Dairying in the South West 1850 – 1913

These two articles appeared in the Bunbury Herald on 30 August 1913, written by Thomas Hayward.


(To the Editor).

Sir – I notice the Government is at last taking some steps to assist the dairying industry in order to reduce the extraordinary drain on our finances by the import of dairy produce from the Eastern States. I have often alluded to the fact that, in my opinion, the output of butter in the South West was far below that of 30 or 40 years ago.

I will endeavour later on to give the cause of this deplorable state of affairs, also, to make some suggestions for a number of improvements.

About 30 years ago Perth and Fremantle were supplied with butter, from Vasse and Bunbury in hogsheads (quarter casks and kegs), forwarded by coasters. A small quantity to make up any deficiency was imported from Ireland in kegs: none from the Eastern States.

Yours, etc.,


Bunbury, 27th Aug, 1913.

List of dairies in the Bunbury and Wellington districts, commencing in the year 1850:

Leschenault, by W. P. Clifton – Still carried on.

Rosamel, by Thos. Hardy – Still carried on by Clifton family.

Belvidere, by W. O. Mitchell – Abandoned some years ago.

Parkfield, by R. H. Rose – Carried on to end of August, 1913, on a very small scale. Estate recently sold.

Spring Hill, by B. Piggott, sen. – Abandoned; B. Piggott, jun., recently resumed.

Coast Road, by Wm. Reading – Still carried on.

Thirty-two Mile, by Thos. Hardy – Closed years ago.

Thirty-four Mile, by Fouracre Family – Closed years ago.

Peppermint Grove, by Rose and Hayward – Closed years ago.

North Harvey, by Logue Family – Closed years ago.

Harvey, by Geo. Eliot – Closed years ago.

Harvey, by Mr. Giblett – Closed about 1862.

Harvey, by J. Thompson Logue – Closed about 1864.

Wokalup, by Clifton Family – Still carried on.

Bundidup, by Thos. Hayward – Still carried on.

Roelands, by Mrs. Rose – Sending cream to factory.

Australind, by J. F. B. Clifton – Still carried on.

Dardanup, by H. W. Venn – Closed.

Wedderburn, by Hayward and Rose – Closed.

Uduc, by M. B. Smith – Still carried on.

Dardanup, by Mr. Cleary – Sending cream to factory.

Dardanup, by Mr. Garvey (2) – Sending cream to factory.

Minninup, by Mr. Roberts – Sending cream to factory.

Minninup, by Mr. Scott – Sending cream to factory.

Brunswick, Alverstoke, by W. R. Clifton. 1860: now continued by A. F. Clifton.



By Thos. Hayward.

On my arrival in the district in 1855 I found Mr. W. P. Clifton running a dairy with a number of good cows (about 140) at Leschenault [Homestead]. Mr. Clifton was always in the yard every morning doing his share of the milking, and frequently carried round the butter to his customers in Bunbury. This is now in the hands of Mr. J. F. Johnston, and is by far the best herd in the South-West. Very little butter or cream is produced, the milk being taken to Bunbury twice a day and sold there.

About 1860 a dairy with a fair number of good cows was established at Belvidere, on the Prinsep Estate. This was continued several years, and a considerable quantity of butter produced and sent to Perth and Fremantle. Eventually, through difficulty in finding milkers [people who milk cows], and the business being unremunerative, it was given up, and soon after a bush fire made a clean sweep of the whole homestead.

Rosamel – The home of the Cliftons, was one of the earliest dairy farms. This is still carried on by the family, but little is produced.

Next comes Parkfield, where dairying was commenced more than 50 years ago by the late Mr. Benjamin Piggott. About 1855 he removed to Spring Hill, and Parkfield was taken by Mr. R. H. Rose. Parkfield has produced more butter and cheese than any other farm in these districts. At the time the dairying business was abandoned by Mr. G. C. Rose it was the best equipped dairy in the South-West, having a steam engine to drive the separator, cut chaff, and prepare food for the cows. The butter produced when the season was at its best averaged about 300 lbs. per week. The dairying was abandoned about 20 years ago, principally on account of the difficulty in finding milkers. Sheep are now substituted for the cows.

Springhill, the adjoining run to Parkfield, was occupied by the Piggott family, as before mentioned, and a large quantity of butter, about 200 lbs. per week, produced and sent to Perth and Fremantle. This dairy is being revived.

Mr. Wm. Reading, who resides a short distance from Spring Hill, at one time made a considerable quantity of butter. Only a small quantity of cream is now sent to the factory owing to the scarcity of milkers.[1]

About 1855 Mr. S. Hardy commenced dairying on the Coast Road; only continued a year or two.

