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Alberta, Past and Present, Historical and Biographical
Vol 1 - Chapter XIX
Live Stock (Continued)


The Beginning and Development of the Ho)-se Industry:—The native horse of the prairies was the Indian Pony used by the Plain Indians to hunt the buffalo. Lord Southesk who crossed the plains in 1859 says that buffalo runners cost from $20.00 to $40.00. Prior to the coming of the North West Mounted Police in 1874 very few well-bred horses were to be found in the West. Horses from Eastern Canada proved more serviceable for the hard work of police duty than the native stock. The Government established farms in connection with a number of the police forts to breed a supply of suitable horses for the Police Force. One of the earliest of these farms was situated west of Fort Macleod near Pincher Creek. A few good horses were raised by the early settlers in the vicinity of Fort Macleod and Calgary but not in sufficient numbers to satisfy the needs of the Mounted Police for remounts.

In the early eighties Alberta horsemen became very enthusiastic about breeding horses for the British Army. The Quorn Ranch and others imported many fine mares and a number of famous sires like Eagle Plume, Silk Gown and Acrostic were brought into the country. Many fine cavalry horses were bred, but the market failed and the fine mares of the Quorn Ranch were afterwards used as plow animals.

In 1886 the officers of the Department of the Interior estimated the number of horses in Southern Alberta to be about 10,000. These were mostly found in the Calgary and Macleod districts. From that date the horse ranching developed into a separate and profitable industry in Southern and Central Alberta. Three thousand, five hundred animals, most of whomwere mares, were imported that year from Oregon, British Columbia and Ontario. Breeders began importing sires from England and Kentucky and an attempt was made to place the industry on a sound basis and to breed the type of horse suitable for draught and agricultural work. The climate, grass and other conditions of the country were found to be ideally adapted for raising superior animals. Dr. McEachren, the chief veterinary inspector of the Dominion, reported to the Government in 1887 as follows:

"Probably no better horsebreeding country exists in the British Empire than the district of Alberta." Several important ranches like the Stimson Ranch at High River and the Cochrane Ranch on the Bow River were established in 1887. The ranges began to flourish with representatives of the most important breeds—Irish Hunters, Clydesdales, Hackneys and Thoroughbreds. Horsemen soon realized that the day of the cayuse was past, and that better care in selection, feeding and handling was imperative. A picture of the conditions that prevailed in this respect is seen in the following words of Dr. McEachren:

"The days of breaking young horses as done by the broncho rider are over, viz., catching him with the lasso, blindfolding him, saddling and mounting him, and with whips and spurs making the poor, frightened creature buck, rear, plunge and gallop over the prairie until horse and rider are exhausted, and broken in spirit and subdued by fatigue the horse yields a sullen obedience, but is utterly untaught, unmannered and devoid of 'mouth'."

In 1888 all the remounts necessary for the Mounted Police were obtained in the Territories. Thirty individuals of fine quality, the first Alberta-bred horses offered for sale in the country, were purchased from Frank Strong of Macleod. The remainder were procured from the North West Cattle Company. Prices varied from $125.00 for saddle horses to $150.00 for team horses. In the next three years a great many horses were brought into the country from England, Oregon and Montana, but apart from a few of the best breeders there were a great many horses of poor quality on the ranges. In 1891 the Mounted Police were unable to get more than one hundred remounts in the Territories suitable for police work. The reason given by Commissioner Herchmer of the Police Force was that breeders tried to raise sixteen-hand animals from fourteen-hand mares. Several hundreds were sent to England in 1892. These were of a class refused by the Police and so the experiment proved of little value. Great difficulty was found in finding a market, due to the inferior quality of the horses offered and to the general trade depression and the introduction of electric cars in eastern cities. Commissioner Herchmer stated that one-half the mares in the country could have been killed off without injuring the horse industry. The price of the best horses fell to $60.00. Heavy Clydes from 1,400 to 1,600 pounds brought no more than $75.00.

The police census of 1895 showed that there were 42,257 horses on the ranges; most of these were in Southern Alberta. 1896 and 1897 were very dull years for the horsemen. Many sold their horses for what they could get and went into cattle ranching. William Pearce, Superintendent of Mines, reported to the Minister of the Interior in 1897 that there were not thirty per cent of the horses on the ranges between townships nine and twenty-four that were there two years before.

The stream of immigration that began to trickle in 1898, and in later years to actually pour in, gave the first great impetus to the horse industry in Alberta and Western Canada. Those horsemen who stuck to the business during the dull years from 1893 to 1898 now began to (10 well. The Klondike gold boom created a great demand for pack horses. Cayuses and Indian ponies, which had formerly been the scourge of the horse trade, were taken in hundreds at prices that were obtained for good horses. The Commissioner of the Police stated in 1899 that the price of horses had increased fifty per cent and that breeders were giving more attention to heavy classes suitable for farm work. In former years breeders had an idea that the only market available was the Army or the Mounted Police but the rapid settlement and agricultural development that set iii in 1900 taught them that the most profitable market lay at their very doors. From that time to the present (1919) the supply of suitable horses for farm and dray work has seldom been above the demand.

The extraordinary demand in the Province referred to above began to attract the inferior and surplus stock from the Montana ranges. Owing to the low duty these were dumped into Western Canada and glutted the limited market for low grades and misfits of our own ranges. The horse- breeders, through the Horsebreeders' Association, petitioned the Dominion Government in 1902 to impose a minimum valuation on all horses imported into Canada. Over 21,000 horses had been brought into the Territories in 1902 at an average valuation of $25.00 a head. Of this number at least one-half, it was said, were imported for breeding purposes. The minimum asked for was $75.00 which was reduced by the Dominion Government to $50.00. Stallions and mares valued under $50.00 were prohibited from being imported into Canada. With this achievement the horse industry has immensely grown in importance in the development of agriculture. The interests of horsemen have been actively kept to the front by the Alberta Horsebreeders' Association—the organization that superseded the Territorial Association when Alberta became a separate province. Legislation respecting the enrolling of stallions was enforced by the legislature of the Territories in 1903. By this means inferior sires with mongrel pedigrees were practically prohibited from being imported or being used within the Province and what was a menace to innocent breeders was removed.

Considerable interest iii light horse breeding was aroused by the prospect of supplying remounts for the British Army. Representatives of the War Office in London (Col. C. H. Bridge, C. B., C. M. G., and Major Drage, V. S.) visited the Province in 1905 and selected 111 horses. The shipment was almost totally destroyed in transit by a railway collision. Next year 115 horses were selected by Colonel Bridge for the Army, but owing to the great demand that sprang up within the Province for this class of horses the sales to the Army ceased.

From 1905 to the outbreak of the war good horses found a ready market. Railway development was active. Settlers were pouring into the country. Mining camps and lumbering camps afforded a splendid market for the best heavy draught teams. horses of sufficient weight sold at at prices varying from $500.00 to $700.00 a team in British Columbia. Teams from 2,800 to 3,500 pounds were worth from $350.00 to $400.00, smaller teams from $300.00 to $350.00. The big horse ranches began to disappear in 1904 and 1905. Thousands of young mares were sold off the ranges. The effect was soon seen in the decrease in the number of horses. Railway contractors were forced to import mules, and tractors began to take the place of horses on the large farms. In 1909 and 1910 it was estimated the railway contractors imported 2,500 teams of mules. By the end of the period (1905-1913) motor trucks and tractors so influenced the horse market that prices fell $25.00 to $50.00 per head. A cycle of railway building was completed and the contractors threw many horses on the market, which had a bearish effect on prices.

The war did not cause such a rise in horses as it did in other classes of live stock. When the war broke out it was expected that the British Army would take large numbers of horses from Alberta. Breeders were again disappointed. The army officers offered low prices and horsemen seemed to imagine that a horse that was no good for work in Alberta was the right horse for the Army. In 1916, however, the cry for increased production raised a keen demand for all classes of good farm horses and several thousand were imported from Eastern Canada. From 1914 to 1920 the number of horses in the Province increased from 520,000 to 800,000. Though many influences have been at work to improve the quality of horses, unfortunately the increase is inferior to the best types and to the splendid foundation stock imported and bred in the early days.

