Observations on the Manufacture of Cheese, Butter, and Bacon in New Zealand.
Wilsons & Horton, Peintees, Auckland Queen and Wyndham Streets. MDCCCLXXXIII.
Cheese and Butter Factories.
From a combination of circumstances the demand for dairy produce in England is ever on the increase. Passing by the other great centres of population, London alone adds to her teeming millions nearly 100,000 annually. From this cause alone her demands are constantly increasing, and her supplies from domestic sources are decreasing. There are large milk condensing factories now in operation which require 15,000 gallons of milk per day. That quantity of milk is equivalent to nearly 1,900 tons of cheese per annum. Then there are other causes which diminish the supply of cheese and butter. Owing to the strict sanitary regulations of London few cows are now kept within the city; the consequences are that millions of gallons of milk are drawn constantly from the Shires where the principal supplies of cheese and butter are made. This, in my opinion, presents a fine opportunity for New Zealand to step in and supply the want. Through the mildness of this climate, and the fertility of the virgin soil, New Zealand for dairy purposes is preferable to either England or America.
The advantages of the factory over small dairies are many. Twenty small dairies would require twenty sets of appliances and twenty persons to superintend, whereas one factory could take all their milk, and one person superintend the whole operations. By this method a vast amount of labour is saved, and a better quality of cheese is produced. No doubt in large private dairies, say of 80 to 100 cows, cheese can be made to equal any factory cheese, both in quality and size.
My next observation is on the cows. The question has often been proposed, "What breed of cows is the best for dairy page 4 purposes?"I always considered the cow-keepers of London excellent authorities. They say the Dutch cow will give the greatest quantity, but the Alderney the richest quality. I have always found the fine Durham Shorthorn and Devon cows the best for general purposes. They breed fine oxen, milk well, and make good beef when their milking qualities fail.
It may be interesting to estimate the value of one cow. In England we have no difficulty to do this, nor do I think we can get far out in New Zealand. In all estimates of this kind we must take into account the quality of the cow, and the pasture in which she feeds. The old proverb runs, "Milk enters in at the mouth."
One factory in Holland with 600 cows reports the average per day 1,500 gallons. A dairy in Friesland (Holland) states their cows average during the season 850 gallons each. In one year a London dairy averaged per cow 730 gallons.
A gentleman in America reports the average yield of his cows at 680 gallons per annum. From that quantity of milk he produced 6 cwt. of cheese. I may remark that in England and America they can calculate upon grass for six months only; here in New Zealand we calculate upon grass for eight or nine months. My impression is that your cows during 40 weeks will average not less than two gallons per day. I have stated this frequently in public meetings, and have been told that my estimate is below the mark. Two gallons per day is 560 per annum. Well, place the figures at 560, that quantity, at 4d. per gallon, will give the farmer say £9 for each cow. But how stands the factory ? 560 gallons of milk represent five cwt. of cheese. Dispose of that at 6½d. per lb., that will give the factory for each cow £15. Now, take a factory of 600 cows; each cow produces five cwt., that is 3,000 cwt. of cheese. Take that quantity at 6½d. per lb. and you have the season's yield in a round sum of £9,000. Of this sum the farmers receive £5,400, leaving a balance for the factory of £3,600 to pay working expenses and pay a dividend.page 5
It may be said that all estimates appear beautiful in figures, but what are the facts ? There are few good farmers in England who do not realise £20 per cow per annum, and there are some whom I know who have averaged £24 per cow, and through good management their cows have bought their farms with the produce.
The next point is the manager. We may build factories and supply large quantities of milk, but the success of the enterprise depends upon the skill and experience of the manager. This, at present, is the greatest difficulty we have to contend with here, and there is no way of removing it except by securing a few of the best men we can find in England or America. It matters not where they come from if they have skill and years of experience. Then they will know how to adapt their methods to changing seasons and circumstances. Of all points this must be strictly attended to; if not, disappointment and loss will be the sure result. At the commencement, wages must not be the consideration. A few good men will soon teach others. Every factory will be a school, where farmers' sons and daughters, if they please, may be taught the art and mystery of cheese-making. A factory for a dairy of 600 cows would require four men, and one to look after the pigs. £450 would be required for wages. To meet that at least 600 pigs would be fattened, the profit from which would not be less than 30s. per head. That would give £900 to pay all wages and working expenses. In England, for pig fattening, the whey from the milk of each cow is valued at 50s.
