Most farms and some townspeople in
Coorow, Carnamah and Three Springs once kept a cow to provide their household with milk and its
by-products of cream and butter. Making butter was a manual and time consuming task. It involved
multiple pieces of equipment used to separate the cream from milk and then churn it into
butter. It was a domestic chore often carried out by the lady of the
house, or by children. This was commonplace in many districts around
Australia and elsewhere in the world.
Below: Miss Daisy Bowman milking a cow on Home Farm in
Carnamah and another two cows feeding
Right: Milk Strainer
Fresh milk was poured through a milk strainer
to remove any hair or dust that may have fallen in during milking. Milk
strainers, like the one shown to the right, were often made to screw
large metal cans.
Left: Milk Separator
Milk separators were used to separate the milk
into cream and skimmed milk. Fresh milk was poured into the large
bowl at the top and the handle manually turned. This once new
technology was called centrifugal separation.
The milk would go down from the bowl and into a
spinning mechanism that would result in the heavier milk particles
being pulled outwards while the lighter cream particles would gather
in the middle. The cream and skimmed milk would then come out of
The ratio of skimmed milk to cream would depend
on the speed the handle was turned, the cow the milk had come from,
the weather and what the cow had been eating!
Right: Butter Churn
Following separation butter churns were used to
churn the cream into butter. Cream was added to the churns and
turning the handle would move a paddle inside. Water and salt was
added at certain intervals.
"We used to turn the bloody handle for hours"
-- Vida Whitehurst née Wells
herself and her sister churning butter as children in Carnamah in
Right: Butter Pats
Butter pats were used to remove the butter from the churn and press
it into a solid rectangular shape. In some instances, especially if
it was for sale, the pats would instead be used to push the butter
Right: Butter Mould
Butter was put
into the box of the mould and the lid then
pushed down to compact it into a solid rectangular shape.
The hole in the bottom was used to help get the butter out.
Left: Butter Wrappers
Sometimes more butter than what the home required was made with the excess
being sold to increase the household income. The
printing office of the local newspaper in Carnamah
manufactured specialised butter wrappers for this
These wrappers were printed in Carnamah at The North Midland Times newspaper office for
Mrs Gert Allen
Mi Blu Aven
Farm in Winchester.
Above: NAUGHTY cows
eating a local wheat crop! These are the same three cows from the first
In the early years numerous townspeople kept cows in Carnamah. Some
had them on vacant blocks in town and others kept them in farmers’
paddocks. Among the exceptions was a cow named Bonny who wandered freely
around town. She belonged to the local baker
, and when
she died her death made it into the columns of the regional newspaper
The Irwin Index
- see below!
Saturday 21 May 1927
"Bonny," Carnamah's well known cow, the property of Mr A. L.
Trotter, died of inflammation on Monday evening last. Bonny's placid
gait and amicable aspect made her a familiar figure to the people of
Carnamah as she wandered peacefully around the town. So well-known
did Bonny become that she almost became an institution, and when she
died the people of Carnamah discussed her going with almost as much
regret as a human.
Upper Right: 1932 Advertisement for Mrs Sharp's Dairy
The husband of Mrs Agnes Sharp
1925 leaving her with two infant children. She took over the running
of their Yarrow
in Carnamah in addition to establishing and operating a dairy. For
many years she delivered milk to customers in the Carnamah townsite
each day. Mrs Sharp ran her dairy until 1946.
Right: 1936 Advertisement for Kroschel's Dairy
ran a tearooms at
10 Macpherson Street
Carnamah - a building which is now the Carnamah Museum
leasing out his tearooms in mid 1935 he ran a small dairy for six
months. His dairy was located just west of town
Below: Baxter J. Bothe milking in Coorow in the 1950s
Left: Cow Bell
The noise form the bell, hung around the neck, made it easier to find the cow. This assisted when it was
time for milking and also if the cow had been let into unfenced bush to graze
Right: Cream Can
This cream can was used by Mrs Kate McIntosh
Carnamah to send cream to Perth, which supplemented her income. The
latches on each side rise over the thin part at the top to keep the lid firmly in
"May milks two cows, so we have plenty of butter, and of course we keep
fowls for home use. We have breakfast at half past six in the morning.
May gets up first and gets started, I get up to make the toast, after
that between milking, separating, and washing up the time passes very
quickly. We have dinner at half-past six, luncheon is carried out, by
the time all the washing up is done we are ready for bed, but there is
no doubt it is a fine healthy life."
Ready Made Farm settler
Mrs Mary Lang of
Farm, Carnamah writing about herself and her daughter May,
in a letter to her brother in Canada in 1931.
Left: Notice from The North Midland Times
During the Second World War there were shortages in many
commodities, and butter was rationed across Australia from mid 1943. The
rationing applied to everyone who bought and sold butter - including
farmers who sold, gave away or traded small amounts.
This impacted on people more than it
would today, as butter wasn't just a spread for sandwiches and
toast. Most households prepared the majority of their food from
scratch and butter was used extensively in cooking, baking and for
Right: Supermarket Butter from 2013
Many people once made their own butter from scratch using
fresh milk. This required a lot of time to look
after a cow and the many tasks of milking, straining,
separating, churning and patting.
Today, butter is made in large quantities in electric-powered
factories and can be purchased easily and cheaply at
supermarkets. There are now also alternatives to butter, such as
margarine, which didn't exist in the past.