Alberta horses have always been comparatively free from disease. Glanders and mange have broken out from time to time, but these diseases have been generally traced to outside sources. Glanders was imported by the Blackfoot Indians in 1877 from Montana where they spent the winter hunting the buffalo. The eradication of the disease entailed a great deal of labor and expense upon the government and it was not until 1886 that it was under control. Strict quarantine regulations have been enforced from time to time ever since, according to the occurrence of mange and glanders. Range riders were maintained by the Health of Animals Bureau of the federal department of Agriculture who searched the ranges for infected animals. Since 1.917 glanders has been practically extinct in the provinces.

In 1904 douraine or "maladie du coit" made its appearance among the horses in Southern Alberta, being introduced by some of the settlers from the Western States. This proved to be one of the most insidious diseases of the range. The Health of Animals Branch established a research laboratory at Lethbridge. Here Dr. Watson worked for a number of years to produce a serum that enabled horsemen to cure the disease in its incipient stages. This result was obtained in 1917 and since that time douraine has ceased to be a menace to the horsemen.

Clydesdales and Percherons are the favorite breeds with Alberta horsemen although there are many Shires and Suffoiks among the heavy draught types. The marvelous growth of motor cars has caused a decline in the various classes of light horses. At one time the province had many fine Hackneys and Standard Breds. Alberta has won high honors in competition on these breeds with the best horsebreeders of the world. The champion Hackney at the Pan-American Exhibition in 1901 and the New York Horse Show in the same year came from the Rawlinson Ranch ten miles from the city of Calgary. Again, the Champion Hackney Stallion and Hackney Mare at the World's Fair, St. Louis, 1904, "Saxon" and "Priscilla", were bred and raised in Alberta. The finest and largest herd of Percherons in America are located in Alberta, owned by George Lane. The herd comprises over 500 head. Since 1918 over 75 head of this great herd have been sent to England to establish a Percheron stud. In 1920 the Provincial Department of Agriculture in co-operation with the Clydesdale and Percheron Associations imported two stallions, the best individuals of the breeds obtainable, for special breeding purposes.


Rise and Progress of the Industry: The sheep industry of Alberta dates from the early eighties. The first flocks were established in the open range country in the southern part of the provisional district and ran in bands of from 2,000 to 5,000 head. The first wool shipment containing 70,000 lbs. was made in 1884. The foundation stock imported mostly from Montana and Wyoming was of the Marino or Rambouillet breed with varying grades of impurity crossed with Shropshires or Oxfords, with small carcasses and heavy fleeces. Wool was generally low iii price and flock-masters introduced Downs and long wool varieties with a view to increasing the weight of the carcass, as mutton was more profitable than wool. Sheep ranchers and cattle ranchers appeared on the plains about the same time. The first leases were granted in 1881 and regulations governing the issue of leases were authorized by O. C., December 23, 1881. Differences between the sheep and cattle men quickly followed. Iii 1882 an O. C. was passed prohibiting the grazing of sheep on Dominion Lands. In 1884 this area was restricted to that portion of Alberta south of the High\vood and Bow Rivers. The sheepmen were driven eastward into Assiniboia, and the number of sheep in the district rapidly decreased. It is very difficult to ascertain accurately from any available source the number of sheep in the Territories at various times. Dr. McEachren in his report for 1887 states that there were about 18,000 sheep in the country and that the industry was "eminently successful." The same year the inspector of ranches reported 15,266 sheep on leased lands in the Territories, 5,800 of which were in Alberta.

The restrictions imposed by the regulations of 1884 discouraged the sheepmen. Commissioner Herchmer, of the N. W. M. P., in his report for 1889, states: "The large sheep ranches are disappearing and I think the industry will resolve itself into keeping small flocks on homesteads." This was not feasible unless the flocks were fenced in. In the country south of Macleod and Lethbridge the industry almost vanished. Dr. Wroughton, quarantine officer, in his report for 1890, after gathering information from ranchers and other sources, reported 1,004 sheep in this part of Southern Alberta. The same year Superintendent Mclllree took a house-to-house census of the stock in the Calgary district, that is from Mosquito Creek north to the Little Red Deer River, and found 18,000 head.