The next point of importance is the delivery of milk. This is rather an urgent question. There are some who think the factories should collect the milk. This would be a difficult matter for any company to manage, and it would be found impracticable. Butter factories may collect the milk. A few hours with them is immaterial, but cheese factories must have their milk in early. Those at the greatest distance would have to rise soon after midnight to get their milk ready for the collector. In connection with this point there is another matter of grave importance. Farmers contend that once a day is sufficient to deliver milk. I page 6 hold it is not. In cold weather, if you have confidence in the integrity of all who supply milk, it may do, but in warm summer weather it is impossible for all to deliver their milk sweet and fit for cheese-making purposes; and, let it be remembered, that 10 gallons of milk slightly turned would spoil 500 gallons. There are other reasons why it should be delivered twice every day. In hot weather it is absolutely necessary to run the evening's milk and make cheese twice every day. And it regularly occurs that the night's milk is made into cheese before 7 a.m. to prevent too much acidity. The best cheese-maker in the world can never make fine quality from sour milk. The proper method is for the farmer to deliver the milk at the factory, and to deliver it morning and evening.
Where is Our Market?—Australia has been the principal market for New Zealand cheese, and no doubt will continue to take larger quantities when the quality is improved.
India takes large quantities of dairy produce from England, Sweden, and America. Butter in small quantities, from 6 to 12 lbs., in tins. Small North Wiltshire cheese is frequently purchased for India. Their size is from 6 to 10 lb. in weight, close curd, well pressed, to suit the hot climate. The way needs only to be opened, and I feel sure that New Zealand will find a good market for her dairy produce in India. The great exhibition of this year will be a fine opportunity. The Cape also is a market not to be despised. Butter is often sent from London and realises a good price. But London is the great mart for the world's merchandise of every description; for cheese, butter, and bacon, quantity is no object, providing the quality is good. My first impressions were that fine Cheddar cheese could be manufactured in New Zealand, and, from what has been done in that direction, I have no reason to change my opinion. My last reports from London state, American cheese, old, 70s. to 72s. per cwt.; Cheddar fine, 76s. to 84s.; fine pale Cheddar, difficult to obtain at 90s.; the current price at present is encouraging to all who manufacture cheese. Years ago page 7 one factory was started in England with American plant, and proper men to manage it from America, but it was a miserable failure. Now it is managed upon the English system, and the average price of the last 10 years has been 74s. 9d. per cwt.
There is a matter of great importance we must not neglect; the packing cases. The Americans tried many plans, but never succeeded until they invented the round box, each to contain one cheese. They found, and we in London found, the round box to answer well. We could stow them away in our vaults for months and never found them take any harm. And I feel certain no other method of packing can be found to answer so well. I was pleased to meet a gentleman (Capt Runciman) in Hamilton who, in his recent visit to America, had procured all the necessary machinery to split the wood and make the boxes, and I hope in a short time he will be able to supply any amount of boxes, or the timber all ready prepared, so that the box can be put together when and where it is needed. This step is in the right direction, and as factories increase the trade will expand.
The transit of cheese is an important consideration. Every-thing seems to come at the proper time; without the steamers and their refrigerating appliances it would have been impossible to send cheese to London. Not that cheese requires a temperature down to freezing point; 50 or 55? is excellent, and there is no difficulty in the way except the quantity of cheeses. It would not suit a Company to fit up a chamber for a less quantity than 100 tons. Here is our difficulty. To meet it we want 12 factories at least, each capable of turning out 8 or 10 tons per month; this would meet the case. But what must be done until we arrive at this point ? I see no plan but one, meet the Company, that is to pay a little higher freight. Their charge, I consider moderate, £4 per ton,—by weight less than ½d. per lb. Something must be done to meet the case or the first factories will sustain loss. The Ashburton factory have 30 tons ready for market, which would have gone to London with the "British King"but for the above cause.page 8
The manufacture of butter is of equal importance and is more simple than that of cheese. Where 40 or 50 cows are kept it can be manufactured at home and placed in 70 lb. or 100 lb. firkins suitable for London market; the larger the body the better it keeps. The butter made here in texture resembles the Dorset, the best salt butter which enters London.
