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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 62

Dairy Produce

Dairy Produce.

The remote distance of New Zealand from these markets is a matter of less moment than appears at first sight. Refrigerators and cool chambers have put her on an equal footing with places no further off than France and Denmark. The extra freight, also, is not nearly as much of a handicap as one would at first be led to suppose. The conditions for producing are so much more favourable in New Zealand than in Europe that they more than counterbalance these disadvantages. The fact of the seasons in New Zealand being reversed, and the opposite of the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere, enables us to land our produce here at the very time when the conditions for production on this side of the world are most unfavourable, and, in the case of fruit and honey, prohibitive, and when as a consequence prices are high. The old British ideas, however, of dairying and fruit growing are being improved on in New Zealand, and more must be done in the way of improved production before New Zealand can take a large share of the money this country pays for these articles. The Danes have taught us how to make butter, the Americans to grow and preserve fruit, and the French to raise poultry and produce honey. The old practice of the farmer's wife and daughters making up the butter has now to give place to the cream separator, the steam-engine, and the factory. If anyone doubts the wisdom of this, let him compare the prices obtained for the New Zealand butter which has been made by the old system and the price obtained for factory-made butter.

The following extracts from the last annual report of the Chief Government Dairy Inspector of New Zealand show what is being done and can be done in the dairy industry in the Colony:—

page 442

While the dairying industry has not yet developed into anything like the importance it is destined to assume, I think we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that during the past two years a considerable forward movement has been made, more especially during the past year. I have myself been repeatedly complimented from various sources for what was perhaps undeserved, benefits received from my instruction, not only from dairy-factory operatives but from merchants dealing in the commodity. Notwithstanding the fact that some of our dairy-factory companies have had to succumb through financial difficulties, and some, through mismanagement, even forced into liquidation, still the future of our outlook is very hopeful. A more practical acquaintance with the nature and the handling of milk and its products on the part of factory-managers, and a better knowledge of commercial principles on the part of the managing committees of the factories, will inevitably secure our desired ends. This can only be brought about by continued steady instruction, combined with experience attained in the actual working of dairy factories. The complete revolution necessary in the industry cannot be effected in a day, but changes must be made by degrees. But that the industry is being founded on a more certain basis there can no longer be any room for further doubt.

From communications received from some of the principal London brokers, I learn that they recognise a marked and sustained improvement in the quality of both cheese and butter shipments of recent manufacture; at the same time, they express the opinion that finality in the matter of improvement has not yet been reached. The chief complaint among the London brokers is the absence of uniformity, and this cannot easily be remedied while there is throughout the Colony such an extensive system of private dairying at work. Uniformity cannot easily be engendered without the establishment of the factory system. It is worthy of note that several of our dairy factories have now earned a desirable distinction in the London market for the quality of their products—both butter and cheese. Brands of butter which were last year quoted at from £1 10s. to £2 under the Danish brands have, during the past season, been quoted at about the highest figures realised on the London market. Cheese from our best factories has successfully competed with the best Canadian brands, which seem to dominate the market. But, unfortunately, this distinction is only earned by a few of our best factories. Towards showing the benefits derived from the factory system as compared with individual dairying, it is satisfactory to note that, out of an even line of three shipments of butter sent homo, the factory brands realised from £5 15s. to £6 3s., while that from private dairies brought from £4 15s. to £5 15s. The higher quotations must be considered satisfactory.

It is also pleasing to note the rapid development which the dairy industry has undergone during the last ten years. In 1880 the value of our exports of dairy products was £1,033, while for 1890 the value rose to £207,687, and I am sanguine that the past season's export will show, page 443 from the same amount of produce, a considerable increase in pecuniary value. I hope, by future efforts, to see a still brisker trade established, so that the settlers may derive a benefit, and find some solace for past losses.

It is generally conceded that no country possesses greater natural advantages for dairy pursuits than New Zealand; this, at any rate, is true of Taranaki. Any one acquainted with the large areas of splendid pasture-land in Taranaki must have had the conviction forced upon him that this locality is pre-eminently fitted to become a great centre for manufacturing dairy products. In soil, climate, seasons, and settlement Taranaki has every natural advantage. Winter pasturage is generally abundant, and so the farmer is, to a great extent, relieved of the labour and expense of storing up much winter food. Little or no housing is required for the cattle throughout the winter, and so the farmer can carry on his business under the most favourable circumstances, as very little of the profits of the season are consumed in maintaining the cows from one season to another. At the same time I have endeavoured to impress upon the farmers of this district the desirability of growing a little winter feed, likewise the benefits of some better means of shelter during the cold season.

Like many other zealous advocates for the extension of dairy farming in New Zealand, and reform in dairy practices, I place exclusive reliance upon the establishment of the factory system as being the only means whereby the ultimate success of the industry can be assured. What the refrigerator has done for the grazier, cheese factories and creameries will do for the dairy farmer if properly carried out. What would the frozen-meat trade be to-day if every farmer could refrigerate his own produce and trifle with it according to his own peculiar notions, as he does at the present time with his dairy produce? Were there not such a division of labour in the frozen-meat trade it would, in my opinion, very swiftly come to ruin. The dairying industry, like the frozen-meat trade, has many features peculiar to it which seem to characterise it in a general way from almost any other known industry. The advantages of a well-organised system of co-operative dairying to all the dairy districts of New Zealand would be difficult to estimate. Such a system, if properly governed, would, in my opinion, solve many of the difficulties which now beset the small farmer. Co-operative dairying is a matter fraught with benefit to all.

Towards showing the present extent of the factory system, it is gratifying to be able to show that there are now sixty-two large cheese and butter factories in operation, the buildings and plant showing an aggregate value of upwards of £70,000.

Some of the cheese factories are now turning out from 100 to 100 tons of cheese annually, and the butter factories and creameries 50 to 140 tons of butter annually.

The industry is now assuming dimensions which justify the belief that page 444 we have at last succeeded in establishing it as one of our most important industries. I am of opinion that in a few years hence, if a systematic course of instruction is pursued, New Zealand, taking all things into consideration, will be as eminent in the manufacture of dairy produce as any of the American or European nations. I believe it will yet become a successful rival to the frozen-meat and wool trade, and, as a means of employing labour and maintaining a large population, it will be superior to either.

It is not to be supposed that the change now being made in favour of the factory system is opposed to the interest of the small farmer. He, on the contrary, reaps a greater benefit by selling his cream to the creamery erected in his neighbourhood than by himself converting the cream into butter. The farmers themselves are encouraged to co-operate for the purpose of having an interest in the butter factory. There is already a factory in the Colony for making condensed milk, and the article produced is equal to the best Swiss milk. We have not yet succeeded in making tinned butter, in which the Italians so excel, and do such a large trade, but that will come in time.