Sunday, September 23, 2007

Productivity Miracle

Start with what looks like bad news.



Add on a productivity miracle. (As a side note, I feel very sorry for the cows.)



End up with good news.



If I'm wrong to be a stagflationist, this is the sort of thing that would do me in. It is also something one needs to factor in when hoarding hard assets in general.

Topic: Large mining equipment


I find it all quite humbling. Don't you?

Source Data: USDA

22 comments:

CresceNet said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stagflationary Mark said...

Spam deleted.

Rob Dawg said...

rBST explains the milk production. I certainly don't let my daughters drink the stuff.

Stagflationary Mark said...

Yeah, it's pretty sad how much milk they get out of cows.

It isn't just cows though. Farmland productivity has also been quite amazing over the years. I'll be putting up some charts on that soon.

For me, a lot of it comes down to oil at this point though. If we're running out, then a lot of this productivity will face serious headwinds. I'm not sure I'm a believer in farming our fuel (ethanol).

We're doing everything we can to run out of oil. We want billions to drive cars apparently. Further, as lower income people move up the income ladder, they eat foods higher up the food chain, like meat.

Therefore, I am fairly comfortable with stagflation in the long-term, but nothing is a certainty.

And lastly, there has to be SOME limit to how much milk can come out of a cow. I don't know what that limit is, or how close we are, but I'm fairly confident there is a limit. If nothing else, I doubt a cow will ever produce a gallon per minute.

Rob Dawg said...

Farmland productivity is not such a bad thing and I don't think it is anywhere near its' limits. I actually think we are on the verge of a second green revolution. This time genetics and adaption will rule.

I won't go into great details but freakin square fruits and veggis to reduce harvesting costs by 80% and shiping by half. Yields and spoilage doubled and halved. Green waste with resale/reuse value. Low water cotton, extreme winter wheat, algae that produces harvestable natgas, biodiesel and animal fodder. Sorry if I sound like some wacko but this is one case where I can find only one negative and that's industrial espionage and intellectual property rights interference.

Anonymous said...

hmm..rBST doesn't explain it
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1511/is_n1_v16/ai_15958043
BR

Stagflationary Mark said...

Rob Dawg,

You don't sound like a wacko, lol.

Wheat is an interesting story. I grew up in wheat land (Eastern Washington). I'm curiuos why it seems to be leveling off a bit in the productivity miracle department.

I tend to agree with you on most of this. The key is that there has been a productivity miracle, it could very well continue, and it might be unwise to fully bet on its demise.

Rob Dawg said...

rBST article 12 years old on data 15 years old? GMAFB. Seriously, I'm pissed at wasting the 45 seconds it takes to refute ananonymous googleclaim.

Anonymous said...

rob dawg -- the point is that in 1994, rBST would have improved productivity by about 10-15% while the chart shows an almost 700% improvement even then. I don't know what you just refuted. I signed my name above as ..
BR

Cheers!
BR

Anonymous said...

Oops, make that 300%
BR

Stagflationary Mark said...

The data and the article are old, but so is the data in my charts. It goes back 50 years. Surely not all of the productivity miracle was rBST. Right?

There are probably many reasons that the productivity miracle of dairy cows has increased (and most likely none of them are very pleasant for the cows).

Anonymous said...

Exactly, StagMark. And my tongue is all twisted for I meant a 3-fold increase in the mid-nineties. I'm curious to know the other factors though.
BR

Rob Dawg said...

Okay, the adoption of rBST in the industry has been progressive. Thus adding 10% a year of a 50% increase in per head production type of treatment makes a the yield curve you observe. Milk today is the milk of 15 years ago plus bovine sex hormones and antibiotics and a lot more of it per head.

The miracle was all chemical additives, antibiotics and hormones.

Understand this is a very small segment of the greater and IMO great green revolution. This is a just one of the very few potentially dangerous missteps. Stuff me full of insect resistant wheat. Feed me all the genetically engineered sugar corn you can boil. Faster growing chickens with breasts so big they have trouble pole dancing? No problem. It's just mammalian secondary growth hormones in the milk we give to prepubescent female mammals (little girls) that makes me a bit wary.

Stagflationary Mark said...

I don't agree that rBST was all of the reason behind the miracle.

The more I read, the more I see a variety of reasons that make sense to me.

Controlling more aspects of the cow's life is helping, if only by giving the cattle food and water at the proper time.

http://tristatedairy.osu.edu/Proceedings%202007/Botheras.pdf

Milking the cows more often and regularly is helping. First it was once a day. Then it was twice a day. Now they are finding three times a day is more productive.

http://www.teagasc.ie/newsletters/farmingtips/dairy/20020305-dairy.htm

http://www.ca.uky.edu/AGC/NEWS/2002/Oct/milking.htm

Providing an optimal temperature helps.

http://www.dairy-science.org/cgi/content/full/89/4/1244

And the list goes on. I don't think it is just any one thing that is improving dairy productivity. It looks like a variety of factors.

Stagflationary Mark said...

This is a just one of the very few potentially dangerous missteps.

Now that I can agree with wholeheartedly. I think we're playing with things that ought not be played with. I have no confidence whatsoever that we know the long-term consequences of any chemical we pump into us (or our food supply).

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I understand your argument. I also wonder if a 10% increase due to rBST is a non-inheritable change. Forget about the period from 1995-2007, but we are looking at an approx 2.5% annual compounded growth from 1950-1995. It is quite amazing also that this has gone on for this long without saturating.

BR

Anonymous said...

Good stuff, Mark -- I guess the wall was hit in the nineties and the Ben Johnson types have made their entrance.
If something like this had started in 1950, there was enough time to assess some impact other than lactose intolerance.

Anonymous said...

That was me.
BR

Stagflationary Mark said...

Why don't we just agree on this.

At some point, if a cow is producing more than its own body weight in milk each day we're just that much closer to a really, really tragic sci-fi horror movie.

What we don't know is if we're already in a fairly tragic sci-fi horror movie. There is simply no way to know.

Stagflationary Mark said...

One more thought.

The same government which told us that subprime problems were contained is also the government that tells us our food is safe long-term.

I have no point. I'm just talking. Just shootin' the breeze. *whistle* ;)

Anonymous said...

Not just the govt., Trader Joe's goes to great lengths to put in fine print that "there has been no proven difference between rBST and no-rBST milk" on their no-rBST cans. I find the productivity improvement astounding, my instinct is to be suspicious, but I don't think the government is hiding anything here. Food scientists could make quite a name for themselves if it was provable one way or another.


BR

Stagflationary Mark said...

I am skeptical even of my skepticism. ;)

Any grand theory that revolves around our government's ability to hide anything makes me doubly skeptical.

In general, I do not think the government is out to get us. I see it more as a "bull" running around in a "china" shop. Accidents happen.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanlon's_Razor