Last year a quantity of New Zealand butter went to London by the "Dunedin"; the quality was inferior, yet in June, the cheapest month in all the year it sold for 11½d. per lb., so Mr. Larkworthy told me. The present prices for good salt butters are from 120s. to 160s. per cwt. 1s. to 1s. 5d. per lb. for salt butter is a remunerative business; New Zealand butter, at the present time, would give about 1s. 2d. per lb. When I look at the millions of acres uncultivated, stretching in every direction on these beautiful islands, I say what a pity; where the fern grows grass will grow, and grass is gold. If one cow will give 600 gallons of milk in one season that is equal to 200 lbs. of butter, say at is per lb., so it is clear one cow will produce £10. Then there is the calf and the pig, worth, at the lowest calculation, How many thousands who at this present moment are suffering want at home, would speedily subdue the forest, drain the swamps, and make them fertile lands. Farmers and sober labourers, with large families, are the sort of men most wanted in New Zealand.
Mr. Guy's account of his prize dairy in Canada is as follows: "We find our best milk cows, when they first calve, to give from 40 to 50 lb. of milk per day, and in some instances to exceed that quantity on grass alone. We estimate their average yield for the first three months after calving, 35 lb. per day; for the next three months, at 25 lb.; and for the next three months, at 20 lb. per day, or an average yield for nine months of 27 lb. per day, making an aggregate of 7,920 lb. of milk as the produce of each cow for the year; 7,920 lb. of milk represents 6½ cwt. of cheese."The best dairy I have known in England did not exceed 6 cwt. to each cow. To produce this a considerable portion of artificial food was used.page 9
In the comparison between large and small cheese factories, it is necessary to bear in mind that if 600 cows are pastured within a radius of three miles from the factory no valid objections can be raised against large factories. The same applies to private dairies. One gentlemen may have 600 or 800 cows upon his estate; the milk in his case would be near at hand, consequently would suffer no deterioration by the transit from the field to the factory. When milk is collected from a distance of six or seven miles it is frequently exposed to the hot rays of the morning sun, which seriously affects its keeping properties; and what is still worse is the late delivery at the factory. From this cause alone two or three hours of the best part of the day for cheese making purposes are lost, and the operations necessarily extended into late hours of the evening; the delay, to say the least of it, is injurious to the whole process, and must be avoided.
One reason why a medium-sized factory (say from 250 to 300 cows) is preferable to a large one, the milk will be produced nearer to its destination, and consequently will be delivered at the factory by 7.30 a.m., with the important advantage of the cool morning breeze. In this case all hands would get to their work in proper time, and not a moment would be wasted in needless delay. There are so many advantages arising out of the early delivery of milk that we cannot estimate the practice too highly. The produce of 250 cows would be 500 gallons of milk, the management of which would require two men and a strong boy, at a cost of not less than £250. If we estimate the management of a factory of moderate size at 20s. per cow, years of experience will show that it is not far from the mark. Young men ought to give the labour of one season for the privilege of learning the art of making cheese.
Perhaps it may not be uninteresting if I give a brief outline of the various methods of manufacturing cheese in England. Take Cheddar first. Here I would state that through all Somersetshire it is the custom to have the morning's milk into the dairy not later than 7 a.m. The rennet and colouring are immediately set to work, the door is closed during the breakfast hour, and in the page 10 course of forty minutes the curd is ready to break down. This operation is performed by an instrument called the curd breaker. This part of the work is important, and ought to be done with great care; the time required is about forty minutes, but if the milk is perfectly sweet, one hour is not too long—any cheese maker will understand this. The next step is to turn the steam on easily, and increase the power gradually up to the temperature or 96° or 100° as the season and circumstances may require. The next step is to run the whey off; during this process the curd is formed into a solid body, then it is cut into square blocks and placed in a wooden cooler. Three objects are now attained :—The whey separates from the curd, the artificial heat evaporates, and the requisite amount of acidity is generated. When these objects are attained, the curd is broken in passing through a mill, the salt is applied, and the final step is into the press. Such is a general outline of making Cheddar cheese.
