Effects of the Great War upon Agriculture in the United States and Great Britain

By Benjamin Hibbard H. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
Live Stock: Production, Prices and Exports for 1914 to 1918

Changes in the numbers of live stock are not made as readily as changes in the acreages of cultivated crops. There was, therefore, naturally a slower response to the price stimulus in the case of live stock than in plant products. However, the prices of bread grains, if not indeed of all grains, has a tendency to outrun live stock prices in time of war. Such is the case now, and the farmers are aware of it. The prices of wheat, rye, corn, and oats are so high that farmers hesitate to go more extensively into live stock, thinking that there is more profit in selling grain than in feeding it. This tendency has been for the most part overcome by the fixing of the hog-corn price ratio, by the fixing of milk prices, the virtual guarantee that beef prices will be steadied through government buying, and the regulation of wool prices.1 Why, it may be asked, should it be necessary to stabilize meat prices any more than to stabilize the prices of the corn, oats and hay used in animal production? The answer to this is that the process of production in the case of animals is a much longer one than in the case of crop production. The production of most animals not only requires a period of time running over several years, but it requires an investment which can not be shifted without considerable trouble and possible loss. As a result the producers of live stock are more apprehensive concerning future prices than are the grain farmers. If they start out to produce cattle, or sheep, for example, they can not abandon that line as readily as a wheat farmer can turn to something else, as barley and corn, and so divide his risks.

From the above argument, it might seem that under the circumstances which the war has brought about, stock raising

____________________
1
Discussed in Chapter IV.

-53-

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