Denmark prior to 1864-Competition-What
the English Farmers did-Corn Production and "Intensive "
Farming-Increase in Live Stock-Ireland, Australia and Canada-Horses
in Denmark-Breeds of Cattle -Shorthorns and Jerseys-Scientific
Control Societies-Bulls-Decrease of Sheeprearing, and why-
Reason for the Increase in Pigrearing-Profs. N. J. Fjord
and T. R. Segelcke-The High School of Agriculture-First Cooperative
Dairy-The Position Today-Advantages of Cooperation
in Dairying- Educational Effects-Some Objections-Statistics of
Cooperative Dairies-Method of Establishing them -The Part
played by the Savings Banks-Weekly Settlements-Improvement in
the Quality of Produce -The English Market Captured-Government
Regulations-Tests of the Royal Experimental Laboratory -Cooperation
in the Meat Trade-German Import Regulations-England prohibits
Import of Living Cattle from the Continent-Slaughterhouses-The
Egg Industry-Remarkable Development-The General Supply Associations-Cooperative
Wholesale Societies-Reasons why Cooperation unpopular in
Great Britain-The English Character-A Change in the System of
Land Ownership Required-The Most Convincing Argument.
UNTIL 1864 Denmark was in the main a corn-producing country. Owing, however, to the growing export of that commodity from Russia and the United States, and to the keen competition caused thereby, it became quite impossible for the Danish farmers to make corngrowing pay. In similar circumstances the English farmer had gone to his landlord and obtained a remission of rent. But this could not be done in Denmark, the farmers being their own landlords, and they were therefore reduced to the necessity of either vacating their properties or devising some new method of managing them which would yield a greater profit. In these adverse circumstances we find the origin of cooperative and scientific farming in Denmark and the cause of the complete reversal that has taken place from corn production, where the farmer only takes the absolute yield of the ground, to intensive farming, where everything that can be profitably employed is used, the land and its products are nursed and studied, nothing is wasted, and nothing is ornamental. The result has been an immense increase in live stock, in cattle, pigs, and poultry, and a consequent increase in the production of butter and the output of eggs. Indeed, so pronounced is this change that we find that, with the exception of the thinly populated countries of Ireland, Australia and Canada, Denmark possesses in proportion to its population more live stock than any other country in the world.
There are about 535,000 horses in Denmark. The Jutland breed predominates. It is a rather heavy type, exceedingly strong and eminently suitable for rough farm work. About 20,000 of these animals are exported every year to Germany, under a customs duty of seventytwo marks each. A lighter type of horse is the Frederiksborg breed, also a strong and useful animal. Of recent years, in addition to breeding horses, the Danes have found it necessary to import them. From 10,000 to 20,000 now enter the country annually, mostly small animals from Russia, Sweden and Iceland. The imported horses are chiefly employed on the small holdings.
The Danish farmers possess some 2,257,000 cattle. Again we find two predominant breeds, the Red Danish and the Jutland, the former being a pure milk cow and the latter being used both for milking and for meat. Some shorthorned cows are imported for meat only, and numbers of Jerseys for their rich, fatty milk. The Scientific Control Societies periodically inspect the farms, and discover by an analysis of the amount of food consumed by each cow, together with its yield of milk, whether or no it is paying its owner to maintain it. Immediately the point is reached at which it no longer provides a stipulated margin of profit the cow is slaughtered. In this manner the average life of a cow in Denmark has greatly diminished since the establishment of the controls, and today it is much less than in other countries, where animals are often maintained long after the profit stage has been passed. With regard to bulls, many of these are only retained for one or two years, carefully fattened, and then sold to Germany as meat. The covering bulls for breeding purposes are specially selected, and are usually owned by societies.
There are now only 7-6,ooo sheep in Denmark, and this number is continually decreasing, owing to insufficiency of pasturage and the better profits which can be made by dairy farming.
On the other hand, the number of pigs has rapidly increased. There are now over 1,467,000 of these animals, as against 304,000 fifty years ago. Even then these figures do not show adequately the immense and growing profit yielded by this side of dairy farming, for whereas formerly the average life of a pig was from eighteen months to two years, now it is killed when six or seven months old. The weight fixed by the slaughter-houses is from 80 to 100 kilograms. Such a weight is usually attained in Jutland in six or seven months; in other parts of the country, in seven or eight months. Of late years there has been a tendency to keep fewer but superior boars.
