Kemptville Agricultural Col    lege 1922

Kemptville Agricultural College 1922


First there were a number of short courses in the summer and the winter to teach people about cheese making. The instructors like Laura Rose travelled round running the courses.

James Whitton, son of Elizabeth Whitton, and his wife Matilda ran Plum Grove Cheese Factory Wellman's Corners. In 1892, Professor King, an American, set up an experimental winter dairy station at Plum Grove at Wellman’s Corners.  He ran a six week course in cheese making. James Whitton took the course and became the head cheese maker. He later went on to become the Dairy Instructor for the Ontario Department of Agriculture. Cheese from Plum Hollow won many provincial and national awards. They opened a creamery at Wellman’s Corners and shipped butter to Belleville. James later became a  dairy inspector, a cheese buyer and manufacturer.

These short courses developed into more formal programs with the start of the dairy school. The Eastern Ontario Dairy School opened in Kingston in 1894 under James W. Robinson, and the Western Ontario Dairy School  in Strathroy opened in 1896; both funded by grants from the Province of Ontario. The schools where somewhere all cheese makers, dairymen and interested people could attend and receive instruction in the most approved methods of making cheese, testing of milk and any other information such as better systems of feeding and breeding cattle, design of dairy barns, the care of milk and the absolute necessity for cleanliness.  

The Eastern Ontario Dairy school was part of the Queens University School of Mines and Agriculture. There were shorter and longer courses and initially just for men. Women were admitted by 1919.

Cheese makers had to take courses. This meant living away from home for a number of weeks. They had to take bookkeeping as well as courses in biochemistry related to scientific cheese making. This was difficult for cheese makers without much formal education or those who could not leave home.

In 1911, the Federal  Dairy Branch of the Department of Agriculture began classifying and licensing cheese makers. In 1936, the school moved to new buildings at Kemptville College. At its peak, 60 cheese makers were enrolled at one time for the three month long course.

Improving the equipment

Tin lined vats have been that were replaced by stainless steel ones and wood powered furnaces were replaced by electric power furnaces.


Originally, farmers taking milk to the cheese factory were paid by the weight of the milk. This was open to abuse as milk could be watered down, and it also it did not relate to the quality of the milk. 

Babcock Test

Babcock testing equipment

This changed when Stephen Babcock of the University of Wisconsin developed equipment that measured butterfat content of the milk. He designed equipment for the test. Milk was put into cylinders and then put into a centrifuge and spun round until cream rose to the   top.  The Babcock test meant farmers were paid by the butter fat content of milk and not by the volume. Cheese makers learned how to use the equipment at courses.


Another piece of equipment was the lactometer, which is a form of hydrometer that measures the specific gravity of the milk.


It is important to know the acidity of the milk as lactic acid affects how the curds are formed. The acidometer measures how much neutralizing agent is needed to make the milk become neutral. This is critical in turning the proteins in the milk to a curd.

Methyl Blue Test

The Methyl Blue test  is used to test the amount of bacteria in the milk. Bacteria use oxygen and the blue Methyl Blue dye changes colour quickly if there is little oxygen in the milk.


Laura Rose  and another dairy teacher Eleanor Jones said, “Cleanliness is next to godliness when it comes to dairying.” 

Milk is a very good food, but it can go off very quickly. They preached cleanliness, starting  from milking the cows in the stable, cleaning the milk pails, keeping the pails of milk covered, cooling the milk  and getting the milk to the factory in good condition.

Milk is now pasteurized to kill bacteria. It is heated to a certain temperature and then cooled quickly. Since 1938, the Ontario Health Act requires the pasteurization of all milk and cream for human consumption. 

Butter Making

Butter making took longer to be industrialized. One of the main reasons is that one has to separate the cream from the milk before churning the cream to make butter. There are different ways of separating cream from the milk. The simplest was letting cream settle in a wide, shallow bowl and then skimming the cream off the top. The next development were long, thin Cooley cans. Some had a tap at the bottom. 

