Cowkeepers essays:   letter from A MILK DRINKER

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.

This letter defends the diatribes against cow-keepers which filled the newspapers in the late 18thC by detailing some of the cow-keeper's costs of fodder and transport, and stating an average daily yield of six quarts.

Lloyds Evening Post Wednesday 8th October 1800 [and sent to other daily papers too]

"Mr EDITOR: Having lately perused in the Daily Papers, a variety of statements on the subject of Milk, impressing upon the public mind the unreasonableness of the Cow-keepers in raising the price of that article, I am induced, from some knowledge of the trade, though not in the least concerned in it, for the sake of justice, to assert, that nothing can be more erroneous than those statements which have been made, by persons wholly ignorant of the nature of the business, upon a calculation of figures and suppositions that are not founded on facts.

"If any person will consider the subject with candour and attention, he will find, on inquiry, that provender of every kind for cows is not only considerably advanced in price, but dearer at this time than it was ever known to be. It is an incontrovertible fact, that the Cow-keepers have been obliged, from Michaelmas last, and must continue till Michaelmas next, to pay the Brewers one-third more for the article of grains than they did; the latter having added an additional one shilling per quarter to the price before paid, making it now three shillings per quarter, [which is actually a 50% increase, not 33% as stated] which puts no less a sum than about £40,000 into the pockets of the Brewers, who have claimed (and perhaps justly) that advance, in consequence of the high price of malt and hops. This is a simple truth, and well known to a worthy Magistrate, high in office.

"Every one who has the least knowledge of cow-keeping must be aware that the cows are wholly fed, eight months in the year, upon grains, turnips, and hay; grains constituting three-fifths of the food during that period, and a Cow-keeper, milking 500 cows, must, by the advanced price on grains, pay the Brewers no less a sum than £1600 more this [year] than he did last year. The Cow-keepers, at this time, labour under another great disadvantage, in the very high price of hay, and the lamentable prospect of a very short crop of turnips, from the dryness of the season when sown, which, it is feared, will raise the price of that necessary article.

"I would also suggest to the public to take into consideration the great losses annually sustained by the diminution of stock, in the various and precarious disorders and sickness prevalent among cows, which kill numbers every year, and the hurts and injuries that daily happen to them, which the Cow-keeper is obliged immediately to reinstate, to keep up the supply of Milk to the dealers trading with him, at a great expence; the price of milch cows having increased in full proportion with all other cattle, which is known and felt by every one.

"But I would particularly call the attention of those who have written and calculated upon this subject, to the enormous expence sustained by the Cow-keepers in procuring provender, being obliged, during the eight months in the year, to keep a great number of horses, waggons, and drivers constantly employed both night and day without intermission, in drawing the same to their premises, going from 10 to 20 miles round the metropolis for turnips, every expence of which is defrayed by the Cow-keeper this alone, where 500 cows are kept, is attended every season with the heavy expenditure of at least £2000; a circumstance little known, and of course not attended to by the public; to this it may be added, and every gentleman of landed property round London knows, that the lands so situated are now let at near double the rent paid for them a few years ago.

"From these circumstances, Sir, you will perceive, and I have no doubt the public, upon mature reflextion, will admit, that the characters of so useful a class of the community as the Cow-keepers, have been unhandsomely and undeservedly treated by the intemperate observations made upon their conduct in the daily prints.... It is a circumstance extremely necessary to be known, that the gallon of milk sold by the Cow-keeper to the dealer, contains eight quarts, and the additional price charged to the dealer for the reasons given is little more than one halfpenny per quart, the dealers now paying not quite three pence per quart. There is another matter in which I beg leave to correct the statements given as to the produce of Milk, which I find is not at this present time six quarts a day per cow, upon an average, of all the cows kept for the supply of the metropolis, a fact which, if doubted, can be easily proved.

"I am, your’s, A MILK DRINKER."

Copyright © Marion Hearfield 2009