The dairy industry began in South Australia in 1837 with the arrival of the first European settlers; these prospective farmers undertook the production of milk, cheese and butter for their new community. The dairy industry was mainly concentrated on the Adelaide Plains and in the Adelaide Hills.
The science of dairy production was introduced in the 1880s. A system of dairy produce factories, run by cooperative businesses owned by dairy farmers, was established. Machine technology for milking cows and making cheese and butter was also made available. Most herds on farms were small, under 70 cows with farm sizes ranging between 32 ha and 48 ha.
The government also became more involved in the dairy industry, largely because of the need to organise industries during the Second World War, governments began to regulate such matters as pricing, health and safety. Dairy and factory hygiene were regarded as extremely important to governments.
During the 1950s and 1960s, as South Australian farmers applied new irrigation techniques and introduced better pastures, the industry continued to flourish. By the 1970s most dairy farms had moved to a system of bulk handling for milk and had installed stainless steel refrigerated vats in their milking sheds in which to store milk. Rotary dairies and herd recording significantly improved productivity.
The creation of the European Economic Community in 1973 and the loss of markets
in the United Kingdom were significant factors affecting the viability of smaller farms.
In July 2000, the Australian dairy industry was de-regulated This led to milk prices being linked more closely to international trends and world market prices, rather than local demand and consumption. Despite these many changes to the dairy industry in SA, milk production have almost doubled since 1980 to over 600 million litres.
The following compilation of papers, describes important aspects of the development of the Dairy Industry in South Australia.
A Brief History of the South Australian Dairy Industry (PDF 200.6 KB).
AMSCOL (PDF 1.1 MB), 1924. Leaflet, Adelaide Milk Supply Co-operative Limited, Carrington Street Adelaide.
Hay & Fodder Conservation in South Australia (HTML) by Martin Cochrane
Herd recording in South Australia (PDF 1.6 MB), 1950s, Department of Agriculture, South Australia.
History of Dairy Legislation (HTML) by Steve Rice.
History of Dairy Research in the Department of Agriculture, South Australia (HTML) by Roger Wickes and John Feagan.
History of Milk Products Section, Department of Agriculture, South Australia (HTML) by Jim Marshall.
History of the Dairy Industry in the Mid North (PDF 461.4 KB) by Geoff Norman and Wilf Bowen.
South Australian Cheese Factories (PDF 110.0 KB).
The Dairy Industry in South Australia (PDF 157.4 KB) by B.D. Hannaford, Chairman of the Metropolitan Milk Board and S.J. Rice, Principal Dairy Officer of the department of Agriculture.
The development of the South Australian Dairy Industry (PDF 267.8 KB) by John Radcliffe.