LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
MILK-SHORTAGE AND ITS CAUSE
Six,—Much has recently been spoked and written on the subject of milk-production in time of war. Unfortunately, some of the ablest critics of the official policy, among them Lord Dawson of Penn, though unassailable when speaking on public health and nutrition, lack the agricultural experience necessary to refute the Government's experts, who seek to prove that all is well with the milk-supply: The answer of the Ministry concerned to those critics who protest that the indis- criminate ploughing up of grass-land will result in decreased milk- production is that the cow can be fed as well off arable land as off pasture. No one disputes this; the cow as a milk-producer need, in fact, never see a grass-field. This argument, however, ignores the three years of the cow's life before she is taken into the dairy-herd. A cow cannot be bought ready made, and no better method of feeding and rearing healthy dairy-heifers than on pasture has yet been advanced. The vital problem of maintaining the dairy-stock of this country is gravely jeopardised by the Government policy, as carried out by at least some of the Agricultural War Committees. The following advertisement appeared in a recent issue of a local paper : " In consequence of ploughing up orders, to sell by auction . . . 39 heifers with calf or in calf, 7 bulling heifers, 14 yearling heifers, to heifer calves." The present writer, who has farmed for fourteen years and sold tuberculin-tested dairy-heifers to milk- producers, had before the war 8o or more head of dairy-stock in various stages of growth ; now she has 54, and the number is likely to be still further reduced owing to new ploughing-up orders.
The War Agricultural Committees are instructed only to give special consideration to the milk-selling farmer (who is allowed two acres of grassland for a cow and one for a calf); on a stock-rearing farm, which does not sell milk, no allowance of grass is granted at all, the dairy-heifer being classed with bullocks as a store-beast. The leaflet published by the Ministry of Agriculture, How the Livestock Rationing Scheme Will Work, after emphasising that the production of milk was the farmer's primary duty, allots a ration of three pounds of cake a head per day to the young fattening bullock and lumps the young dairy-heifer under the heading " all other cattle " on a ration of one pound of cake a day. While these stock-rearing farms are disappearing under the plough, the high prices given for dairy-cattle in the markets indicate the shortage already felt by the dairy-farmers. It takes three years to breed a cow, and it seems certain that, even if the Government took steps at once to see that the rearing of cow- calves was made as important an object as milk-producing, the present supply could not be maintained.
The recent news that milk is to be rationed is very disquieting; but it is a pity that the Ministry of Food still ignores the large surplus of milk which cannot be dealt with on the factory-system so dear to the official mind. Before the war, the surplus milk on stock- rearing farms was used for cream, butter-making, and certain soft cheeses. In the year 1935-6 farm-butter totalled 436,800 cwt., the equivalent of 4,310,400 gallons of milk. No reliable statistics of the output of cream or soft cheeses from farms are available; but sup- plies of fresh cream in the same year were estimated at 430,800 cwt., of which 8o per cent. were home-produced. A calf can be fed for a large part of its life before weaning on skim-milk; cream and butter are therefore a natural by-product of calf-rearing. At the out- break of war control of prices made it hardly worth while to make butter; later rationing stopped the sale of it in the markets; and the sale of soft cheese and cream was made illegal. The making of small hard cheeses is also prohibited; these can only be made if the weight of each cheese is not less than 7 lbs., and they must be made on every day of the week. These regulations, involving expensive and almost unobtainable equipment besides a constant supply of milk, make the production of cheese by the ordinary farmer practically impossible.
It is of course possible to let the whole milk be drunk by the calf, and this uneconomic plan is in fact what is being adopted. Indeed, the only outlet sanctioned by the Ministry of Food is the fattening of veal-calves—a purely luxury-trade which should be totally prohibited in time of war. One of these calves will drink perhaps on the average 3 gallons of milk a day, enough to provide 72 school children with the daily Government allowance of A of a pint. A leading auctioneer told me the other day that more of these calves pass through the market than before the war, and that they are of better quality, obviously because they have drunk more milk. It would be interesting to know how many thousands of gallons of milk are disposed of in this uneconomic fashion instead of going to the children of this country.—I am, Sir, yours, &c., V. E. POOLE.