The Cheshire mode varies in a few points from the Cheddar. The milk in both cases is run at the same temperature, and the scalding process is nearly the same. When the whey is separated from the curd it is cut in slices, cooled, passed through the mill, salted, and placed in the proper pressing vat. The next step is to place the vat, containing 80 or 90 lbs. of curd, in a brick oven, as it is called, where the temperature is not less than 70°; here it is left for the space of 36 hours, and then pressed in the usual way. This process was new to me; the cheeses were excellent. The required amount of acidity was generated during the 36 hours in the oven, and the fatty substance got so thoroughly fixed with the curd, that no external pressure could remove it.
The Double Gloucester and Wiltshire cheeses are manufactured upon the same principle. The custom is to skim the cream from the night's milk, which is made into butter for the local markets, or the cream is sent to London to supply the club houses and large hotels, at 4s. per quart. The milk is run at a temperature of 80° or 82°. The process in breaking-down the curd and the scald is nearly the same as Cheddar. When the whey is run off, page 11 the curd is pressed for thirty minutes, then broken up, cooled, salted, and placed in the press. The whole operation is finished by 1 p.m. The cheeses are much smaller than Cheddar, consequently do not require the same amount of acidity; they generally run four to the hundredweight, and are ready for the market three months after taken from the press. This class of cheese takes a second place in the London market, and will hold its position against all rivals. The wholesale average price is about 65s. I have frequently seen it sold from 70s. to 74s. per cwt. I have no doubt that excellent Double Gloucester can be made in New Zealand. The Americans are now making a strenuous effort to rival and supplant the Gloucester.
Stilton cheese is principally made in small dairies of from six to ten cows. The milk is run at a lower temperature,—from 74° to 78°,—the application of steam is dispensed with. The curds and whey are first dropped into a strainer, and the whey is left to run away until the curd is formed into a cake. This is often allowed to remain for twenty-four hours, then broken small with the hand, dropped into a mould, and salted during the process of filling. No external pressure is used for Stilton cheese, it continues in the mould until it is firm enough to stand, then the outside is scraped with a knife to smoothen the external surface, a piece of calico is pinned round the cheese, which should then be removed into a temperature of not less than 70°. In about five or six months the blue veins begin to appear, and the prime Stilton is moved off to supply London orders.
Cotherstone Cheese are distinguished by thin blue veins of mould and richness of quality. They are the same size as Stilton, and resemble their quality. The mode of manufacture is extremely simple, and the grass upon which the cows feed is rich. Their milk is run at a temperature of 76°, and no steam power is used to scald the curd. When the whey is separated the curd is salted, placed in the small vat, and pressed in the usual way. The cheeses are small in size, weighing from 10 to 12 lb., and sell in London at from 1s. to 1s. 6d. per lb.page 12
Wensley Dale cheese in size and quality resembles the Double Gloucester. Its repute in the North of England is so great the makers have no occasion to enter the London market. Their process is simple; all is done without the use of steam power. The salt, in many cases, is applied after the curd is sufficiently pressed; the application of strong salt brine is frequent.
Such are the various modes of cheese making in England. The American system is taken from the English, with what the Americans conceive to be additional improvements. I specially notice the difference hereafter.
Then another question which frequently crops up at our meetings with the farmers, "If all make cheese how are we to rear our calves ?' First, I would say, it is not desirable, nor need we fear, that all will make cheese. There are plenty of outlying districts where butter will be made, and young stock reared, when there is a greater demand; this we naturally expect from the increase of population, the development of foreign trade, and when more cows are kept for cheese making purposes. A dairy of 40 cows, to keep it in a healthy working order, will require not fewer than six heifers to come in every year. I never found it difficult to rear calves with little milk. Porridge made with oatmeal or linseed cake will rear calves without milk, so there is no fear for the future. My impression is that it would be an excellent move to start a butter factory; this, I feel sure, would pay the farmers well. The building would be small and inexpensive, compared with the cheese factory, and the working expenses light.
There are factories which collect the milk and raise the cream in the factory. Were this principle adopted you would require a large number of calves to feed upon the skim milk, and a considerable space of ground for them to run over, and every autumn they would have to be sold. Still the object would be answered—the calves would grow into cows somewhere, and be found when wanted. The plan which is adopted in Sweden is attended with great success. The farmers keep their milk at home to rear their page 13 calves with, and send their cream to the factory in Stockholm. Every day large quantities are sent in by rail 100 miles, in tins which are locked, holding from 10 to 20 quarts. The milk is skimmed every twenty-four hours, cream forwarded to the factory, and churned every day. By this simple process Sweden is famed for its butter, and it commands a high price when placed in the London market. How simple it would be to have a factory in the suburbs of any of our larger towns which would supply the growing city with fine fresh butter every morning. And I know, in spite of all comers, the fresh factory butter would maintain a good price the year round.
To say what these islands are capable of producing is impossible. When we survey the vast extent of unbroken lands, it is no romance to say that millions of cows may be kept where at present few exist. To arrive at a proper estimate of what may be done by a judicious application of skill and labour, we base our arguments and calculations upon reason and facts. Two acres and a-half will sustain a cow summer and winter; two and a-half million acres will keep one million cows; the produce of each cow would not be less than 5cwt. of cheese, valued at 6½d., or £60 per ton, would produce a revenue of fifteen millions per annum, leaving out of our calculation the calf and also the pig which invariably goes with the cow.
Gold mines are good in their place, but at best uncertain, and are soon exhausted; but the green sward, when properly treated, never. Every spear of grass, from generation to generation, is tipped with gold, for people who know how to utilise and extract it.
There is another consideration which will crop up in its place, and it is not too soon to anticipate it, and that is proper organisation,—this is one essential element for progress and prosperity. I speak with all the assurance that is possible. As cheese, butter, and bacon factories extend their operations, it will be absolutely necessary to have store rooms in every large shipping port.page 14
The disposal of the cheese may be safely left to the usual mercantile channels. Upon this point there is no difficulty at all. If you have 100 tons ready I can give you the names of five or six respectable firms in the trade to each of whom you can consign 20 tons; and I know enough of London business to be sure of this, every firm would do their best to secure future favour. They would sell and take all risk at a moderate per centage. I met with a wholesale merchant last year who said he would be glad to take 100 tons and dispose of that quantity to retailers, and charge no rent for the use of his premises.
When a number of factories are in operation, to stimulate and encourage all the managers, it would be well to have a large annual show in the principal towns each factory exhibiting not less than one ton of cheese. The competition would be for a first, second, and third prize.
The annual cheese show in Frome, Somersetshire, is one of the gayest days in all the year. Farmers, with their sons and daughters, assemble in large numbers. The merchants from London and other towns gather to secure the best dairies. Dairymen and maidens are all anxious to wear the blue ribbon, and win the first prize, which is not less than £50, or its equivalent in plate. Butter and bacon and poultry could also be exhibited, and take prizes according to their merit.
For the information of all who may forward cheese to London, I may say that November, December, and January are the months when cheese is little sought after, and forced sales never pay. April, May, and June are the best months, the previous year's stock is all used up, and the cheese merchants are glad to take the first which comes to market. This fact presents a fine opportunity for New Zealand, as you will be able to send in thousands of tons of fine ripe cheese, just at the time when you will have no competitor. This I consider to be a point in favour of New Zealand. The same page 15 applies to frozen meat, avoid November and December. Ship loads of poultry, game, and rabbits come in from distant parts, depressing the meat market. There are also other causes which affect the meat market. Winter is setting in, trade is dull, and the large flock masters are killing off their draft ewes; all are sent to London, and the prices are unsatisfactory. Stretching over 45 years, I never knew the market other than I have just stated. Butter realises the highest price in February and March; bacon in May, June, July, and August.
