In Stratford’s early settling days our dairy industry was practiced on a small and primitive scale. The district’s first farmers kept only a handful of cows, exchanging their butter for goods from the general store.
As herd size increased, dairy companies were formed to produce butter, with an eye to a growing export market. As production grew, the community factories closed and production of butter was centralised.
The first co-operative factory system was established at Cardiff, near Stratford, in 1888, where farmers set up their own butter packing company. Butter was still made on the farm, but at the factory salt was added and the product prepared for marketing. Similar factories were set up in other areas, but most had a short lifespan.
The alternative to co-operatives was proprietary companies. This move was spearheaded by Chew Chong, who opened the Jubilee Factory in Eltham. Other companies followed and factories sprang up all around the district. Dairy herds numbered about 20, and occasionally up to 40 cows, as farmers expanded to cash in on rapid industry growth.
As time passed, smaller factories amalgamated or closed as companies were bought out and merged into bigger ones. By 1991 there was only one company in Taranaki, Kiwi Dairies (now Fonterra). All milk is now tankered to the Whareroa Dairy Factory near Hawera.