History of Dairying in the Tumut District

The Gundagai Independent and Pastoral, Agricultural & Mining Advocate

8 September to 20 October 1927

The writer of these notes has had some forty years' experience of this industry in the Tumut district commencing as an amateur in a business he had no experience of. Butter   was first of all made - the local market was of no use, so a market was found in Hay. Expenses were, coach   to Gundagai - then, rail to Hay, and net price obtained in Hay was 6d per lb. A change was made, and cheese of excellent quality was made, being rich, and from milk from a large Jersey herd of cows. Three and a half tons was exported in specially-made crates - cartage to Gundagai 3/10/,, and freight to England.

The cheque, after many months' delay, forwarded me by a well-known exporting firm, was for the sum of 10. Victorian Commission a little later showed up this firm, as also some other butter and cheese exporters, to be robbing the dairymen for all it was possible. The strange part is that dairymen survived such experiences. Yet I am still in the business - and last year the Tumut butter factory - now under excellent management - paid me an average of 1/3 for every lb. of butter made in the year 1926. It certainly will not be a less price that dairymen will receive in 1927, as the Patterson scheme is now firmly established. The large sum of over 75,000 was paid to suppliers during the last year by the management of the Tumut butter factory. This sum can easily be doubled with the assistance of the Gundagai district, Adjungbilly, Tomorroma, &c., all ideal dairy land. Then try and realise the advantages to all forms of business, this large monthly distribution of income would mean. I commend this industry to all settlers who wish to improve their financial position, and who do not object to constant employment, and a regular monthly cheque in return.

Mr. John Gordon, father of the late Mr. Sam Gordon, of Gocup, being at the Islington Dairy Show, London, sent to Gocup one of the first four cream separators that came to New South Wales in the year 1885 or 1886, and he commenced dairying with some Ayrshire cows, which came from New Zealand. Shortly after, the writer commenced using a large separator, the power being a water-wheel. Cattle in the Tumut district were all of the short-horned type, dairy cattle proper being almost unknown. In the year 1892 the writer, with a friend, went to the Melbourne Cup, and while in Melbourne entered for the 400 prize to be shot for at the Gun Club. This we divided. Next day we accidently went into Kirk's Bazaar, and as there was a sale of pure-bred Jersey cattle of high imported class, we purchased 16 young heifers - and a bull whose dam was sold at the sale for ninety guineas. These cattle were the first Jersey cattle that came into the Tumut district, and on their arrival we got a lot of abuse from agents, etc., who stated they would ruin the breed of cattle in the district. A great number of this breed, by their excellent cream producing qualities, help to turn out to the dairymen (from the Tumut Butter Factory) 75,000 a year.

Origin of the Tumut Butter Factory:

A few local men, some half dozen, formed a directorate and with the assistance of some business men in the town formed a company of 2000 shares of 1 each. With some difficulty a butter factory was built, costing in the vicinity of 700. Then, by degrees, machinery on credit was installed. Then came the trying time. We had not established dairies or milk cows, and butter was some 7d a lb. This was a trying time - six directors had to go as guarantors to the N.S.W. Bank who, along with Wildridge and Sinclair, our machinery agents, gave us every help and consideration. From 1900 to the year 1919 was the anxious period. It was in the year 1910 that we had no debts - and the shares were valued by the auditor at 1/7/6.

A Butter factory that was free of all debt, and owned by dairymen, suppliers, and some 'dry' shareholders. When you multiply the annual turn over by the factory for twenty five years the money paid over to suppliers amounts to a very large sum. It is now a fixed industry, in touch with the Railway - which again is in touch with Sydney, London, and the markets of the world. No other commodity made on the farm sells at a higher value pound for pound than one pound of butter.

No other articles of diet equals milk as a food for all forms of animal life, especially human, and it is a well known fact, that in all parts of the world, where milk is the chief diet, the people are bigger, stronger, and if finer physique than other nations not so reared. And a very important thing to remember by these individuals who wish to remain as long as I possible in this beautiful world: is the well-known fact that the oldest people (say of 100 years and over) are at present living in parts of the earth where milk fresh and sour has been and is, their chief diet.

