Agriculture—pasturage—dairy herds—milk supply are links in a chain connecting the milk consumers, that is everybody in the kingdom, with the most indispensable and widespread industry. By a liberal extension of the term pasturage we may include such items as oats, peas, beans, roots, cattle cake and oil seeds. Milk is the chief of the protective foods, and during the last forty years or so the country has become increasingly milk conscious, if we may so express the recognition of its value embodied in such terms as “an exceptionally valuable food during the whole period of growth”; “a (nearly) perfect food”; “the surest protection from nutritional deficiencies”; “the A.1 priority food of the nation”; “a keystone to national nutrition.” These expressions have been used not for rhetorical effect. They are sober statements of fact by people well qualified by interest and by experience to speak authoritatively on matters concerning the milk supply of the nation. These and the like expressions may be noted in the almost endless series of pamphlets, addresses, reports, deputations, rules, and regulations embodying the opinions of public analysts, members of the medical and veterinary professions, livestock breeders, and Government Departments. The activities of all these bodies, it need hardly be said, is to guard public health and to comply with the public need for an adequate supply of milk. By “milk,” we submit, is meant fresh, clean cow's milk drawn from a healthy animal, free from pathogenic organisms, and containing the well‐known statutory minima for fat and for solids as laid down in the Sale of Milk Regulations. These minima are somewhat higher than the old Somerset House standard which they replace, but in the opinion of many, if not most, properly informed and unprejudiced persons are lower than the figures disclosed by the many thousands of analyses made over a long series of years by public analysts in the course of their official investigations. The official standard is much in favour of the vendor whether he be dairy farmer or ordinary shop retailer. Moreover, if a prosecution be instituted for failure to comply with these very moderate standards, the evidence is only presumptive, and if the defendant in the action can satisfy the court that the milk sold was of the same quality as was that yielded by the cow the action fails. Actions for this alleged offence are brought, as everyone knows, every day in all parts of the country. Added water is the usual basis of complaint. The gravity of the offence varies from slight negligence to gross carelessness, and in too many cases to deliberate fraud. The act is simple, demanding no great intelligence on the part of the actors. Anyone perusing the accounts of police court actions relating to milk will be struck by the dreary sameness of the proceedings, which is only slightly relieved by the variety of the explanations put forward to account for the presence of the extraneous water. The explanations are not in general accepted as excuses by the bench. The results of the usual analytical procedure are strongly confirmed by the freezing point (Hortvet) test, a test whose value does not seem in some cases to be appreciated to the extent it deserves. With regard to the explanations—apart from the leaky cooler, the new boy, and so forth—there is, we understand, an increasing tendency on the part of offenders in some parts of the country to throw the blame for poor milk on insufficient quantities or qualities of rationed concentrates and other foods. It will, we suppose, be generally admitted that the times are difficult and farmers have experienced to the full the special difficulties that affect their calling. Cattle cake and oil seeds are only to be obtained it is stated in some cases in insufficient quantities. The County Agricultural authorities have been urging farmers to sow peas, beans and oats to meet, as far as that may be possible, this shortage. The small man is, as is usually the case, the hardest hit. To plough up relatively small areas for the purpose just mentioned is uneconomic, and seeds are, like everything else, much more cosily than they used to be. The Ministry of Agriculture, in a recently issued leaflet, slate that “rations in general are on a lower scale” during the 1946–47 winter than during the winter before. “Rations will be subject to adjustment consequent upon any change in the supply position.” Rations depend on milk sales. The value of a unit of ration remains at one cwt. At present one unit of protein and three units of cereal will be granted for each 105 gallons of milk in excess of 15 gallons per cow per month subject to a deduction of 60 lb. of cereal per cow per month. Supplementary allowances —that is, a ration allowance in excess of the normal ration allowance for the time being—will have to be met from a limited discretionary reserve placed at the disposal of the county committees. “It will no longer be possible” says the Ministry “to meet the farmers' needs in full.” So that in general assistance of this kind will be restricted to growers of essential crops and to cases of exceptional difficulty. As the amount of rations is limited the grounds of the applicant's request for additional rations for his stock is subjected to enquiry before such excess rations are issued. There appears to be little need for comment. The whole business is straightforward and indicates the difficulties confronting stock breeders and agricultural authorities alike, at the present time. As far as we can judge, the small dairy farmer is the chief sufferer. Out of half‐a‐dozen cows yielding milk, if one should be off colour for the time being the average yield is likely to be injuriously affected. That, of course, will not happen should the herd be a large one. One cow out of a hundred will make no difference. A complaint has been sometimes made that excess rations could not be obtained from the County agricultural authority's reserve stock. If so, the circumstances must be very exceptional. The authority is in close touch with the dairy farmers in its district, and we understand that enquiry is made quickly with a pretty full personal knowledge of the applicant. The explanations that are sometimes given by the defendant in an action to account for poor quality milk being due to insufficient or improper feed does not seem to be generally accepted by those who try the case, and with good reason.
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