During my recent travels through New Zealand, both in the North and South Islands, many questions of considerable interest have been proposed to me in reference to the above subjects. I returned from travelling through the Colony, with my first impressions deepened; viz,—That for the successful production of every kind of dairy produce, New Zealand is equal to any country in the world. For genial climate, richness and varieties of the soil, rivers and streams of water, I know not her equal. With all the advantages of telegraphy, refrigeration and steam, her destiny, at no distant date, must be to export large quantities of dairy produce to foreign markets. We already hear of cheese and butter factories being started in all parts of the Colony.
There seems, however, to be a great difference of opinion, as to the principle upon which these factories should be started; or rather, I should say, which would be the best plant—the American or the English. From all I can learn, the general feeling seems to run chiefly in favour of the former; but from my experience of the two systems, and after comparing their results with each other, I have a very strong preference in favour of the English plant. I will here give a few of the chief points, whereby I am convinced of the superiority of the English plant, (I.) If desired, at any time, cheese on the American style and principle can be made equally well with the English plant; whereas cheese on the English principle cannot conveniently be made with the American plant (2.) Last June in London, American cheese realised 50s. to 62s. per cwt, whereas English page 16 brought from 70s. to 84s. per cwt. This, to my mind, is the most important and conclusive proof in the matter—a difference in the London market of 20s. per cwt. in favour of the English. Everything taken into account, I should say that the labour expense in the two systems is about the same. There is, however, one point, which may perhaps be taken in favour of the American plant, especially in times of tightness in the money market, and that is, that its first cost for a good sized factory would be about £200 less than the English; against this, however, I place the extra durability of the English plant, which probably would last out three of the American. On the whole, therefore, I consider that although a fair sum might be saved at the start by purchasing an American plant, yet it would in many ways be acting on the "penny wise and pound foolish"principle.
It will perhaps be interesting to compare the two systems in the various processes of cheese-making. Up to a certain point the systems are the same; then two opposite courses are taken, though both hope thereby to attain the same end. It is admitted by all cheese-makers, that a certain amount of acidity must be engendered in the curd, to give it solidity and keeping properties; because, if pressed when sweet, there is a danger of the curd turning rancid and contracting bad flavours. The methods taken to procure this acidity are where the two systems differ considerably. The Americans keep the curd in the whey until the desired result is procured, the time required varying according to the temperature and other contingencies—the average time being about five hours, the curd having to be moved the whole time either by hand or machinery. The English, having finished the "scald"in two hours, then separate the curd from the whey, placing it in a wooden cooler, and keeping it warm until there is a perceptible change and a sufficiency of the required acidity; then the curd is salted, and, when the temperature is sufficiently reduced, it is pressed. The Americans, when the whey is run off, move the curd for a short time, then salt, and put in the press. The Americans press the curd wet, and keep in the press only twenty-four hours. The English press the curd dry, and keep in the press for three or four days. page 17 These are about the only differences between the English and the American systems of cheese-making. After years of experience it may perhaps be found that both systems may be worked advantageously in New Zealand; for as in England, so will it probably prove here—different localities will produce cheese wonderfully dissimilar in quality and flavour. A case to the point has come under my notice recently. The Agricultural College at Lincoln and the Ashburton factory manufacture their curd on the Cheddar principle, but there is a marked difference between them. Now, the question naturally arises: Is this variation produced by a difference, however slight, in the manufacture, or does it arise from a difference in the locality ? This is a nice point, which has long been argued in England without any satisfactory conclusion having been arrived at. The weight of evidence, so far as my experience goes, is, that the system of manufacture has more to do with the quality and flavour of the cheese than the locality.
I think little need be said on the butter question at present. The great object of the farmer is of course to get a good average price for his cheese and butter all the year round. Let there be a few more cheese factories established, and I believe that point will be so definitely settled in the farmer's favour, that there will be but little chance for his proverbial grumbling to be heard; on the low price of dairy produce, at any rate. More cheese and less butter means higher prices for the latter, and if only our farmers would take a little more pains to make a sweet and good article all the year round, by churning a little oftener, they would be doubly repaid for the little extra trouble they might bestow on the matter. I quite believe that a ready market for all good sound butter could be found all the year round at an average of is per pound; and that, considering the price of land and of stock, should prove a remunerative business.
