Wide Bay Dairy Co-op

The concept of forming a Co-operative Dairy Company was first proposed in 1899 but due to lack of services and resources the operation didn’t start immediately

The Company commenced manufacturing operations at Maryborough on the 11th Feb 1901. Shortly after this, the South Burnett lands began to be developed and the Association erected a factory in 1907.

In 1901 the Maryborough Co-Operative Dairy Company came into existence.The manufacture of cheese is reported to have first started at Tiaro in 1880.

By 1901 there was a rail link through the Burnett which allowed for the establishment of dairy communities such as Kilkivan, Kingaroy, Murgon and Wondai.

The manufacture of cheese was so successful that it was later made at Branch Creek and Brooklands.

Brooklands Cheese Factory

The areas first established were suited to dairy cattle and the finished product was sent to the London Markets.

From 1907 three other factories were built at Biggenden, Mundubbera and Wondai

Biggenden

In 1910 the press reported. “Within the last ten or fifteen years the dairying industry in this district has sprung from comparative obscurity to the foremost place amongst our State primary industries, a fact due to a variety of causes, chief amongst  which are the suitableness of the land for the purpose, the introduction of the cream separator and other modern appliances, the establishment of co-operative butter factories, the opening of the London market through State subsidised steamers, and arising out of all these causes, the organisation of the industry on an economical and permanent basis. The twenty second half yearly report of the Mayborough Co-operative Dairy Company Limited affords striking evidence of the abounding progress the industry is making through out the Wide Bay.

Interestingly in 1909 there were four factories other than Maryborough – Tiaro, Gympie, Nanango and Bundaberg with Maryborough being the parent factory.

GYMPIE

The decline of mining after 1906 saw a drop in population and a change to agricultural and pastoral activities. One of the reasons for such a great growth in agricultural industries and in particular the dairy industry was the opening up of large holdings of rich scrub land which earlier settlers had left alone.

Much of the land had rich red soil with vine scrub and fairly consistent rainfall which was ideal for dairying. In 1882 the first cream separator was imported by Mr Hugo Durietz. The introduction of refrigeration enabled Gympie to export overseas and interstate. By 1906 dairy farming was very prosperous with large numbers of dairy cattle being imported from southern states.

Artificial grasses such as paspalum from Africa and Rhodes grass made a big impact on the industry. There were two companies on the same site before the Wide Bay Co-operative Dairy Company was established. It took shape in 1906 with a prospectus drawn up by May 5th.

A call for shares was so successful that by September 1, it commenced operations. By the end of December the Wide Bay Co-op was exporting to London. Supply outgrew the capacity of the factory so on September 25th in 1925, a new building was officially opened.

The cost of the building was 60 000 pounds. It was one of the biggest in Australia and one of the most completely equipped factories with its own railway siding and a branch factory at Cooroy. By 1927 the district was producing one tenth of the milk production of the whole state. The record manufacture 40 for the Gympie factory was in January 1943 when 1,166,020 lbs (pounds) of the famous Golden Nugget brand was produced.

In the late 1940’s Nestle chose Gympie for the site of its new factory because of the potential for producing the large quantities of milk needed as well as the town being able to provide all the services to run a modern factory. This decision involved and investment of over one million pounds and shows the importance of Gympie as a dairying concern. After the establishment of the Nestle factory in 1953, butter making gradually declined and finally ceased in 1978.

The factory turned to milk processing while Nestle went out of the milk industry altogether. The dairy industry’s worth outshone the gold production years. The average yield from dairying for the twelve years between 1915 and 1927 was £317,744 per annum while the average for the goldfield for the thirty-seven years to 1917 was only £147,500 per annum. After the rationalisation of the dairy industry the factory ceased processing milk in 1987. The building was then used as a bulk milk collection point. With declining milk collections the depot closed in October 1994.

Stay tuned for more updates on the Wide Bay Dairy Co-op

REFERENCES

“River of dreams ” Tony Lihou
Pinterest – Maryborough Family History Society

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