Mechanical centrifugal cream separators only came into use in Canada after 1891. They made the work easier, but were difficult to clean. Often farmers didn't think it was important to buy their wives the latest equipment. They spent money on farm machinery instead.

Mechanical separators can be powered either by hand or by a motor. They are much less work, but harder to keep clean than early equipment.  It was possible to take cream to a creamery rather than producing butter at the farm. 

After one has separated the cream  from the milk, one has churn the cream to make the butter fat coagulate to form butter. 


Mrs. E. M. Jones said in her book Dairying for profit, or, the Poor Man’s Cow, “the heavy churning with an old fashioned dash churn is not fit work for a woman be she ever so strong.”

She recommended the Davis Swing churn. “I think it would be easier than any I know.”

Using the whey for butter left over from making cheese gave a more reliable product than making butter made directly from cream as cream is apt to go sour. There were products that were added to neutralize sour cream.

Butter grading clubs

Butter makers would meet together with an instructor and learn about grading cheese. They then entered competitions to see which team was the best at grading butter.

Inspectors and graders

The federal government set up a system of inspectors. Cheese and butter graders would visit the factories and give advice on how to improve. The cheese maker was hired by the patrons, who supplied the milk. The cheese maker let the patrons know if their milk was not up to standard. Cheese makers were licensed and had to meet standards to retain their licence.

Originally the cheese buyer went to each of the factories to buy cheese for export. The Eastern Ontario Cheese Makers got together to centralize selling. They bought the Dutch Clock, which was first in Kingston and was later moved to Belleville.  The buyers could bid on the various grades of cheese and would send the cheese off to distributors in the UK. 

Stricter environmental controls

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment sets standards the cheese factories. Initially factories kept pigs to eat the whey, or farmers would take the whey back to feed their own pigs. Later way was deposited into creeks, which cause pollution and cheese factories had to build settling lagoons.

Dairy farms

On a dairy farm, the calf is taken from its mother soon after it is born. Beef calves stay with their mothers for around six months as beef cows are not milked. Dairy cows are milked for 300 days and then they are allowed to dry out before their next calf is born.

Nowadays, a good milk cow gives thousands of gallons of milk a year. This is about five times as much as a cow gave 100 years ago. The majority of dairy cows are now the black and white Holstein. These large cows are tame and give high yields of milk.

History of Milking Machines

Before the invention of milking machines cows were milked by hand. It was many years before an efficient milking machine was developed. The first milking machine was invented by Cyrus Knapp in 1849. It stuck tubes into the cows teats to milk them. This was uncomfortable and caused the infections. Alexander Shiels invented the first pulsator.  

Herbert McCormack invented the Surge Bucket Milker which imitated the sucking action of a calf. It was attached to the cow with a belt. De Laval had the idea of a milking parlour. The milk first went into a closed container instead of an open pail, which  meant milk was not  contaminated. The next development was milk being pumped through tubes into a bulk container. Nowadays, at tanker driver comes to farm each day to collect milk. Early on, milk was stored in large, 40 gallon cans. The cans were placed down wells. This kept the milk cool overnight. A driver would collect the milk each morning and take it to the cheese factory before 6 a.m..

Herd Health

There have been great improvements in the standards of the health of cows, and they are tested regularly. The standard of nutrition for the cows has improved. They now get the right balance of nutrients and protein in their diet of silage, hay and grains.

Milk now goes to a dairy to be processed into different types of milk, yoghurt and ice cream or to a cheese factory to be made into a range of different hard and soft cheeses. There is also a growing number of artisan cheese makers in Ontario making specialty cheeses.

Most dairy farmers do not keep their own bull. They use artificial insemination, which means that they can use semen from a top quality bull to impregnate their cows.

Good record keeping is very much part of raising cheese standards. Farmers record how much milk each cow produces. They can alter the diet of cows to improve milk yield and only breed from the best producers.