This paper addresses the apparent paradox between widespread support of cattle farming through agricultural policy interventions and negative returns to cattle, as stressed in recent works. Using a representative panel data set for Andhra Pradesh, India, we explore the average and marginal profitability of holding cattle. We find that cattle farming might well generate positive returns, but most households seem to operate at unprofitable levels. Our results suggest that cattle farming is associated with sizable nonconvexities in the production technology and that substantial economies of scale, as well as high up-front expenses of acquiring high-productivity animals, might trap poorer households in low-productivity asset levels.

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Journal Economic Development and Cultural Change
Gehrke, E. (Esther), & Grimm, M. (Michael). (2018). Do Cows Have Negative Returns? The Evidence Revisited. Economic Development and Cultural Change. doi:10.1086/697414