Breed Of Dairy Cattle.

You will find good cows both in pure-bred ones, as also in crosses. Of the various crosses I will not deal with. There is a certain conformation of make and shape familiar to all good judges of the milch cow. And many of the best are the product of the breeding and the crossing and re-crossing of noted male and female individuals who have proved their worth as milk and cream producers. Care exercised by the breeder results in fixing a dairy type.

Much attention must be given to the bull, as, according to the writers of experience, in animal breeding and also in human life, the daughter will in most cases take after the sire, so that a well-bred sire will   leave a line of females superior to their dams. It is a fact that an able and clever father is more likely to hand his ability to his daughters, and, conversely, a clever mother to her sons. Individual family likenesses will prove this the case to any careful observer, with few exceptions.

The gross income, per cow, is really the most important consideration to the dairyman and this has rather a wide range, regulated by class of cow, class of country, (the cow being only a machine for turning food in to milk, otherwise cream) management, and other important considerations. If I am right in fixing an average of not less than 1/3 per lb. that the Tumut Butter Factory will pay, then the cow that will be sending cream into the factory making 2001bs. of butter will in the year receive 12/10s.  

Many well managed small dairies, with carefully selected herds, will go 15 a cow and upwards. One essential in management is ample provision for winter feed or a drought; the cause of failure on the part of the dairyman is chiefly due to this neglect.


In drawing attention to the necessity of combining pigs with the cow in the dairying business, there's no doubt the one helps the other. In this way separated milk or the cheesy solids, which consists chiefly of protein, and protein of a high quality, is an excellent food. Yet, again, it is not a perfectly balanced food, unless you combine a carbohydrate or a sugar-forming food, such as any of the grains. One of the best is maize. The combination of these two will, fed to a well-bred pig, cause this animal to add, each day, quite one pound in weight during the fattening stage, say two or three months in the pen.

A net return at Tumut should be 3/10/-. A sow, two with two litters a year, averaging six pigs per litter, will give with less labour, a higher reward than the cow. At the same time, for proper success, all foods require to be produced on the farms, both for the cows and pigs.

Nothing should be starved. One essential for success is, you must give the pigs every comfort in the way of housing them. The dwellings must be sanitary and kept sanitary, and this cannot be done unless constructed largely of cement and solid warm wood work to camp on.

The pigs must have free access to sunlight from their sheltered sheds, nor will the young litter grow or thrive as well as those litters and sows who have in addition lime and salt in their food. Lime and salt are two additions that are most important to the growing young. These remarks apply to producing fine well grown calves, also. It will pay no dairyman to keep a pig to look at, it will not be profitable to feed a pig to keep him only alive.

He must, daily, when fattening, put on at least one pound in weight. Therefore, the pig must be well-bred, and be a rapid grower. Plenty of length is desirable, so that you have long bacon sides and round hams and not too thick at the shoulders. Up to three or four months the young pigs want every freedom, in the open before putting into the fattening pens. The stock of a pure-bred boar will grow with great rapidity, fed on the various grasses, lucerne and a little milk. A very old custom in England is (where householders feed their own pigs for home consumption of bacon) to have a cask in which all waste foods are kept, also surplus milk, etc. It is always sour, and to look at, objectionable. The sourness is due to lactic acid, and this acid in food, has the effect due to a particular micro-organism, of keeping the animal in good health. This organism is a destroyer of other organisms that often produce disease in the animal. Thus, this old custom of giving sour milk to pigs, has, of recent years, been proved by scientific observers, to have marked influence in protecting pigs from disease. Always permit your milk to become sour before feeding it and mix some lime and salt with the milk.

It may not be out of place to remind some of your readers of the very rapid progress that dairying has made in a few years in Australia. And I may draw attention to the invention of Dr. Babcock's, viz. 'The Cream Separator.' This ingenious piece of machinery, aided by equally remarkable modern inventions in the motor power, has, to a great extent, taken away the drudgery of dair'y work.

