Cowkeepers:   The 1794 survey by Mr Foot

Some of the newspaper and journal articles I found during my research are a bit too long or wordy to include in the main body of my essay. So I have made them into separate drill-down pages, and introduced some punctuation in my transcript so you don't get too breathless. Any comments are in [blue italics]. Please click any of the links on the left to get back to the essay.

Survey headline

This is a transcript from the Whitehall Evening Post of Saturday 23rd August 1794, which published an extract from a Survey of Middlesex carried out by a Mr Foot. The numbers and distribution of milk-cow herds was used by John Chalmers Morton in his 1798 paper and are given in Demand and Supply, but this piece gives some useful additional detail about yield and pricing.

Please click any of the links on the left to get back to the main essay.

"The cows kept for the purpose of furnishing the metropolis with milk are, in general, bred in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Staffordshire. The London dealers buy them of the country breeders when they are three years old, and in calf. The prices given for them are from eight guineas to fourteen pounds a cow. The different fairs and markets, which are held at Barnet, Islington, and other places around the metropolis, furnish the London Cow-keepers with the means of keeping up their several stocks. Many cows likewise are bought in Yorkshire in small lots, from ten to twenty, by private commission, and forwarded to the cow-keepers in and about London.

"During the night the cows are confined in pens or stalls. About three o’clock in the morning each cow has a half bushel basket of grains. From four o’clock to half-past six, they are milked by the milk-dealers, who contract with the cow-keepers for the milk of a certain number of cows, at the price of fourteen or fifteen pence for eight quarts. When the milking is finished, a bushel basket of turnips is given to each cow ; and very soon afterwards they have an allotment, in the proportion of one truss to ten cows, of the softest meadow-hay of the first cut that can be procured. These several feedings are generally made before eight o’clock in the morning, at which time the cows are released from their stalls, and turned out into the cow-yard. About twelve o’clock, they are again confined to their different stalls, and served with the same quantity of grains as they had in the morning. About half past one in the afternoon the milking commences in the manner as before described, and continues till near three, when the cows are again served with the same quantity of turnips, and, about an hour afterwards, with the same distribution of hay as before described.

"This mode of feeding generally continues during the turnip season, which is from the month of October to the month of May. During the other months in the year they are fed with rowen, or second-cut meadow hay and grains, and are continued to be fed and milked with the same regularity as above described, until they are turned out to grass, when the continue in the field all night, and even during this season they are frequently fed with grains, which are kept sweet and eatable for a considerable length of time by being buried under ground in pits made for the purpose. There are about ten bulls to a stock of 300 cows. The calves are generally sent to Smithfield marked at a week old.

"Good milkers are kept four, five, six and sometimes seven years; they are fatted by an encreased allowance of the same food as is given to them while in milk, and sold off.


"From the facts adduced, it appears that there are about 8,500 milch cows kept for the purpose of supplying the metropolis and its environs with milk; and that each cow will yield on an average all the year round as follows :

9 quarts a day from October to May, 212 days, 1,908 quarts, fed on turnips, grains, hay, or rowen. The milk is sold to the retailers at 1 ¾ d a quart£13188
10 quarts a day from May to September, 123 days, 1,230 quarts, fed on grass, and occasionally on grains. The milk sold to the retailers at 1 ¾ d a quart£819
8 quarts a day, 30 days, 240 quarts, fed on grains and hay. The milk sold to the retailers at 1 ¾ d a quart £1150

"The consumers pay 3d a quart to the retailers, which, on 28,713,000 quarts, amounts to the sum of £358,912 10s and makes a difference of £149,546 17s 6d a year in favour of the retailers. It may however be necessary to observe that from the information of a very respectable person, formerly a cow-keeper, who always attended the feeding and keeping of his own stock, and the measurement of the milk to the dealers, that eight quarts of milk a day a cow, taken upon an average the year round, and on the stock of the whole of the cow-keepers, is rated quite high enough.

"The account, therefore, of eight quarts of milk a day, will stand thus, supposing the milk of every cow to be sold to the milk-men, which is not the case:

"Each cow, on an average, eight quarts a day, for 365 days, 2,920 quarts, at 1 ¾ d a quart, comes to £21 5s 10d.

"8,500 cows, at £21 5s 10d per ann. each cow, or 24,820,000 quarts, at 1 ¾ d a quart, comes to £180,979 3s 4d per annum. The consumers, however, as before observed, pay 3d a quart to the retailers, which, on 24,820,000 quarts, amounts to the sum of £310,250 and makes a difference of £129,270 16s 8d in favour of the retailers.

"But, when the families leave London, the cow-keepers do not find a ready sale for all their milk; and in this case they generally set the unsold milk for cream, of which they make fresh butter for the London markets, and give their butter-milk to the hogs.

"The ground-work of cow-yards ought to be made of lime rubbish &c, as it makes a sound bottom, prevents the cows from poaching the yard too deep, and is easily scraped and kept clean.

"The facts and observations above-stated have been collected personally by myself, from those whose engagements in, or connection with the business of cow-keeping enables them to judge with accuracy and discrimination on the subject."

Copyright © Marion Hearfield 2009