After 1890 the sheep industry improved, the number of sheep increased and the business became, to those who exercised reasonable care with their flocks, profitable. The most favored districts lay east of Alberta between Swift Current and Maple Creek, though a large flock was placed on the Alberta Railway & Coal Company's lands in the vicinity of Lee's Creek. Scab broke out in 1893. The disease was brought from Idaho. A great many flocks had been imported from across the border the previous year, from districts where scab had been prevalent. Active measures were taken to stamp out the disease. Dr. McEachren, the chief veterinary officer of the Dominion Government, visited the Territories and established quarantine districts. All movement of sheep was prohibited except under specific instructions, viz., inspection by authorized inspector, certificate of health, and movement for slaughter only at their destination. The quarantine districts were as follows:

(a) Tps. 1 to 16, inclusive, West of the 3rd Meridian.
Ranges 23 to 30, inclusive, West of the 3rd Meridian.
(b) Tps. 1 to 16, inclusive, West of the 4th Meridian.
Ranges 1 to 8, inclusive, 'West of the 4th Meridian.
(c) Range 25 as far north as Tp. 9 West of the 4th Meridian.
(d) Range 16 as far north as Tp. 9 West of the 4th Meridian.

The extent of the revival of the industry previous to the outbreak of scab may be deduced from Dr. McEachren's visit to the various ranches in 1893. He found over 45,000 sheep on the ranches he visited, varying in flocks of from 1,000 to 5,000. Before the appearance of scab an export trade had been opened with Great Britain but the presence of scab influenced the British Government to place an embargo on Canadian sheep. Coupled with the great losses due to the disease the sheepmen received a serious set-back. Wool was only 7 to 9 cents a pound and the low prices of sheep in Montana enabled the Montana mutton growers to undersell the Alberta producers in British Columbia, the only market open to the latter. As in the case of the cattle trade the development of the British Columbia mines produced a similar prosperity in the mutton trade. From 1899 until 1902 the sheepmen, notwithstanding what was alleged to be unfavorable grazing regulations, made more money than the cattlemen. Commissioner Herchmer in his report of 1899, states: "While the quality of cattle is not improving, that of sheep is, rapidly, and there is a great difference in the appearance and value of our sheep and those across the line which are not so carefully bred up." During this period great numbers of sheep were imported from Montana and Wyoming and doubts arose lest the Canadian range would be overstocked. Seventy thousand sheep were reported to be in the Lethbridge district alone in 1901 compared with 1,004 ten years before. Eighty thousand more were reported between Swift Current and Langevin. In a letter to the Department of the Interior, F. W. Martin, a prominent breeder of Maple Creek, reported 230,000 sheep in Western Assiniboia. One flock in Alberta, that of Jesse Knight of Raymond, numbered 46,000 head.

The revival of the industry renewed the old quarrel between the sheepmen and the cattlemen. A special investigation was made by the Dominion Government in 1901 with the result that separate territory was allotted to the respective parties, the sheepmen being driven into the country between Medicine Hat and Swift Current. The herds gradually drifted back into Southeastern Alberta and by 1906 there were 154,266 sheep in Alberta compared with 121,556 in Saskatchewan.

The storm of 1903 was probably one of the most disastrous in the history of the sheep industry. It came in the most critical period of the lambing season, and most of the lambs on the large ranches perished. Many of the largest sheep owners sold their entire stock and went into cattle. Large breeding flocks were sold for mutton, causing production to fall below the demand and requiring importation from New South Vales and the United States to meet the wants of the local market.

By 1905 the open land of Southern Alberta has been nearly all taken up by homesteaders and sheep were regarded as outcasts and the sheep ranchers as pirates on the range.

From that date until 1910 the ranching industry steadily declined. The census of 1911 showed that there were 21,000 fewer sheep in Alberta than in 1906, and it became apparent that the only hope of expansion lay in the establishment of farm flocks. Meanwhile the population was growing and large importations from the United States, Australia and New Zealand became necessary to maintain the mutton supplies. In 1909 it was estimated that those importations reached 60,000 sheep and 15,000 lambs.

Until 1910 almost 90 per cent of the sheep in the province were found south of township 25. In that year a great many flocks varying from 200 to 1,000 head were moved northward over the Red Deer River to the lands then opened in Central Alberta. This year marked a turn in the sheep industry. Farm flocks became general and the number of sheep steadily increased.

