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Dairying

Dairying began in the early 1800s at Camden Park to supply milk, cream, butter and cheese to the estate's workers, many of whom were convicts. Convict women assigned to private farms were usually the ones who milked the cows, separated the cream, churned the butter and made cheese.

In the 1840s Camden Park made butter and cheese for sale in Sydney, and by the 1850s butter provided an important income for the estate. In 1863 the railway reached Picton, providing easier access to the Sydney market (Menangle Station was built in 1864).

In the 1890s dairying at Camden Park became a large-scale enterprise based on share-farming. Cream, butter and cheese were key parts of the Macarthurs' expansion of dairy production at that time. By 1899 there were four creameries on Camden Park, and their role was to separate milk into cream and skim. They included the creamery at Belgenny which had been built in 1898 by adding an upper storey to the coach house.

The cream was taken to Menangle Central Creamery to be sold or made into butter or cheese. Until 1948 the Macarthur's milk factory at Menangle produced Camden Park Estate's own 'Laurel' brand of butter.

In 1920 Camden Park Estate established the Camden Vale Milk Company which processed its milk at Camden and Menangle and sent it by rail to the Sydney market. In 1921 the Company became a co-operative with 451 suppliers.

In 1924 Camden Park's dairy herds were certified as tuberculosis-free, the first in New South Wales to achieve this status. From 1926 Camden Park sold milk in bottles under its own brand of Camden Vale Special Milk. From the mid 1930’s, when foil-capped bottles were introduced, it was marketed as "the milk with the golden cap". At this time Sydney residents had grown up with the milk jug on the doorstep but were now increasingly getting their milk in bottles, a big step forward in hygiene.

Camden Vale Special Milk was promoted as safe for infants, invalids and the aged. It came from tuberculosis-free herds, milked in dust-proof conditions and immediately cooled and pasteurised. Even when Camden Vale merged with Dairy Farmers in 1929, it continued to sell Camden Vale Special Milk.

In 1952 Camden Park opened a rotolactor at Menangle, this huge automated dairy being only the third of its type in the world. The rotolactor milked 900 cows each day while a further 600 to 800 cows were milked on the estate's conventional dairies. By 1965 Camden Park Estate was the largest dairy in Australia. The Estate was sold in 1973 and the rotolactor closed in 1983.

Over many years, Camden Park has been one of Australia's most innovative dairy enterprises.