Photo from 1983 issue of the Sooke News Mirror.

Where milk comes from…

Back in the old days

Youngsters nowadays sometimes grow up thinking milk originates with cartons in a grocery store. Fifty years ago in Sooke dairy farms were still a feature of the landscape, with herds of milk cows grazing the fields, a bull in their midst.

Youngsters at that time would likely see milk cans along the roadside of farms, waiting for pickup by a freight truck carrying them to commercial dairies such as Island Farms in Victoria for processing.

These farms with dairy herds included the Jensens in Saseenos, the Milnes at the river, the Sheilds/later Kendrews on Phillips Road, the Nissen farm later operated by the Cotterills which was situated where Journey Middle School and Ecole Poirier stand today; the Rudds on Church, the Lunsons on Helgesen, the Acremans (now “the Ponds”) and Woodside Farm, home of the Glinz/Wilfords. A farmer with a substantial herd generally kept his own bull to service the cows. As a cow is geared to produce milk after calving, it follows that if no new calf was underway, the cow’s milk production would decrease.

Smaller farms that did not keep their own bull were faced with the need to arrange a meeting between a neighbour’s bull and their cow that was ready to renew production (“in heat”). Back in the 30s, 40s, 50s it would generally be the chore of a farm boy to lead the haltered cow along the roadside to the farm that hosted the dairy bull.

This Mirror photo by Susan McLean in 1983 shows advanced mechanization in bringing the cow to the bull; Slim Braulin who owned the milk cow drove the truck while Phil Wilford of Woodside held the halter.

Today, technological advancement has meant that bulls are seen less frequently on farm fields of the area as artificial insemination has replaced the natural process.

A contrast indeed to a century ago when bulls and cows that had grown wild roamed the hills in the North Sooke and Saseenos areas, likely strays from the “Sooke Way Dairy” run by John and Ada Doran near Glinz Lake Road.

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum