ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE OF BEEF CATTLE Cattle raising for the production of beef has undergone many fluctuations during the brief history of our country. The production of beef has not always been a profitable business, even in the days of the cattle kings When every thing goes well with cattle, there are large profits in the business; but the risks are great, the initial expense of getting into the business is a serious matter, and the skill required in manag ing cattle is of no mean order. There are many other considerations, which cause men to choose sheep or hogs in preference. In the first place, cattle mature much more slowly than either sheep or hogs. Then, too, they require more feed for each pound of gain. More over, the market requirements are very strict in the case of beef, and prices are disastrously low for cattle which do not conform to these standards. Fail ures for non-conformance to these re quirements are somewhat less serious in the case of sheep or hogs, and the loss is only a moderately high payment for the experience.
On the western ranges, sheep have long been rivals of cattle and for the past 15 or 20 years have had much the best of the argument. Greater profits have been derived from sheep. As a natural result, sheep have been gradual ly replacing cattle in the western states and large tracts of range, which were originally used for cattle grazing, are now devoted entirely to sheep.
It is scarcely necessary to call atten tion to the great importance of the cattle industry in the United States. Notwithstanding the fact, as already in dicated, that profits have not been par ticularly attractive during the past few years, an increasing number of men are learning how to produce beef at a profit even under conditions which ap pear to be unfavorable to the farmer. Most of our highest finish on beef ani mals is put on in the corn belt. Not all of these cattle are raised on farms in the central states, but this is true of a considerable percentage of them; and thousands more are shipped in from the range to be finished on the cheaper grains of the central states.
Cautions prompted by cattle feeders of the central states are gradually learning how to avoid some of the unprofitable practices, which have ruined their predecessors in that line of business. In this work the change in market requirements has helped the feeder considerably. In the early days of the cattle business, a five or six year old steer in an over-fat con dition was in great favor. Now such an animal cannot compete with the finished steer at the age of two or three, and, within recent years, baby beef has come to occupy an important place in the business of beef production. The ad vantage of using younger animals is ob vious, since the capital invested is turned over more rapidly, and the cost of finishing an animal is less when the process lasts only a year or two than when the animal is held on the farm un til four or five years of age.
It should not be supposed from this enumeration of cautions that any at tempt is being made to discourage beef production. The demand for beef is always equal to, and sometimes in ex cess of, the production, and this must be true as far into the future as it is possible to foresee. The population is increasing at present more rapidly than the increase in beef-raising, and other means than those commonly used at present must be found for keeping up with the demand for beef. It should be understood from the start, however, that antiquated or slovenly methods in beef production cannot bring profits.
It is only men who have learned how, and know the present market require ments, who will succeed in producing beef at a fair profit.
Annual consumption total num ber of beef cattle at present held in the United States on farms and ranges, is about 44,000,000. During 1905, 12,500,000 beef animals were slaughtered, of which 875,000 were ex ported. The average value of these animals was about $41.50 a carcass. There are also about 2,000,000 calves