The growth of pigrearing was coincident with the development of dairy farming, and was largely caused by the great quantities of skimmed milk left over after the buttermaking. The cooperative dairies send this back to the farmers, and, true to the new principle of using everything that can be profitably employed, they considered it better to rear pigs on buttermilk than to waste a product of such obvious utility.
Much of the success of Danish farming can be directly traced to two scientists, N. J. Fjord and T. R. Segelcke, both professors at the High School of Agriculture. These gentlemen in the seventies directed their energies towards farm work and agrarian questions in general, though more particu larly in the direction of devising methods for increasing the production of milk and the manufacture of pure butter.
One important feature of their earlier work was the instruction of the peasants in modern and scientific methods, and proving to them the value of cooperation. As a result the first cooperative dairy was opened in Jutland in 1882, to be followed in but a few years by hundreds of others. Today there are 1,200 cooperative dairies, owning more than 1,000,000 cows, or 81 per cent. of the cows in Denmark. There are only some 222,000 cows which are not cooperatively owned.
The chief points in this system are: (1) the small farmer obtains the benefits which inevitably follow great production; (2) he has a regular weekly settlement from the dairy to which he sells his milk, and therefore contracts no bad debts, and is furthermore not compelled to be a merchant as well as a farmer; (3) he has a strong and direct inducement to produce as much milk as possible; (4) he receives a share in the profits of distribution, being part owner of the factory which kills and disposes of his meat or of the dairy which purchases and sells his milk or makes it into butter; (5) from the point of view of the consumer, the middlemen's profits-often amounting to as much as 120 per cent. on dairy produce-are saved; and (6) the system has been found to be valuable from an educational standpoint.
One keen observer, who has especially noted this last point, declares that among "the indirect but equally tangible results of cooperation I should be inclined to put the development of mind and character among those by whom it is practised. The peasant or little farmer who is a member of one or more of these societies, who helps to build up their success and enjoys their benefits, acquires a new outlook. His moral horizon enlarges itself; the jealousies and suspicions which are in most countries so common among those who live by the land fall from him. Feeling that he has a voice in the direction of great affairs, he acquires an added value and a healthy importance in his own eyes. He knows also that in his degree and according to his output he is on an equal footing with the largest producer and proportionately is doing as well. There is no longer any fear that because he is a little man he will be browbeaten or forced to accept a worse price for what he has sell than does his rich and powerful neighbour. The skilled minds which direct his business work as zealously for him as for that important neighbour.
"Again, being relieved from all the worry and risk of marketing and sure that whatever he buys from his society, be it seeds, or foodstuffs, or implements, is the best obtainable at the lowest rate compatible with good quality, he is free to devote himself altogether to the actual business of his life. Also in any great doubt or difficulty he can rely on the expert advice of his control society; all the science of the country is in fact at the disposal of the humblest worker of its acres. The farmer who, standing alone, can be broken across the knee of tyranny, extortion, or competition, if bound up with a hundred others by the bond of a common interest is able to mock them all."
Doubts have sometimes been expressed as to whether the method of cooperation will pay in the long run. The chief arguments urged against it are that the farmers often work for the greatest gross result, feeding their cows on the most expensive artificial foods, a practice which is certainly successful now, but which in time might conceivably end in a serious deterioration of the animals. Moreover, the day labourer, who in former times had been accustomed to receive milk from his employer either free or at greatly reduced prices, now finds that on many farms this bounty has been withdrawn in the great race after quick profits.
To guard against the misuse of the cooperative system, and to avoid the grosser follies of ignorance, Scientific Control Associations have been formed, which send inspectors round the farms to inquire into their management. The work of these controls is spoken of in greater detail in another chapter. They receive support from the Government to an amount of some £7,000 annually.
Each cooperative dairy has on an average 164 members with 963 cows, and possesses buildings and plant worth about £1,500. The customary manner of establishing such a dairy is for a certain number of farmers in a locality to combine, borrowing the necessary capital from a Savings Bank, each farmer giving a guarantee in proportion to the number of cows he possesses. It is required by statute that the loan shall be repaid in ten or fifteen years, when the dairy must take up a new loan of the same amount as the first. This new advance is then distributed among the members in proportion to the quantities of milk they have sold to the dairy during the period of the previous loan. In this manner a loan is taken up every ten or fifteen years, and the Savings Banks are thus directly interested in the development of the dairies.
