Second Kind: Produce that can be multiplied according to demand Icon

January 17, 2020

195 The second kind is the rude produce which human industry can multiply in proportion to the demand.

It consists of useful plants and animals which are naturally plentiful. This makes them of little use in uncultivated countries. But they gain value as cultivation advances.

During a long period of improvement, their amount diminishes while their demand increases. Their real value gradually rises until it reaches maximum profitability.

Beef

196 For example, cattle prices can rise so high that it becomes profitable to cultivate food for them.

At this point, its price cannot go higher unless more land were turned into pasture. The extension of tillage reduces the amount of wild pasture. It reduces the amount of wild cattle meat. It increases the demand for that meat by increasing the number of people who have wheat to exchange for such meat. Meat and cattle prices must then rise until it gets so high. It then becomes profitable to raise food for them as wheat is raised as food for man. But this can only happen late in the progress of improvement. There are some parts of Europe where cattle prices have not yet reached this height. Before the union, it did not reach this height in Scotland. Scotland has huge lands more natural for cattle. Had the Scotch cattle been always confined to Scotland, it is impossible that their price could have risen so high Near London, cattle prices reached this height at the start of the 17th century. The remoter counties reached this height much later. In some counties, it still has not reached this height. Cattle is first of the second kind of rude produce to rise to this height.

197 Until cattle prices has reached this height, it is impossible that most lands can be completely cultivated.

In all distant farms, the amount of well-cultivated land must be proportional to the amount of manure produced by that farm. This land must be proportional to the stock of cattle maintained on it. The land is manured by feeding them in the stable. But unless cattle prices are enough to pay the rent and profit of cultivated land, the farmer cannot afford to do this. In cultivated lands, cattle are only fed in a stable. It will take too much labour to collect their waste on unimproved lands. If cattle prices are insufficient to pay for their food in pastures, it will be less sufficient to pay for their food in the stable, as their food must be collected with more labour.

No more cattle can be fed profitably in the stable than what are needed for tillage. But these can never afford the manure needed to keep the lands in good condition. The little manure that they have will be reserved for the most fertile lands. Most of the rest will lie waste. It will produce only some miserable pasture for a few half-starved cattle. The farm, though much understocked, will be very frequently overstocked in proportion to its actual produce. Part of this waste land pastured in this wretched manner for six or seven years may be ploughed up afterwards. It can yield a poor crop or two of bad oats or coarse grain. It will then be entirely exhausted. It must be rested and pastured again with another part ploughed up to be exhausted and rested as before. Such was the general system in the low country of Scotland before the union.

Up to 1/3 or 1/4 of the lands were kept constantly well-manured and in good condition. The rest were never manured. A certain portion was regularly cultivated and exhausted. Under this system, lands could produce less than its maximum potential. The low price of cattle before the union rendered it almost unavoidable. Despite the great rise in price of cattle, this practice continues due to ignorance and attachment to old customs.

In most places, it is caused by the following unavoidable obstructions in changing the old system= The poverty of the tenants It prevented them from acquiring the cattle needed to cultivate their lands better. If they could acquire the cattle, they did not have the time to cultivate their lands The increase of stock and the improvement of land must go hand in hand. One can never much outrun the other. Without some increase of stock, there can be no improvement of land. There can be no considerable increase of stock unless there is a considerable improvement of land. Otherwise the land could not maintain it. These natural obstructions to the establishment of a better system, can only be removed by a long course of frugality and industry.

The old system is wearing out gradually. It can be completely abolished in Scotland after 50-100 years. This rise in cattle prices is perhaps the greatest of all the commercial advantages Scotland derived from the union with England. It perhaps was the principal cause of the improvement of the low country. It raised the value of all highland estates.

198 In all new colonies, the great amount of waste land used for the feeding of cattle soon renders cattle extremely abundant and cheap.

All the cattle of the American colonies were originally carried from Europe. They soon multiplied so much and became so cheap that even horses were allowed to run wild. It takes a long time after the establishment of such colonies before feeding cattle on cultivated land can become profitable. A bad system of husbandry, similar to that of Scotland, was likely introduced there from= the lack of manure the disproportion between the stock employed in cultivation and the land which it is supposed to cultivate.

The Swedish traveller Pehr Kalm, wrote about the system of husbandry of some English colonies in North America in 1749. {Kalm’s Travels, vol 1, pp. 343-344.}

He could not find English agricultural skills there. He said that= They did not take any manure for their wheat fields. When a piece of land has been exhausted by continual cropping, they clear and cultivate another piece of fresh land. Their cattle are allowed to wander through uncultivated grounds where they are half-starved. They have long ago destroyed the annual grasses by cropping them too early in the spring before they had time to form their flowers or shed their seeds. The annual grasses were the best natural grasses in that part of North America. When the Europeans first settled there, they used to grow very thick and rose three or four feet high. A piece of ground could formerly maintain four cows, but now could not maintain one cow. Each cow could give four times the milk it could give at present.

In Mr. Kalm’s opinion= the poorness of the pasture degraded their cattle from one generation to another. They were probably like that stunted breed which was common all over Scotland 30-40 years ago. That breed is now so much mended by a more plentiful method of feeding.

199 Cattle can command a high price late in the progress of improvement to make it profitable to cultivate land for feeding them.

Until cattle raises this price, it is impossible that improvement can be perfected as it is in Europe.

Deer Meat

200 Venison is among the last parts of this kind of rude produce which can bring this high price.

Venison prices in Great Britain is extravagant, but still insufficient to compensate the cost of a deer park. If it compensated the cost, deer-feeding would soon become common in farming, the same way as the feeding small birds called Turdi was common among the ancient Romans. Varro and Columella assure us that it was very profitable. The fattening of ortolan birds is profitable in France.

Venison prices may rise still higher if=

  • it continues to be in fashion, and
  • the wealth of Great Britain continues to increase

201 There is a very long interval in the progress of improvement for other kinds of rude produce to gradually arrive at their highest price according to different circumstances.

This interval is between the rising of cattle prices, a necessary produce, and venison prices, a superfluous produce.

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