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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 2

I Technology Transported; 1788-1840

II Technology Established; 1840-1940
i Meat Preserving: Heat Processing Introduced
ii Horticultural Products: Heat, Sugar and Solar Drying
iii Refrigeration and the Export of Meat
iv Milling and Baking
v Dairy Products
vi Beverages
vii Sugar: Supplying an Ingredient

III The Coming Of Science

IV From Science To Technology: The Post-war Years

V Products And Processes

VI Conclusion

VII Acknowledgements



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Dairy Products [83]

A factory system, that is, the delivery of milk from farms to a centre for the manufacture of dairy products, was well established in America by the middle of the nineteenth century. From 1860 Thomas Mort built his estate at Bodalla in New South Wales around the manufacture of butter and cheese and practically simultaneously John Orlebar introduced American factory methods to a cheese factory at Allansford, Victoria. So also, in the late seventies, did James Manning in the Bega Valley of New South Wales and the Tooths at nearby Kameruka.

These were all cheese factories. The cheesemaking process begins as soon as the milk is received at the factory and continues steadily until the cheese is made, that is, to the end of the day. At that time, there were available standardized equipment such as curd knives and mechanical aids such as presses.


Butter was different. Milk stood for long periods in wide shallow pans after which the cream was skimmed off by hand and then churned, often in makeshift equipment. Gross contamination was inevitable and the warm Australian conditions exacerbated it so that, in general, the quality of the product was very poor. The first Victorian butter sent to London was fit only for axle grease, but the variation in Australian conditions was such that some satisfactory butter was made, especially if it were salted. Butter made within easy reach of the market was fresh butter and was either unsalted or only lightly salted, but butter which had to be transported over difficult country or long distances was heavily salted and packed in brine barrels or kegs. This was known as potted butter. Later, boric acid was introduced as a preservative, first up to 0.5 per cent, later reduced to 0.2 per cent, and in 1927, as a result of U.K. representations, prohibited. In any case, it had by then become unnecessary and had fallen into disuse.

The change came in 1878 with the granting of a patent to Gustaf de Laval, a Swede, for a mechanical milk separator which permitted butter-making to begin as the milk was received. Milk separation began in Australia in 1881, at the Mittagong Creamery in New South Wales and spread rapidly to the Illawarra dairy area. The first separator in Victoria was that in 1882 at the Romsey plant of the Melbourne Milk Supply Company. The machines were cumbersome and sometimes horse driven but separation was general by the mid-eighties and the dairy industry spread rapidly by the establishment in the country of creameries to which the farmers delivered their milk and from which they took home skim milk to feed the pigs. The cream was sent to central butter factories. As separators became smaller and could be turned by hand, the farmers did their own separating and saved transport costs.

Butter thus replaced cheese as the major factory product and the purchase of milk by butter fat content, which has dominated the dairy industry ever since, was made possible by the rapid test for fat in dairy products, especially milk, developed in 1890 by the American, S. M. Babcock. This test arrived in Australia about 1892. Heny Pattison and N. H. Throsby in New South Wales pioneered it. Cherry and Sons of Gisborne, Victoria, are said to have brought the first equipment to Australia and in November 1892, the Koroit and Tower Hill Butter and Cheese Factory Company Limited in Victoria's Western District began to buy milk on butter fat content. It was a second revolution.

In the nineties the separator and the Babcock test, the development of general factory utensils and equipment, and refrigerated storage firmly established contemporary dairy technology. Victoria rapidly became a major dairy area and by 1895, there were 200 butter factories and 300 creameries in that colony. A strong export trade in dairy products emerged quite quickly but it was found that their quality was simply not good enough and the various colonial and then State governments were forced to take action to improve it.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Cherry and Sons, Gisborne; Koroit and Tower Hill Butter and Cheese Factory Company Ltd; Melbourne Milk Supply Company; Mittagong Creamery

People in Bright Sparcs - Manning, James; Mort, T. S.; Orlebar, John; Pattison, Henry; Throsby, N. H.

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 101 - 102, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher