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Basnett's Warm Milk Dairy Farm

The Property

William Basnett came from Cheshire, England where his father was headmaster at Chester High school. William came to Australia in about 1906 and married his wife . (Nee Wilson) who also came from England where her family were trawler masters out of Hull and Grimbsy.

Prior to coming to West Chermside, William had a dairy farm at Aspley but it was too far for the horse carts doing the deliveries, so he decided to move closer to his market. There were several possibilities: the Sparks' Slaughter Yard, now 7th Brigade Park for a thousand pounds; another property that today is Wavell Heights for six hundred pounds; and the place he finally bought was near the present Hamilton & Webster Roads roundabout and cost one thousand pounds.

The property had originally been Withecombe's Slaughter Yard till the State Government bought it and set up the Chermside State Slaughter Yard which closed when all Brisbane slaughtering was centralised at Cannon Hill in 1931.The property was 75 acres (30.35 ha) in area, had town water connected, had been cleared, had buildings and fenced yards, all in good condition.

The Warm Milk Dairy

Walter Basnett takes up the account:
We were milking about 30 - 40 cows every day, but we had, what you call 'dry paddocks'. There were no cows milking less than two to three gallons per day. They were all fed a special formula in addition to their grazing, and if the quantity of their milk production dropped off, they were sold. We were busy selling and buying all the time; the cows had to produce a large quantity of milk to warrant keeping them.

A lot of time was spent in preparing the additional feed that the stock had to have. When the property was the State Slaughter yard, there were thousands of beasts yarded here with the consequence that grass was just about non-existent in the main areas, and there was only light grazing along the creek. We had tried to grow additional fodder crops, but they were not sufficient, so we had to buy in a lot of feed. We used a combination of pollard, Lucerne chaff, sugar cane, bran, peanut meal, Kai (coconut meal) and other things. They got that twice a day. Not all dairies did much of that sort of thing, and some, nothing at all, but that was why each cow had to produce well, to warrant it being kept in the herd.

We kept a close watch on the health of the stock. We had a telephone, and there was a very strict Vet in the city that we used to get out to here if we had any problems.

The dairy was licensed as it had to conform to the health regulations and William Basnett was the president of Warm Milk Association, a dairy man's union. In the early days there was no pasteurisation, hence the milk was sold warm and it was argued that pasteurisation would kill the anti-bodies in the natural milk and allow germs to grow unmolested. Many doctors were against pasteurisation but in the end it was made mandatory.

Our daily cycle was to start the milking between midnight and half past, and start out on the delivery run at 3.00 am. We would return home about daybreak. The next milking started at 10.00 am and the afternoon delivery started at about mid-day. I started full time work when I finished Scholarship.

We sold some cream separately. The early method was to have the full milk in settling trays and skim off the cream with a shallow ladle sort of thing. Later on we had a mechanical centrifugal separator, and the whey was used to feed the calves. We made butter, but only for our own family use.

The Hygene in the Dairy.

The hygiene practices that my father adopted were out of this world, the farm was one of the best in Queensland, if not Australia. He had the lowest bacteria count in this area. We had to work very hard at it, but that was the way that we were brought up. Every utensil had to be scrubbed with warm soapy water and with fresh water again. Then every utensil had to be kept under boiling water for three minutes, and it was my job to make sure that the dairy workers didn't take them out under that three minutes. All the milking cans, all the billy cans, the milking stools were scrubbed every day with soapy water then fresh water. Even the leg ropes, they were scrubbed in boiling soapy water every day.
The water was boiled in those big copper tubs that were used for washing clothes. They were boiling all the time the milking was going on. There were dead trees all around the area, and getting wood for the fires was a constant job. We never had any firewood commercially delivered.
The men had to wash their hands before they milked, and the cows' udders were washed with warm soapy water with Condy's crystals in it; everything that was touched was scrubbed and boiled every day.
The Health Department authorities couldn't believe the low bacteria counts that we were getting from our milk. One time, they came out and tested every cow. There were about four to six men milking at any time. We were demanding a high standard of work from them, and we were paying twenty five shillings a week, and one day a week off, after the milking was finished, as well as accommodation on the property. In other places, it was typically about ten shillings, and no day off so our blokes were pretty well off as twenty five bob was a lot of money; they were the local 'lairs' riding motorbikes and showing off a bit, some of them were here for years and years. My Dad had a mania for hygiene, and the men had to comply, otherwise they had five minutes to get off the property.
The Health Department would come out to carry out their checks, but I think that sometimes they just brought people out so show them how dairying should be done. Dad was so serious about the hygiene that he cemented the floor of all the milking bails and they had to be scrubbed twice a day, and any fresh manure was picked up as soon as it was dropped.