The eyes of the sheep rangemen now turned to the Foothills for pasturage. Through the efforts of the Wool Growers Association in 1912 it was found that there was sufficient summer range for over 50,000 sheep and later permission was given to run sheep in the Forest Reserves. From 1909 the number of sheep increased from 130,000 to 383,000.

For many years the great bulk of the wool grown in Alberta and Saskatchewan represented a class of its own among Canadian wools. It was known as "Western Wool" or "Territorial Wool." The yearly clip, amounting to about 1,000,000 pounds in the grease, representing nearly 500,000 pounds of scoured wool, was classed as medium fine. The western sheep grower differed from the sheeprnen in any other part of Canada in that he began the industry with wool breeds, as opposed to mutton breeds. The development of agriculture and mixed farming tended to make mere wool growing unprofitabie. This branch of the sheep industry declined, from a variety of causes. The wool grower from the first was regarded more of an intruder in range land than a pioneer of progress. From the conditions of his situation he made his business an understudy of that of the States across the line, practically divorcing himself from the rest of the Canadian sheep growers. While the woolen manufacturers were protected by a customs duty the wool grower had no protection and in addition had to pay a high duty oil fencing to guard his flocks from the ravages of timber wolves and coyotes. Consequently wool was an unsatisfactory product in Western Canada, often selling as low as 7 and 8 cents a pound. The mutton market was at the producer's door but the wool market was in the manufacturing centres of the east. The tariff which was imposed to protect the coarse wools of the east gave no protection to the finest grades of the western wool.

The Dingley tariff cut off a large market for western wool and led the Territorial Sheepbreeders' Association to petition the federal government to take fine wool off the free list and give them a chance to supply the ten million pounds of wool annually imported into Canada.

The improvement in the prospects of the sheep industry during the last few years encouraged wool growers to devote greater attention to the requirements of the foreign market respecting dipping the sheep, washing and sorting the wool.

In 1916 the Australian method of shearing and baling wool was introduced into the province. Mr. M. R. C. Harvey, a veteran sheepman, established the first plant at Chin Lakes. The new methods coupled with a more co-operative system of marketing greatly assisted in the success of the sheep industry. The annual clip is about 2,500,000 pounds. The influence of the war on the sheep industry was reflected in rising prices for wool and mutton. From 1905 to 1910 the average price of wool was 14 cents a pound. By 1915 the price rose to 27 cents a pound, and in the closing days of the war Alberta wool sold for 63 cents a pound. Mutton rose in the same period to $7.80 in 1915, to $10.50 in 1916 and to $16.00 in 1918, live weight.

Difficulties Between Cattlemen and Sheepmen:—From the first the sheepmen and cattlemen came into conflict. As we have seen, sheep-grazing oil Lands was prohibited in 1882 and 1884, within certain areas. These regulations remained in force until 1893. At that time it would appear from the official records that neither the officers of the Territorial Government nor the land agents of the Department of the Interior were clear as to the nature of the sheep grazing regulations. There was great uncertainty among ranchmen as to what parts of the country were open for sheep grazing. Accordingly in 1893 regulations were passed prohibiting the grazing of sheep in any part of Alberta west of the C. & E. Railway, the Bow, Belly and St. Mary Rivers to the international boundary. All that part of Alberta east of the St. Mary River and south of the Saskatchewan River was set apart exclusively for the grazing of sheep. In all other parts of Alberta and the Territories it was necessary to have the consent of the Minister of the Interior to obtain a grazing lease for sheep (0. C. April 22, 1893). With the advance of settlement and the growth of the sheep and cattle industries, the clash of interests became more and more acute, and in 1901 the Department of the Interior appointed Mr. E. W. Burley to make an investigation into the conditions. A joint meeting of the opposing parties was held in Medicine Hat August 24, 1901, and as a result thereof Commissioner Burley reported that the proper course to follow was to throw the country open to sheep and cattle alike. Mr. Burley was succeeded by Mr. W. Stuart, and another meeting was held at Medicine Hat, October 1, 1902. Both parties agreed that there was room in the country for both industries. On January 1, 1903, new departmental regulations were passed respecting grazing leases. The grazing tract in Alberta comprised the part of the provinces south of township 29. Within this area certain areas were reserved exclusively for sheep, viz.:

(a) Ranges 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 in Townships 9 and 10; also the parts of ranges 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 in Townships 9 south of the Bow and Saskatchewan rivers.
(b) A block of 8 townships oil shore of Lake Pakowski, and along Etzikom Coulee comprised in ranges 8, 9, 10, 11 in townships 5 and 6.
(c) A block of 10 townships around Many Island Lake a few miles northeast of Medicine hat. This area was continuous with a large area extending eastward into Saskatchewan comprising 80 townships, the greater part of which was north of the main line of the C. P. R.
(d) Two small areas were set apart in the Cypress Hills for grazing during the season when spear grass was prevalent oil sheep ranges.