There are at present three cheese factories at work in New Zealand; one in Auckland, one in Canterbury, and one in Southland, while several others are in project, and will be started during the coming season. It is an industry which can hardly be overdone, as page 18 the market for cheese of good quality is very large. Few countries, if any, are better adapted for dairy purposes than New Zealand, whether we take the North or the Middle Island. The Government have offered a bonus of £500 for the first fifty tons of cheese made on the American factory principle, for export; the three factories before referred to have—we are informed—laid claim to the bonus. The cheese has to be produced in the month of May, each competitor being sanguine of success. The contest will be watched with great interest, as the cheese, in at least the last two named factories, is manufactured on totally different principles. The cheese manufactured at Ashburton is made on the English principle, known as the Cheddar, which may be said to be a combination of the English and American systems, weighing from 40lbs. to 80lbs., and is allowed to remain in the presses for two or three days. In this, the system differs from the American, which is carried out in its entirety at Edendale, the Southland factory. It is needless here to enter into a detailed account of the whole process through which the milk has to pass from the time it reaches the factory till it finds its way to the shelves in the form of cheese. The leading feature in the treatment of the curd is to extract from it all the whey before being placed in the presses—this is done, we were informed, by a chemical process—the curd is then placed in the shapes, and submitted to pressure for 18 hours only. The cheeses are of the uniform weight of 31lbs. when cured. Having recently visited the Edendale factory, I am enabled to speak from personal observation as to how that factory is conducted. It is situated about seventeen miles from Invercargill on the line of rail between that city and Dunedin. The factory was built by, and is still the property of, the New Zealand and Australian Land Company. It is built in the thriving little township of Edendale, on the Company's Edendale estate; the building is close to the railway, having a siding; it is 40 feet by 65 feet, substantially built of wood, and fitted up with all the modern appliances for cheese and butter making. Butter making has not yet been attempted, the price procurable for cheese being found more profitable.page 19
The factory is under the active supervision of Mr. McCallum, the manager of the estate. The work of the factory is carried on by Mr. Inglis, his wife, daughter, and an assistant, who looks after the pigs, etc. The factory is kept scrupulously clean, and those in charge are resolved upon securing the Government bonus. This seems probable, as they have manufactured 30 tons already. The land about Edendale is well adapted for dairy purposes, being strong and well grassed. The factory draws its supply of milk from cows, the property of the Company, who had 300 at the time (end of February); there were about 230 in milk, the rest were coming forward for calving. The quality of the cows was not such as we would like to have seen, they are, however, the best which could be got together in the time, and are being weeded out and their places supplied by better ones. At the present time the quantity of milk daily converted into cheese is about 560 gallons; of this quantity only 150 gallons are supplied by surrounding farmers. The cows are milked by women and boys at one penny per cow, in sheds constructed in convenient parts of the paddocks, floored with concrete, and well-supplied with water—a great consideration with dairy stock. One hundred and fifty Berkshire pigs are kept not far from the factory, to consume the whey.
In concluding these notes, those about to embark in this industry should watch the result of the two modes of cheese-making as carried out at Ashburton and Edendale, which may be distinguished as large v. small cheeses. It is just possible that one or the other may prove, if not a failure, at least far inferior to the other, and not suited to our conditions. We shall not have to wait long for results, as a large quantity of cheese from both factories will soon have to be shipped; and we shall then be in a position to judge between the contending systems.
I should now like to make a few remarks on bacon-curing. Since coming to New Zealand I have often wondered that bacon should occupy such a low position as it appears to do amongst the page 20 productions of this Colony, both for home consumption and for export. This can only be attributed, I think, to the ancient and unscientific way in which the business appears to be carried out at present; for I feel sure that if it were conducted in all its branches as it is now in England—from the selection of the right class of pigs, the proper method of feeding, and finally in the curing process—it would be a most simple and easy business to manage, and one of the most certain of success that I know of.
