By Thistledown - The Australasian, No. 1469 Vol LVI, Melbourne Saturday May 26th 1894 - Price 6d. Page 890.
Along the banks of the Yarra, in the neighbourhood of Heidelberg, there are a great number of milk farms, where the sole object is to produce milk for the Melbourne market. For a considerable distance up the Plenty River, which joins the Yarra two miles above Heidelberg, there are also several such farms, and to describe one describes them all, so far as the system and method of working are concerned. One milk farm differs from another chiefly in the breed or character of the cattle which are preferred, but the routine of management in any particular district is very similar, as a rule, for the reason that certain lines must be followed, there being no option for the farmer to vary his system to any great extent.
Cleveland Farm, which is situated at the junction of the Plenty with the Yarra, and occupied by Mr, Joseph Bond, J.P. and S.C.(1), is one of the largest and best dairy farms in the district. Mr Bond has been a tenant of Cleveland for 35 years, and he has been sending milk to Melbourne for the last 20 years, so that he knows something about the business. He milks 80 cows on the average throughout the year, and his experience is valuable, not merely for the interest it may have for milk producers, but to dairymen in general, as showing the methods adopted for obtaining a maximum yield of milk at a minimum expense. Some of the butter-producers in the colony have a good deal to learn in the matter of feeding their cows, and on that point the milk-producers can often give them a few hints that are worth knowing.
The area of Cleveland Farm is about 550 acres. The greater proportion of the land is only suitable for grazing, and is pretty heavily timbered. It is also somewhat hilly, but down by the river side there is a level flat of 40 acres of deep fertile soil. This part of the farm is always under cultivation. The crops grown consist of mangel (2), maize, and hay, all of which are raised specially for the benefit of the cows. Mr. Bond believes in liberal feeding from the latter end of January to about September. Much depends upon the season, but, generally speaking, the cows are fed for eight months in the year; the other four months they are dependent entirely on the pasture. By the time the grass begins to dry off in January, successive patches of green maize are coming forward, and this fodder is cut and carted out to the cows in the adjoining paddock. The maize lasts well into May, and after that mangels come in for the rest of the winter. In addition to the green food, bran and chaff are fed daily to the cows, the average daily allowance for 80 head of cows being 35 bushels of bran, 9 bags of chaff, and 2 dray-loads of mangels. The roots are fed in the paddock after being roughly chopped with a spade. Mr. Bond would ....(3)....in which they are raised is at the bottom of a tremendous hill, it would be a waste of time and money attempting to cart them up to the homestead where the milking sheds are situated..(3)..yellow variety of mangel is grown, the seed having originally been procured from the late Mr. Woodmason. Although naturally very rich, the ground is regularly well manured with dung from the bails, and heavy crops, yieding about 40 tons to the acre, are raised without fail every season. The maize and hay crops are equally luxuriant. the difficulty with the latter being that it is too heavy, as a rule, and falls down badly before it is ready to cut.
The dairy herd at Cleveland is a miscellaneous lot of cattle. Mr. Bond adopts the plan of buying most of his cows instead of breeding them, and buying in the open market makes it impossible to form a uniform herd. They are simply a collection of all sorts, but each animal, whatever its breed, is carefully selected, and must possess distinct milking qualities. A pure shorthorn bull is kept, and Mr. Bond says that a cross of that animal with the ordinary dairy cow is the best for milking purposes that he knows of. No regular period of calving is arranged for. The bull runs with the herd the year round. In previous years when the plan of having the cows come in at a fixed time was tried, it was found to be difficult to get some of the cows in calf. A few of the best heifer calves are saved and reared to assist in maintianing the herd, but all the others are sold when a day old as "bobbies". It is a mystery to many people what purpose all the very young calves from different parts of the country are put to after they reach Melbourne. I understand they are converted into sausages, and the special line of business of dealing in this class of livestock is call the "staggering bob" trade.
Mr. Bond disposes of his milk in the suburbs of Collingwood and Fitzroy. He runs a waggon to town twice a day, and this cart picks up milk cans on the journey from other farmers, for which they are charged at the rate of one penny per gallon for delivery. The price obtained for the milk delivered in Melbourne ranges from 6d. to 7d. per gallon. In former years, Mr. Bond tells me, he has got as high as 1s. a gallon, but he does not expect ever to get that price again. It is evident that the milk business is not so profitable as it used to be, but the expenses are less than fomrerly. Good hands may now be obtained for about 15s. a week and their board. Feed is also cheaper. If railway freight was to pay in addition, Mr. Bond says the profit would be swallowed up completely.
It is a matter of interest to speculate what the actual profit amounts to from a dairy herd when all the milk is sold direct to the consumer. Mr. Bond informed me that his best cows give an average yield of from 12 to 14 quarts per day in winter, and as high as 16 and 18 quarts when the grass is at is best the the summer. Now, supposing that we put the average daily yield of the best cows for, say eight months in the year, at 10 quarts, and value it at 6d. per gallon, this would give a return of ₤19 17s. 6d. per cow. Against this has to be placed the expenses for feed, rent, labour, and maintenance of the herd. What these severally and collectively amount to is difficult to arrive at, but they would make a large hole in the income. It seems to me however, that the principal factors in securing a profit from a dairy of this kind, or from any herd of milking cattle, are, first, the performance of each individual cow; secondly liberal, but economic feeding; and thirdly, general good management. A combination of these essential elements is necessary before success can follow, but where they are present I do not see that any loss should result.
1. S.C. or Senior Counsel is more or less the same as Q.C. or Queen's Counsel
2. Mangels: "A beet of a variety with a large root, cultivated as feed for livestock." Meriam-Webster.
3. The old edition of the newspaper was folded here, which resulted in damage. A line or two was unreadible.