South Australia's Dairy Trail

Date posted: 18 November 2016

Over the past year or so our little lucerne-filled City Crop has told you about the importance of the perennial plant to the dairy industry. But can you believe this industry in Australia started with a humble two bulls and seven cows?

These nine animals arrived in New South Wales in 1788 with the First Fleet. After a quick escape to nearby bushland, the stock survived and after six years they became a herd of 61.

An important food source for the colony, the NSW dairy industry grew by implementing breeding programs and importing new stock – with the herd reaching 322 bulls and 712 cows in 1800.

The dairy industry was quick to expand from NSW to both Tasmania and Victoria, servicing growing populations and industry.

It was not until 1837 that South Australia’s dairy industry began. Dairy cows arrived along with the first European settlers, who produced milk, cheese and butter for the new community. Demand was so high that within seven years the herd had grown to 30,000.

The 1880s saw the introduction of machine technology for milking cows and making cheese and butter. This mechanisation led to the development of new dairy produce factories, which in turn led to new cooperative dairy businesses that were owned by dairy farmers. These cooperatives are still famous today with Farmers Union and Amscol amongst the most successful.

By 1917 South Australia had 86,000 dairy cows, produced over 4,000 tonnes of butter and 1,000 tonnes of cheese annually. Produce was exported in refrigerated containers and enjoyed locally.

In the 1950s and 1960s farmers utilised new irrigation techniques and introduced better pastures. Farmers also modernised their milking sheds with stainless steel vats and refrigeration systems, which allowed them to store milk and then transport to factories with greater flexibility. The industry has continued to grow and innovate since this time.

Today, SA dairy producers lead the industry with their high milk quality and animal husbandry.

There are now 82,133 dairy cows in SA living on 260 different farms. These cows produce a whopping 536.6 million litres of milk annually – that's around 6,436 litres per cow per year and represents approximately 6 per cent of the national milk output.

It’s an exciting industry full of opportunities, delicious food and beverages and is something our state should be proud of.

Find out more about SA’s outstanding dairy products at: the Do Dairy website.

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