Diminishing Returns in Agriculture

By F. Lester Patton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
DIMINISHING PHYSICAL RETURNS IN FOOD TRANSFORMATION BY FARM ANIMALS

THUS far we have considered the various forms of physical diminishing returns to be observed in the farmer's sources of power and in his utilization of the soil. There remain to be considered the varieties of the phenomenon which occur in the process by which farm animals transform foods largely unavailable to man into the proteins and fats which he can digest.

The digestive and metabolic mechanism of food animals is an indispensable means of turning hay, fodder and grain into milk, meat and eggs. While, under the influence of selective breeding, the efficiency of this mechanism is constantly improving, it is none the less, whether efficient or inefficient, subject to diminishing physical returns.

That this is true of the steer was shown several years ago by an investigation at the Illinois Agricultural Experiment Station.1 In this experiment sixteen two-year-old, high-grade Holstein steers were divided into four groups of four each and fed a standard ration the contents of which were the same for all groups. One group received an amount of the ration computed to be barely sufficient to enable it to hold its own in weight. Another group received an amount about equal to all it could eat, and the other two groups received amounts one-third and two- thirds of the way between these extremes. Tests were made

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1
Bulletin 197, Illinois Agricultural Experiment Station, p. 588.

-50-

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