Shortly after this, Messrs. Rose and Hayward, at Peppermint Grove; only remained one year; gave it up on account of nearly all the calves dying from white scour.

About 1855 dairying was commenced on the Harvey Estate, was discontinued through cattle dying. The whole herd was removed to the coast to save their lives. This occurred several times.[2]

About 1848 the Logue family started at North Harvey, had great losses of cattle, but persevered making an average of 150 lbs. of butter per week. The run is now stocked with sheep.

About 1856 Mr. Giblett brought a herd of cattle from Serpentine. After about two years, in consequence of heavy losses of cattle, he removed to Blackwood, where the family still resides.

Some time after Mr. Giblett left, the Harvey Estate was taken by Mr. J. Thompson Logue, who carried on dairying until the estate was sold to Messrs. Harvey and Hayward.

About 1860 Mr. W. R. Clifton started dairying at Alverstoke, Brunswick. He had a fine herd, made a considerable quantity of butter, and Mr. A. F. Clifton, who took up the work, is now sending milk to Perth and cream to the factory.

About 1857 Mr. Thos. Hayward and Mr. Charles Rose commenced at Wedderburn, Brunswick. They carried on for about two years, when on account of the mortality in the herd, Mr. Charles Rose took all that were left to Wilgarup, beyond Blackwood, where he continued dairying up to the time of his death.

In 1862 Mr. Thos. Hayward commenced at Bundidup, near Wokalup. During the first two years he lost the best of his cows. By turning the remainder into the cultivated fields at night, and the appearance of the silver grass on the run, the losses were sufficiently reduced to enable him to continue the business, which is still carried on by his son, Mr. S. Hayward, jun. He sells most of the milk, and makes about 100 lbs. of butter per week.

At Minninup Mr. Roberts, sen., and Mr. Scott, sen., had a dairy in earlier days. The work being carried on by descendants, they sending cream to the factory from their farms.

Having to the best of my ability given a brief sketch of the dairying industry for upwards of 50 years, I will now endeavour to show the causes of failure.

In the first place, want of milkers. I think the pioneers of the business here were all men with rising families, and they were enabled to secure men at less than half the present rate of wages. Their families grew up, and left the old home, and their businesses became unprofitable.

Until recently dependence was entirely on bush feed, which was largely composed of scrub, containing little nutriment, and was unwholesome, besides in some instances having an admixture of poison plants. This caused heavy losses of cows and other cattle, young and old, and the natural increase little more than supplied the losses by death.

I contend there was no lack of energy or determination on the part of the settlers. They were merely surrounded by insurmountable difficulties and were compelled in order to make a living to fall back on general farming and keeping sheep. This is bound to continue.

About 50 years ago the mortality in some herds amounted to 40 per cent. on the rivers and the best of the granite country – the Harvey, Brunswick, Wokalup and Ferguson. On the latter Mr. Hough lost the greater part of his herd, and never recovered his former position. This occurred when feed was at its best and the cattle all fat in October and November.

Having given some of the causes of the failure of the industry I will make a few suggestions for its improvement.

I hope before long the milking machine will be sufficiently improved to enable it to do for the dairyman what the reaper and binder and the harvester had done for the wheat grower. This would obviate one of the greatest difficulties, i.e., the want of milkers.

But the most important subject is irrigation, which will enable the settlers to provide green fodder, and early double their present output, and enable work to be carried out all the year. Then if practicable I would place families upon a moderate sized block of first-class land, with a few hundred acres of second-class, to give them a run for dry cows and young stock.

We require increased population of the right sort, closer settlement something like large villages, in which cooperative societies could be established to assist dairying, fruit-growing and so on.

In my opinion it would be sheer madness for a man without a family to start dairying in the bush and depend on adult labour. In other rural industries a cessation of work for a short period might not be of great consequence, but milking cannot be put off even for a day without serious loss, and if continued for several days would mean ruination to the owner of the land who is completely at the mercy of his [unreadable].

I think it will be found no easy matter to make dairying a complete success in competition with the other States and the prospective prices of wool and mutton.

[1] William Reading lived at ‘Runnymede’.

[2] Clay soils are deficient in certain minerals and coastal soils are deficient in others. Rotating stock between soil types helped solve the problem. See They Made Their Destiny by AC Stapes pps 189 – 195. Also see article on this website ‘Coast Road Becomes Ghost Road’ in The Old Coast Road.