Weekly settlements are inaugurated whereby each member receives about 75 per cent. of the value of the milk he has sold, the remaining 25 per cent. being retained by the dairy and, after deduction of working expenses, handed over to the members twice a year.
Not long after the establishment of the first cooperative dairy it became apparent that a great improvement had been effected in the quality of butter produced, and within a few years Danish butter had been acknowledged by the critical English public as the finest product in the market. The export steadily increased, especially to England, and the price commanded was invariably higher than that obtained by other butters. If complaints were received from English importers or dealers, they were carefully examined, and the error was at once remedied, with the result that today the butter from Danish cooperative dairies possesses an unrivalled reputation and an assured market.
The Government regulations provide that butter for export shall not contain more than 16 per cent. of water, and that no other ingredient than salt shall be used as a preservative. There are several annual exhibitions of butter held under the patronage and with the financial support of the State. But the most important tests are those arranged by the Royal Experimental Laboratory, whose board periodically selects for trial purposes a certain number of dairies, which are forthwith requested by telegraph to submit a given number of samples immediately. The results of these tests are published at intervals, and they go to show that the outcome of the establishment of these cooperative dairies and scientific controls has been not only to raise the quality of butter, but, in addition, to increase the number of cows and also the average annual yield of milk from each cow.
The cooperative system has also been adopted in the meat trade. Cows' flesh is exported in considerable quantities, chiefly to Germany. Formerly the living animals were exported, but in 1897 the German import regulations were made so much more strict that it became virtually possible to send there only slaughtered cattle. A slight relaxation has, however, taken place in recent years, and numbers of living cows from Denmark are now sold to the German public slaughter-houses, after having been carefully examined for signs of tuberculosis, and detained for ten days in quarantine. The reason why Denmark has no market for her meat in England is that in 1892 England prohibited the import of living cattle from the Continent, and the prohibition remains in force. As the profit from selling living cloven-footed animals is greater than when selling meat, the Danes naturally prefer to send this produce to Germany.
In 1911 the export of living cattle and meat from Denmark had a value exceeding £13,000,000, of which by far the most important part consisted of pork, the value of this section alone being £6,500,000.
The first co-operative slaughter-house was opened in 1887; seven others followed in 1888, and now there are thirtysix of these institutions. The members are compelled to sell their meat there, even if they could obtain better prices elsewhere. In addition to these cooperative slaughterhouses, there are twentytwo private slaughterhouses in Denmark. The animals are paid for according to their weight when killed. There are not so many members of cooperative slaughteries as of co-operative dairies, largely because membership is not required as a condition of sale, yet limits the sale to the cooperative institution. The prices obtained are, however, usually so good that the Danish farmer finds it more profitable to become a member than to remain outside. The owners of 64 per cent. of the pigs in Denmark, for example, have joined this movement.
The great industry in eggs is also managed now on a basis of cooperation, although it was the last of the staple industries of Denmark to come under this beneficial influence. The largest society for the export of eggs is the Danish Egg Export Corporation, which has 48,ooo members and 500 branches. The eggs are carefully tested and selected. The society fines very heavily members detected in knowingly or carelessly selling bad eggs. There can be little doubt that the cooperative movement has been of incalculable benefit to this industry, and has been the direct means of raising it to its present high level of excellence. In 1864 the export of eggs was 800,000. Today it exceeds 430,000,000. The total number of hens in Denmark is 12,000,000, representing a value of more than £1,500,000.
Any account of the cooperative undertakings of the Danish farmers must include the General Supply Associations, which differ very much from the institutions known by this name in England. They have been founded by the farmers themselves, and number about 1,400, with a total membership of over 200,000. They exist mostly in the country districts, away from the large towns. The prices charged are generally the same as those of the private tradesman, but at the end of every year the surplus is divided in cash among the members of the association. The total sales made by these societies are upwards of £4,000,000 yearly.
A third of the stores sell to outsiders as well as to members, and are then obliged to obtain a business licence. Those associations which only deal with their members are exempt from this licence. It is found that onesixth of the stores deal for cash only; onesixth give credit; while the remainder allow their managers to grant credit at their own risk. Almost all the associations are themselves members of a Cooperative Wholesale Society, which has an annual sale of about £2,500,00, and manages factories for tobacco, chocolate, soap, and other important articles of general consumption.
A few years ago the farmers formed associations for buying feedingstuffs, the most powerful of which is the Cooperative Feedingstuff Society of Jutland. This society has a membership of 3o,ooo and an annual sale of £1,000,000. On the same principle the cooperative dairies have recently combined with a view to the purchase in England of their coal, dairying machines, and appliances. Finally, mention may be made of an English Cooperative Wholesale Society which has agents in Denmark for the purchase of butter, and is the owner of a slaughterhouse for pigs.
It has often been wondered why, with the striking successes of the Danes before them, English farmers have so consistently fought shy of adopting cooperative methods. The reasons probably are that the English farmer finds little or no difficulty in securing a good market for his whole milk, and therefore has no special incentive to go in seriously for buttermaking. Danish farmers, however, when criticising our methods, attribute this shyness to the character of the English land system. They declare that " tenant farmers will not cooperate because, cooperative accounts being open to inspection, they fear that their landlords might raise the rents if it were found that theywere prospering. Only owners of land will co-operate."
But we imagine that Sir H. Rider Haggard hasdiscovered the real reason why cooperative farming and dairying are so unpopular in England. He writes: " It is common knowledge that at present cooperation does not flourish in Great Britain. Speaking generally, notwithstanding the blandishments of the Agricultural Organisation Society, which now receives a small subsidy from the State, and much individual effort and exhortation, the British tenant farmer consistently declines to cooperate. In support of this view I will quote a few sentences from the yearly Bulletin of the International Institute of Agriculture. In a monograph on Great Britain and Ireland, under the section headed ' The Sale of Produce ' it says:-' We find that in Great Britain cooperation for the sale of produce is still in its infancy.' Again, in another place it says: ' The cooperative creamery at which butter is made is almost unknown in England.' Finally, under the section headed 'Agricultural Credit ' it says: ' Agricultural credit has made but little progress in England and Wales, and no credit societies have as yet been formed in Scotland. The number of credit societies is increasing slowly in England, but the aggregate business is still very trifling.'" When we consider the Danish figures for co-operative undertakings, those for Great Britain are by comparison practically negligible. Various reasons for this unhappy state of affairs are suggested in the Bulletin. Thus, with reference to the sale of produce in Great Britain, it says:' The markets are close at hand, and there is usually a considerable choice, not only of markets to which to send produce, but of methods of dispatching it. These facts make it very difficult to induce the farmers to take concerted action.'
" But the thing goes deeper, indeed to the bed-rock of the British nature. Most farmers in this country do not cooperate simply because they will not. Cooperation is against their traditions, their ideas, and, above all, their prejudices. In any given village three of them will send three carts to the station, each carrying one churn of milk, when one cart could carry all three, rather than arrange together that twothirds of this daily expense and labour should be saved. Any observer may see the process in operation.
" So it is with everything, and so, I believe, it will remain, unless in the future some great change should come over our system of land ownership. This of course has happened, or is happening, in Ireland, with the result that there cooperation is beginning to flourish."
One of the most convincing arguments in favour of cooperative science remains to be stated. In the eighties before the days of cooperative undertakings-the produce of the farms of the peasants only commanded a price of from 60 to ~o per cent. of that obtained by the produce from the great and wealthy farms. Today the peasant farmers carry off an overwhelming preponderance of prizes and medals, while the cooperative butter, which for the most part comes from the middle and small farms, fetches a price equal to, and sometimes greater than, that of the firstclass butter made on the big farms. Within the last few months the cooperative movement in Denmark has broken new ground. A Cooperative Bank, promoted and largely managed by the great cooperative societies, has been founded. Its clients will be found principally among the agricultural classes. Last year a co-operative cement manufactory began operations, which have so far been unsuccessful; this comparative failure may be accounted for by the fact that the factory's chief supporter has been the General Union of Danish Supply Associations, an undertaking which was bound by contract to obtain all its supplies of cement during a certain period from the older factories. It has now been mulcted in damages to the extent of nearly £200,000 for breaking the terms of this contract; and this fact will naturally have its effect upon the corporation which largely depended upon its support.