Following in a progressive manner came the milking machine - a great saving of manual labor - and wherever a machine can, in a business be installed, which saves human labor, time, and economy, it seems to be our duty to introduce such machinery. In a small dairy herd, with labor, hand-milking is to be peferred. Where, as in the writer's case, two herds are milked twice daily, each from 130 to 160 cows, milking machines are almost a necessity. It is imperative to pull the milk- ing machine to pieces daily; and to thoroughly sterilise all parts through which milk has passed, in order that cream should be delivered at the butter factory free of all germ life, that are the cause of putrifaction and fermentation in the cream.   How often does the dairyman forget in his work- that boiling water properly applied to all dairy utensils is the best friend he has - and general cleanliness all round in the management of his. dairy.

If such simple management and attention as stated was in everyday use what a blessing it would be to all concerned, and to no one more than to the manager and directors of the Tumut Butter Factory. If boiling water properly used in a dairy, there is no need of such aids as various disinfectants now in use. The daily condition of any milking machine, when put into use, should be as clean as when leaving the manufacturers, and should always be like that. These remarks equally apply to the cream separator. Unfortunately some milking machines are so difficult to clean to get in to the various depressions connected with rubber; in which milk decomposes if left, that an owner would be considering his own interests if he scrapped such a machine and replaced it by a simpler machine and more up to date.

A machine complicated in mechanism, taking a long time to clean and put together, should be discarded. It is a danger to be got rid of. If good choice cream is not delivered at the butter factory, then only blame the management at the milking establishment. These machines, like the separator, have come to stay, and I look to the time, not far distant, when still further improvements will be effected   in them, and that when the smartest dairyman will have his milking carried out by a machine which will still further to do away with what is usually described as the drudgery of the dairying industry. The first milking machine the writer installed, he had eventually to discard, although it milked 60 cows in 60 minutes, yet it was so difficult to clean, taking too much time, and then again it was too severe from excessive pressure on the cow's teats.

In continuation of my notes, and dealing with the milking machine, I   would like to point out to any dairy man supplying cream to the Tumut butter factory that should he frequently have his cream graded second; class, then the probable cause is the neglect of thoroughly cleaning and sterilising all parts with steam or boiling water.

When the milk leaves the udder of the cow it is, or ought to be, free from all germ infection if the udder of the cow is thoroughly washed, dried and cleaned. The milk in this pure state travels to the milk vat, and there it is protected from flies (probably one of the greatest enemies the dairyman has to contend with) by a suitable fly or gauze protection. Soon   again the cream is separated from the milk, and when so separated the   sooner the cream has the animal heat removed the longer the cream will keep in it and suitable for butter making, if kept under favorable conditions. Some of these aids are mechanical coolers.

One simple way is to stand the cream in a vat of underground well water, and many of these wells are on all farms in the Tumut district. The writer has such, the water from which in the hottest day in summer, will be 68 degrees, while an adjoining creek is 96, running by. As I have mentioned, when the milk comes direct from the cows, it is pure and free of germs. The latter are frequently the cause of sickness, as is the case in bottle-fed infants. In a long experience of sickness in infants, I cannot remember an infant fed on the mother's breast getting sick, yet I have had no end of anxiety in trying to free an infant of disease, the latter poisoned by such disease germs contaminating milk. With a high temperature in a hot Australian summer, no dairyman can give too much attention to keeping his cream until it gets to the factory at as low a temperature as possible, together by aerating the cream by frequent stirring.

All kinds of micro-organisms thrive and multiply by millions if the temperature is favourable. All are destroyed at a high heat, as is done by the pasteurising machines, and again germs are not developed at a freezing temperature. It is advisable for the dairyman, when delivering his cream to the butter factory to envelope his cream can with wet bagging. This lowers the temperature of the cream quite ten degrees. It is just on the same principle as the cold water can vas bag. Evaporation, from a wet surface as the wet canvas in a breeze produces cold, which protects the cream in the cream can; then the latter being metal, exposed to heat and the sun has a bad influence on the cream contents, and in this way sometimes the grader is compelled to grade second class.

The up to date machinery in the Tumut butter factory, which will compare with any in any country, assures the local suppliers of making a butter of the highest quality, which cannot be excelled by any other country in the world. The present management and the directors are quite competent to give to the supplier the highest price for his cream, and it is a duty this sup plier has imposed on him to do his part in sending in only the highest class cream.

In dealing with the up-to-date machinery in the Tumut Butter Factory, the management have all along been introducing up-to-date improvements. The box churn, some fourteen years ago, had to make way for a combined churn and worker, selected by the writer in Sydney.

This type of churn has done away with the table butter worker, so that now a churn will turn out from five to ten hundred weight of butter, churned, worked, salted and ready to be put into the butter boxes. This is an ordinary example that where human labor can be replaced by a machine, it is our duty to do so, and the expense of human labor is saved. In New Zealand, where, up to the present, their methods have been more advanced, than in Australia, they installed this pasteuriser before the N.S.W. factories. This machine, by destroying the micro-organisms that cause a putrifactive fermentation in cream, consequently tainting the butter, helps the buttermaker to produce a butter which will be as fresh in cold storage three months after making, as ordinary butter not so pasteurised would be two weeks after making. At the proper temperature, say 185 degrees, the micro-organisms are destroyed in the cream if held at that temperature a certain time.

Unfortunately the spores are not acted on in this manner, but this invention has a marvellous effect in that Australia can send butter to Europe which arrives there in an excellent and sweet condition. While acting' as ship's surgeon, the writer, some thirteen years ago, ingers at Perth, W.A., and it was as fine a butter as anyone could wish to eat. This butter was made in N.S.W., shipped to Englfmd, then back to Australia, and must have been five months old. A condition of the Commonwealth Government is   that food stuffs, such as butter, mutton, beef, etc., should be purchased in Australia - a very excellent law.

Another injurious germ is one that is common and prevalent in bogs or mud. Avoid, if possible, driving cows into a milking yard through a bog, or swamp. Their tails and udders are liable to be soiled, likewise I have seen, with the spring grasses, perhaps one or two cows in a herd suffering from a loose condition of the bowels, that unless great care is taken by the milkers, they would be a danger and possibly spoil all the cream of that milking. A glass test tube or a clean bottle may be used by a dairyman if he likes to test the differences in the amount of cream in the first milk taken from a cow, and the strippings and standing the milk for a day. Also this rough test may be used to test all his cows, as to those who are good butter or cream cows, against those who are bad.  

One or two hints to dairy men as to the importance of every care in milk and cream, both of which are a food for all kinds of germ life.  Over forty years ago the writer had to treat for typhoid fourteen cases of this disease, all originally starting from germ-infected milk, the latter being kept in close proximity to the bedroom in which was a typhoid case, where the patient, unattended by a medical man, died. Should a dairy man like to test the cream he is sending to the factory, as to its freshness or freedom from injurious germs, let him take a few glass test tubes, wash them in boiling water, put in an inch or two of cream, and plug the test tube with clean cotton wool. Should the cream be contaminated with filth germs, he will find in a day or two, air will be all through the cream in bubbles; the choice cream will have none, and I will keep fresh a week or two, provided the wadding is not removed and acts as a cork, preventing atmospheric contamination.

One of the worst and most common forms of micro-organisms is in   the excreta, or dung, of cattle. Whether cow dung, dry or liquid, accidentally or otherwise, gets into the cream or milk, it will destroy and ruin any cream. The ordinary milk man does not realise how important it is to avoid such a calamity, as also to have clean hands in his work.

A dust storm in summer, with dry dung in the yard, is quite sufficient to ruin the cream of a milking. Yards cannot be kept too clean.

Yours, etc., H.W.M. [Dr.Harry Wharton Mason, Ed.]