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8/20/2008 – Editorials

By Richard Peterson

I can’t think of anything to write about except politics and I don’t think that would please you, so I’ve resurrected one of my columns that appeared 10 years ago.

I’ll bet you didn’t know it takes 25 lbs. of milk (4 percent butterfat) to make a pound of butter or cheese. That little nugget of information came from an old newspaper clipping of a column by J.T. .McGrudgen in the County Press at Lapeer, Mich. I’ve been saving th? clipping for some time.

The subject of the column was the DeLaval pocket guide, which contained that interesting bit of information about how much milk it takes to make a pound of butter.

Anyone who was raised on a farm in the 1950s and earlier probably spent time turning the crank on a DeLaval cream separator.

That was a time when there weren’t giant stainless steel tank trucks to haul milk cooled to 33 degrees to plants where the milk is pasteurized, homogenized and put into gallon, two quart and one quart containers.

Back in the olden days most farmers separated the cream from the milk right on the farm with a DeLaval separator. The cream was carried in cream cans to the cream buyer.

What was left was skim milk. Farmers fed that to their calves, pigs and chickens. Today, it’s put into containers and takes up most of the space in any store’s milk cooler. If you drink skim milk rather than whole milk you’ll live longer, claim the experts.

The cream separator was a bundle of cone-shaped discs. One was smaller than the next. They nested together and when the discs were spun, usually by a small boy with a crank, the lighter cream ran out a spout into one container and skim milk went through another spout into a different container.

Perhaps to atone for all those years of boyhood duty on the crank, the makers of DeLaval developed an electric milking machine. That did away with another chore in the life of a young country boy, milking cows by hand.

DeLaval milkers never made it big. One reason was that the milk bucket sat on the floor under the cow. When she kicked at flies on her belly, she usually got the milk bucket. Eventually another company called Surge made a milker that hung from a strap around the cow’s mid-section. That way the bucket moved with the cow. Today there are no buckets at all. Milking units are hung from a cow’s faucets and the milk is piped to cooling tanks elsewhere.

But DeLaval hasn’t totally disappeared from the countryside. Landscapers and gardeners like to plant geraniums and petunias in the large salad-bowl-like milk containers that stood on top of the separator.

Farmers in the Maddock and Esmond areas had the opportunity to sell whole milk to the creameries in those two towns. John Kallenbach Sr. used to make at least one trip a day from his dairy farm to the Esmond Creamery, lugging cream can after cream can full of milk from his 4-wheel drive Willys Jeep into the Esmond Creamery. His was the first four-wheel drive vehicle I ever saw. He needed it. Roads weren’t very good back then and the milk had to be delivered to the creamery daily before it spoiled, no matter what the condition of the roads. At the Esmond Creamery the milk was made into butter. Milk and cream were bottled there.

In my mind’s eye I can still see Math Schwab, dressed entirely in white clothing, making butter at the Esmond Creamery. Rhema Reierson took care of the books. According to the Esmond History Book, they made up to 200,000 lbs. of butter a year.

When one walked into the place in the wintertime, great clouds of water vapor escaped into the cold. That place was always humid because of all the water required to keep it squeaky clean. I wonder how many gallons of water were used in making a pound of butter?

The creameries in Maddock and Esmond were big buyers of dairy produce. But most farmers in Benson County separated the cream from the milk on the farm with their DeLaval separators and sold the cream in 5 and 10-gallon cans to cream buyers. Every town in the area had at least one cream buyer. The cream buyers shipped their cream by railroad, much of it to North American Creamery at Carrington.

There have been big changes. I don’t know of any dairy operations in Benson County. Today the milk cattle that used to be on every farm are gone, the creameries are gone, the cream buyers are gone, the railroads are gone and we’re using more dairy products than ever.


Speaking of things to drink, the average American walks approximately 900 miles per year. That same average American drinks approximately 22 gallons of alcoholic beverages per year. This translates into about 41 miles per gallon — far better than Detroit can do.

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