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DAIRY IN SOUTH WEST VICTORIA

WARRNAMBOOL CHEDDARS is made from milk produced by cows grazing the lush pastures of SouthWest Victoria's coastal region. This is a rural area where agriculture has flourished since colonial times. Free of major cities, this clean and green countryside, with high natural rainfall (32 inches or more per annum) in a mild temperate zone, has the ideal conditions for premium milk production.
 
The first European explorers to this region in the late 1830s were quick to identify the value of the fertile volcanic plains; it was not long before pioneers set up large cattle and sheep stations. Agriculture became the backbone to the birth of towns and trade routes in the region.
 
Dairy farms were typically established on smaller land holdings close to the towns. These dairy-farming families would milk a small herd of cows and churn butter by hand for their families' own consumption, then sell any spare butter to local stores. Butter making was a home affair. Early pioneers, such as Irish farmers who migrated during the 1850s, following the Great Potato Famine, brought with them dairy skills and knowledge.
 
As dairy farmers obtained more land and grew their herds, contractors were required to take surplus butter further afield for sale. Ensuring product quality over time and greater distances became an increasing challenge, as did increasing butter production by individual families. This led to local businessmen and farmers establishing butter factories. The first two in the district were the Cobden Butter Factory and the Warrnambool Cheese & Butter Factory, both formed in 1888.
 

Many other factories and creameries soon followed, providing dairy farmers with large, mechanised butter-making facilities, centralised transport and produce marketing. Dairy farmers would deliver their milk in milk cans by horse and cart to the closest butter factory or creamery.

The dairy industry underwent many technological advances that significantly boosted growth, such as refrigeration. Following the Second World War, the Victorian government developed a large area of land in the south into dairy farms for returning soldiers. The Heytesbury Soldier Settlement, as it became known, added further to the region's milk supply.

Over time, many of the original dairy processors disappeared due to mergers and acquisitions. Only Warrnambool Cheese & Butter has survived from the pioneer period of the 1800s. Its proximity to the best dairy-farming land beside the Great Ocean Road provided an advantage, as did key business decisions that allowed it to succeed while holding fast to its identity and heritage.
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