Dairying in the province of Ulster has a long history stretching back many centuries. Indeed, it would be fair to say that not many of today’s industries, operating at the cutting edge of modern technology, can trace their history back to biblical times. Yet the dairy industry with its automatic robot milking systems now quite commonly found at farm level and its sophisticated micro filtration producing the key components of health and fitness supplements can make that claim.
The Origins of the Dairy Industry in Ulster provides the evidence and demonstrates that right here in Ireland to this day, samples of butter made 2,000 years ago are still being found in bogs where the conditions have allowed the butter to survive over all those years. In this thoroughly-researched book George Chambers examines the development of dairying in Ulster from earliest times through to the first part of the twentieth century, crucially exploring the role of the Dairy Cooperative movement of the late nineteenth century in transforming the dairy industry here.
In Ireland as elsewhere, the dairy farmer was and is the supplier of the most perishable of produce and consequently is the weakest of sellers in the market place. Over the years that issue has been addressed by the continuous development of the uniquely democratic Agricultural and Dairy Cooperative Society movement which for well over 100 years has grown the scale and complexity of milk product manufacturing while critically remaining under the direct control of its farmer members. While the names and size of these cooperatives have changed frequently through mergers and acquisitions the basic structure remains faithful to the model established by the remarkable Horace Plunkett in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The birth of the Dairy Cooperatives dramatically changed the lives of dairy farmers and it continues to give them some degree of control over their own destiny.
This publication will attract those interested in the rural history of Ireland as much as those who are curious about the development of dairying from ancient times through to the relative sophistication of the twentieth century.