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War Economy

Hand Stripping on the Way Out

Hand Stripping on the Way Out

In dairy farming the reduction in labour requirements was given an impetus by the discovery that hand stripping, long considered an essential for the efficient use of milking machines, could be eliminated without significant ill-effects. It is difficult to trace precisely the spread of the practice of no hand stripping. In 1941 the New Zealand Dairy Board was able to refer to ‘The increasing tendency to abandon the practice of stripping after machine milking’.3 The move must still have been fairly tentative when war broke out, but a survey, made in November and December 1941, of about thirty herds where no hand stripping had been done for one or page 191 more years, indicated little if any resulting fall in output per cow.1 Though the sample was hardly large enough to be conclusive, this result confirmed the practice and hastened its spread.

By the 1943–44 season, information was being taken from 266 herds where there was no hand stripping, including 32 where non-stripping had been the practice for ‘at least 4 or 5 seasons’. Still the change showed only a minor reduction in butterfat production per cow. Said the Dairy Board,2 ‘… a fairly large sample of farmers have demonstrated their ability to maintain herd levels of production without the necessity of hand-stripping of cows.’

It is likely that the practice of eliminating hand stripping continued to spread throughout the war, progressively reducing labour requirements on dairy farms. It may well have been the most important influence leading to the reduction of farm labour requirements.

In short, rapid mechanisation and changes in farming methods were making it possible, in most types of farming, to produce an increasing output with a stable or decreasing labour force. By far the greatest fall in numbers of men engaged was in dairy farming, where there were some 75,000 at the 1936 census and only about 46,000 in 1951. Dairy farming thus accounted for 29,000 of the 31,000 men who moved out of farming in the 15-year period, 1936 to 1951. The fall in numbers engaged was to continue, but more slowly. By 1956 there would be only 44,000 men in dairy farming. By way of contrast, the numbers engaged in sheep farming decreased by less than 2000 between 1936 and 1951 and, by 1956, would have moved back to 3000 above their 1936 level.

3 17th Annual Report of the New Zealand Dairy Board, 1941, p. 14.

1 20th Annual Report of the New Zealand Dairy Board, 1944, p. 9. The survey was also reported fairly fully in the February 1942 issue of the Journal of Agriculture.

2 Ibid., p. 49.