Dairy farming: environmental history’s twists & turns

A skimming station on the corner of Roberts’s Line and the Bunnythorpe-Kairanga Road, Manawatu. This photograph shows the long line of carts which was a typical sight at a skimming station in the early years of that century. Source: Palmerston North City Library.

Reading a 1977 paper reviewing farming in the Manawatu, by soil scientist J. Cowie and farming advisor W. Osborn, I was interested to read the following passage:

Dairy farming no longer predominates [in the Manawatu] as it has lost a great number of units in recent years. Twenty-six small dairy companies existed in the billycan and horse and cart days. Early consolidation of these occurred and the sole remaining Manawatu Dairy Company set up its headquarters at Longburn in 1968 … Production statistics of the Manawatu Dairy Company show a 50% drop in the number of suppliers in the last decade.

Who would have thought, reading this paper – tinged with unmistakable nostalgia for the thriving dairy industry of yesteryear – that only a decade and a half later, the dairy industry would undergo a boom so monumental that it would become the nemesis for many environmentalists, and blamed for much of the degradation of the region’s rivers? Another of environmental history’s intriguing twists and turns…

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