The swine industry developed slowly in Alberta. In the early days it did not appeal to the settlers like the cattle and sheep industries. No attempt was made to produce on a scale big enough to establish an export trade. For many years the supply of hogs in the Northwest was away below the demand. The Government of the Northwest Territories made repeated attempts to establish the industry on a better basis by importing pure-bred stock and disposing of them on advantageous terms to the farmers. Up to 1903 the Government had distributed 681 pure-bred sows and 122 pure-bred boars in the North West Territories. Eighteen small packing houses were in operation.

The great obstacle to the growth of the industry was the want of a steady market. Prices were controlled by local influences. Packers and buyers failed to realize that the years of low prices were also years of small profits and so "misused the opportunity presented by large offerings to depress prices below a reasonable level as to discourage the farmers and lessen the output." Dissatisfaction with market conditions grew to such an extent that in 1907 the Government of Alberta instructed the Beef Commission to conduct an inquiry into the hog industry. The Com- missioners reported that the farmers had no confidence in the market. "There have been times when prices have been high, sufficiently so to encourage the farmers engaging extensively in the industry but when a large number of hogs came on the market the price dropped below the cost of production. This condition of affairs has been repeated several times in the last decade, so that at the present time the farmers, while anxious to engage in the business, will not venture because of the uncertainty of the market. We are forced to believe that there is a monopoly in the industry, and that the privilege has been abused." Another authority dealing with the problem declared: "The price depends U1)Ofl nothing but what the buyer thinks the producer will take."

The Commission reported further that 75 per cent of the cured pork used in the province was imported from Eastern Canada and the United States and sold at ridiculously high prices. In consequence of the conditions that prevailed the Commission recommended the Government to undertake the establishment and management of a Government pork packing plant, somewhere between Edmonton and Calgary.

In 1908 the Government followed up the work of the Beef Commission by a second Commission known as the Pork Commission appointed to definitely inquire into the feasibility of a government co-operative pork-packing plant. This body recommended, among other things, that when a sufficient number of hog growers gave a reasonable assurance that they would supply at least 50,000 hogs per year, and elect officers and directors to look after a steady supply of hogs, to decide on the money necessary to establish a plant, and to look after the conduct and ability of the operators, the government should undertake to furnish the money to build, equip and operate a plant as the directors deemed advisable. In compliance with this recommendation the legislature voted $50,000 in 1909 to this project to be applied as soon as the farmers would contract to furnish 50,000 hogs per year. A canvass of the province was made and the number of hogs promised amounted to only 12,764, consequently the co-operative scheme failed and nothing has been attempted in this respect since.

The prosperity of the hog industry is best indicated by the number in the province each year during the last twelve years. The numbers indicate a rise and fall about every five years. As prices increase the numbers increase to a peak and then fall more or less suddenly. Hogs increased from 139,000 ill to 397,000 the next year. The great demand for bacon and hog products that set in about the end of 1915 caused a sudden rise in the number in the province to 603,000 in 1916 and reached the maximum in the history of the swine industry of Alberta in 1917 when the number of hogs was 730,000. During this period the price of hogs soared to $18.32˝ per hundred live weight in 1918, showing that the price depends oil export to save the producer from the power of the local Packers and butchers. Another factor also entered into the price. That was the high cost of rough grains and farm labor. These factors coupled with bad harvests in certain parts of the province discouraged farmers so much that it required a strong and persistent propaganda by the governments, federal and provincial, to prevent throwing lean and unfinished hogs upon the market. Since 1918 the number of hogs has been falling at the rate of about 150,000 a year. As in the case of the cattle industry the hog industry is back to where it was in 1906.


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