria's Manuscripts collection.

See the catalogue record for this item


31st August 1845

My dear William,
I have deferred writing to you so long that I have but just time enough to save the Post. I have engaged a sheep doctor to take all trouble from my own hands, and on this account I require different medicine from that which I at first intended to use. Among other things I want (2,000) two thousand pounds of tobacco stems, i.e., the fibres of the tobacco leaf, not the stalks, & as I think you will get them cheaper in Sydney than I could in Melbourne I should wish you to purchase that quantity, & forward it to Mr Gregory by the very first opportunity, as I have already begun to shear & no time must be lost. As to payment I will forward you an early cheque for the amount, or if you could get it on three months credit I should thus have time to send a load or two of wool to Melbourne to enable me to meet this and other contingent payments. I am told there are plenty of stems to be got in bags for the purpose of sheep dressings but if you cannot get them, perhaps you could get sound colonial tobacco, but I should not wish for this kind to exceed 6d per pound. Write to me without fail next week. I have not time to say more,
I am my dear William
Yours truly, Joseph Docker

Estimate of Expenses for curing 10,000 sheep.

                                      £    s    d
Doctor’s wages                80.   0. 0
         (no cure no pay)
2,000 lbs Tobacco 6d       60.   0. 0
        carriage £10.0.0
160 lbs Sublimate 7/-       56.   0. 0
25 Galls Turpentine 10/-    12. 10. 0
30 lbs Blue Stone 2/-          3.  0. 0
Sal Ammoniac 2/-              6.   0. 0
7 men for 3 mos at           50.   8. 0
                                   £267. 18. 0

Rations to be added…

Joseph Docker