In a recent lecture before the Royal Society of Arts, in London, at which the Minister of Food, Lord Woolton, took the chair, Professor J. C. Drummond presented some very interesting facts concerning war time malnutrition and its lessons for the future.
Professor Drummond was dealing with the problem as it affected human beings, but if such results, as he describes, can be secured by planning the feeding of human beings, surely the same type of result can be obtained with livestock.
Drummond drew attention to our increase in knowledge of nutrition which has occurred between the war of 1914-18 and the present one. We are apt, in the ordinary course of our work, to overlook that fact and too often our ideas of correct feeding are based on the limited knowledge available before 1914.
The improvements in nutrition which have been brought about in England were based on a careful study of ordinary diets in order to determine in which directions insufficiencies existed. If we desire to improve the feeding of our livestock, the work must be based on the same type of inquiry and we must ascertain what constitutes the rations fed now and critically examine these findings.
England has shown, in the last fifteen years, that it is possible to raise the average height of children at school leaving age, to reduce infantile mortality to a remarkable degree and to bring still further down the mortality from tuberculosis by improved nutrition and improved hygiene. Of the two factors, Orr places nutrition first.
Drummond has now reported on the reduction of toxaemias of pregnancy solely through the agency of diet. Similar work has been carried out in Canada. Cannot these things be paralleled amongst livestock? The age at which an animal is fit to be slaughtered varies almost entirely with the manner of its feeding; the mortality in the progeny of our livestock, either before birth or shortly after, can be extensively prevented by improved feeding and environment: toxaemia of pregnancy is only too well known to every Veterinary Officer and Inspector in our sheep raising districts and its prevention is almost, if not entirely, a matter of feed.
Now, if by improved nutrition of livestock we can bring about more rapid maturity and higher yields, can lower the overhead cost to the farmer caused by preventable mortality, we can enable the human population of this country to secure those foods of animal origin which are so necessary to health in greater quantity and at lesser cost, for the foods of animal origin loom large on all these efforts to prevent the effects of malnutrition. Milk, eggs, butter and cheese are prominent. Drummond states that nutrition experts agree that the average consumption per head of milk should be a pint a day. Before this war, England was consuming about half this quantity, but the consumption varied in different families from nearly six pints a week to 1½ pints a week. This variation was almost entirely an income based variation. The latest surveys show that, under restriction and control, the variation is between a little over 4½ pints a week to just under 3½ pints. The astonishing fact in this connection is that in 1942 England is consuming more milk than in 1939. There is a definite campaign on foot to further increase England's milk supply. Considering these facts in view of the war time situation, it is only possible to interpret them as meaning better nutrition and less disease.
The problem in front of us then is to consider ways and means of improving the nutrition of our flocks and herds, not for a short period of their lives, but as a constant and permanent factor. We shall never do it while we depend on rain and grass. Only by combining Agriculture and stock raising, by conserving and utilising fodder and by storing water can we effect the transformation required. It is idle to pretend that this country is not losing heavily through the malnutrition of livestock. Now we must go further. If we are to raise crops suitable for feeding to livestock, we must maintain the fertility of our soil. The influence of livestock in maintaining such fertility is not adequately grasped in this country. Sir Arthur Olver, discussing the problem as it affects India, recently stated—
"The time seems to have come when cultivators everywhere in India, as elsewhere, must aim at devoting a portion of their holdings to fodder crop production, thereby producing an the cultivated land better stock and more milk while helping to the fertility and physical condition of the soil."
It is desired to draw attention to the last few words of that paragraph. The influence of organic manure, particularly if it is of animal origin, in maintaining soil in sound physical condition, is well known.
Moodie, in various issues of the "Agricultural Gazette of New South Wales," has drawn attention to different phases of the utilisation of animal manure.
The value of animal manure varies directly with the type of food eaten. Denmark has shown the remarkable increase in the manurial value of animal dung brought about by improved methods of feeding. Therefore, if we can consistently raise our standard of feeding we shall, at the same time, be improving the fertility of our lands.
It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that our standard of animal nutrition is one of the factors on which this country stands or falls.