The Delivery of the Milk.

The milk was sold through the Windsor, Gordon Park and Lutwyche area, right through to where the General Hospital is, then we would come back through Wooloowin and Albion. This was the early 1920s and there were not many houses in Kedron then. There were two deliveries each day, and people would get one, two or three pints depending on the family. It was full cream milk and people would keep it in ice chests or cool safes. The price was seven pence a quart, the dearest around here, and an indication of the quality was that Doctor Ken Fraser (later Sir Kenneth, Queen's Surgeon) would tell his patients that if they did not use Basnett's milk, he would not be responsible for their recovery. He was mad on hygiene.
We had two horse drawn delivery carts, and they would have the milk in two, ten gallon containers with outlet taps coming out to the rear, plus some small ones, and then you had all your dispensing containers with flip-up lids, and they all had to be kept clean. Even with two carts, and two or three of the men helping, the delivering took a fair bit out of your day.
Later on, my father replaced the horse and cart with one of the first Morris Cowley utilities. (C 1923) He used to seat me in front of him when I was five years old and let me steer. There were two of the men also in the front, and one in the back. One time when I was older, he stopped at Lutwyche near the Crown Hotel to buy a newspaper, and he was reading it while we were coming home with me driving. Coming along Webster Road I hit a dog. I had swerved the vehicle, but I still hit it, and my Dad gave me a belt for hitting the dog. The man in the back yelled out that it wasn't my fault, but I still got the clout. At an early age I was driving the truck myself, and those were the days when it was necessary to double de-clutch when you were changing gear.
Sometimes when we were going out and it was cold weather, I used to sit in the back and cuddle up to the milk cans because the milk was still warm. We didn't have many customers in Kedron. The houses started about Windsor and Gordon Park. We would go out from the cart with a two gallon billy can, sometimes one on each side, and a pint measure, and go to a group of houses. When I was old enough, I was running with the men. It's unreal when you think of it today; people wouldn't believe it.

Wally Basnett was away at sea when the dairy ceased operation, and the exact date is not known. It was perhaps about the end of World War Two, 1945. The attached aerial survey photo was taken in 1946, and the buildings associated with the dairy cannot be seen. The lighter coloured rectangular marks are thought to be the perimeter of the fuel storage area, where the guard dogs on running leads have worn away all of the surface grass.

The enclosed street plan of this area is from the Brisbane City Council and is dated 1951.

Wal joined the RAN in C1937 and was serving on HMAS Hobart in 1939. While stationed in Hobart, Tasmania he was nominated to represent the ship in the Squadron Cross Country Races over a seven mile course amid the ranges around the city. For this achievement he was given a 'clear lower deck' the highest honour an Able Seaman can get from the ship's company. The whole company lined up on deck and Wal was ordered to step forward and presented with a silver cup, which he still has, for coming second in the race.
The next day he was told to pack up and sail for England to assist at the re-commissioning of the Perth and sail it to Australia; it was a Royal Navy ship which had been refitted and was being transferred to the Royal Australian Navy. He was in the Royal Honour Guard when Princess Marina came to conduct the ceremony and she gave him the most meticulous examination he had ever had; maybe she had never seen a colonial sailor.
On the voyage home they went to New York to represent Australia at the World Fair in NY and then to Jamaica when was declared. They then went to war, before Australia declared war, by cruising in South America waters searching for enemy shipping.