Fifty years ago, Ireland and the County of Wilts were about the only places from which England drew her bacon supply. It was then of a very inferior quality, the Irish especially so, and prices ranged from 50s. to 60s. per cwt Since then great improvements in the feed and in the cure have been made, and now the article which is sent out from the factories, fresh-cured all the year round, is pronounced perfect. As the quality improved, the demand increased, and consequently prices have advanced, until they now range in London from 74s. to 84s. per cwt. After some time, the Americans and Germans began to send in large quantities of bacon to the English markets. The German is of good quality, but the American is very inferior. In spite of these fresh supplies however, there can be no fear of over-stocking the English market, for some of the largest London merchants told me last summer that they hardly knew where to look for an adequate supply, the demand was so great, and so continually increasing. I thought at the time this was a grand opportunity for New Zealand to step in and help to supply this deficiency, and by so doing she would receive a rich return. I have often thought since then how it could best be done, and the other day, whilst going over the premises of the Canterbury Frozen Meat Company's works at Belfast, I was convinced that I was on the spot where, for a very small outlay, could be made the finest bacon-curing establishment in the world. Everything is there, nothing wanted but a good curing room on the ground floor. The main point in bacon-curing is to get the pork properly cooled down before salting, and then to keep it in a temperature of about 40 deg. Fah. from eight to twelve days. If this is properly done, success must assuredly follow.page 21
Before good bacon, however, can be made anywhere, it is absolutely necessary that the farmers should do their part of the business properly. First of all, great care should be taken in selecting the right class of pigs. The fine-bred small-boned pigs are pretty to look at, but are not at all the right class for bacon purposes, they are simply rolls of fat, and altogether unsuited for the London market. What is wanted is a long deep-sided animal of quick growth, one that will grow into eight score of pounds in six or seven months. Pigs of about 160lbs. weight are the most suitable size for bacon for the London market, though the English country markets will take them up to 180lbs., but at a reduced price. The fat on the back should be about two to two-and-a-half inches deep; thin, small sides, such as are often cured here, would scarcely be looked at at any price. A Berkshire hog and Waterford sow are fine specimens for growth for bacon.
The next point I would touch upon is a most important one, viz., the method of feeding. Here, I would impress upon our farmers, that if the feed is wrong, all the best arrangements and appliances in the world can never make good bacon. The matter is very simple, and the little extra cost incurred would soon be repaid by the increased price obtainable for well-fed pigs. Having obtained the proper breed, let them run in the paddocks for four or five months, giving them a pint or more of dry beans, peas, or other grain every morning, in order to add solidity to the fat while feeding on clover or grass. Then, when they have attained to a sufficient growth, put them into proper sties, five or ten together, and feed with barley or oatmeal, which would be no worse with a mixture of inferior wheat-meal. Skim milk or whey should be given if possible, but in the absence of both, boiled potatoes, mixed with the meal would make a good substitute. The Irish feed their pigs largely on inferior potatoes and meal.
If our farmers would only attend to these two or three points, and a beginning could be made at the Freezing Company's Works at Belfast, or some similar place with equal advantages, in a very short time, I am confident that the bacon trade page 22 in New Zealand would be revolutionized. The people here do not trouble to enquire for bacon during the summer months, for the simple reason, as it was in England fifty years since, that there is none of good quality to be found, and a sight even of the ancient red rusty stuff, which is purchased at a long price, is enough to turn every one against it. If fresh supplies of good quality were turned out from the factory every week, the consumption in New Zealand would soon be more than doubled, to say nothing of the export trade to the neighbouring Colonies and to England which could very profitably be carried on.
I notice there is to be an International Exhibition in Calcutta shortly. Now New Zealand ought to exhibit all her dairy produce there—cheese, butter, and bacon. England does a large trade with India in these articles, and I see no reason why, if we were properly represented there, and exhibits sent, a large share of that trade should not come to this Colony, for we most certainly have numerous advantages over the Old Country to give us a good handicap in the matter.
In conclusion, I fear no contradiction, when I say that New Zealand is as fine a country as there is in the world for rearing and feeding pigs, and where a thousand are now reared there should be a hundred times that quantity, and I feel sure that if only one factory is started on the lines I have suggested, it will not be long before that result is reached, and it must end in a permanent source of wealth to all concerned.
Wilsons & Horton, Printers, Auckland.