Darlaston UDC Annual Reports of the Medical Officer of Health, 1907 to 1952
Dairies, Cowsheds and Milk Shops

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This period encompasses two world wars and also a period where great strides were made in public health and living conditions. There were mass demolitions of insanitary housing. The replacements for these slowly eroded the availability of land for pasturing cows. The growing awareness of the risks to health of both humans and animals and the pursuant legislation resulted in more frequent testing and inspection regimes of both dairy animals and property, and also retail premises. By 1921 the inspectors could report that the sale of open milk from shops had been abolished.

The advent of the large dairies with processing and bottling plants increased the sale of treated milk in sealed bottles, and saw sterilised milk rise to over 70% of sales. The large dairies were not exempt from production problems as described in the 1943 report.

The register of cowkeepers shows that on average they had about 6 cows, although post 1942 there was only one cowkeeper operating with around 30 to 40 cows. There was a significant drop in the number of cowkeepers at the start of the First World War which never recovered post war. In comparison, the number of retail outlets selling treated bottled milk from the large dairies outside the town continued to expand massively.

At the start of the Second World War the number of cowkeepers was reduced to two, one of whom was running between 30 and 40 cows, the other only 2. The last cowkeepers were recorded as having given-up in Darlaston in 1949 and hence milk production ceased in that year.

The inspectors’ reports give us an insight into the problems that they had to deal with, their aspirations, the effect of progressive legislation, and the ultimate demise of the cowkeeper-retailer.

Table of Number of Cow Keepers and Milk Purveyors
1907 to 1952 extracted from the MOH Annual Reports
Year Cow Keepers Number of Cows Milk Purveyors
1907 20    8
1911  16   17
1914 10   26
1915 8   26
1918 5   14
1919 5 21 9
1920 6 26 11
1921 7 25 7
1923 6 32 15
1925 5 30 23
1931 4 24 29
1936 7 42 42
1937 5 37 37
1942/43 2 30-40 88
1944 2 30-40 84
1945 2   84
1946 2    
1947 2    
1948 2    
1949 0    
1950 0    
Listed below are the annual reports of the Health Inspectors for milk shops, dairies and cowsheds, from which the above data has been extracted:

There are 28 premises registered, 20 as cowkeepers and dairymen, and 8 as milk purveyors. 286 visits were made to these premises; 1 cowshed was found overcrowded, 2 insanitary and 1 required limewashing. I reported the insanitary condition of one cowshed to the Medical Officer of Health, and plans have since been submitted for a new cowshed.
Two old cowsheds have been demolished, and 4 new cowsheds have been erected during the year.
More attention is now being paid to the grooming of the hind quarters of the cattle, though amongst some of the cowkeepers there is room for improvement.
With regard to light, ventilation, and cleanliness, many of the cowsheds leave much to be desired, a few are satisfactory in all these points, but some have little or no provision for light, and ventilating apertures where they do exist, are
frequently blocked by straw or bagging. I fully endorse the Inspector’s remarks concerning the failure in most instances to groom the cattle, the udder and hind quarters being especially in need of attention.

With reference to the milk shops, more care is necessary in the storing of milk, small shop keepers who sell milk frequently allow it to stand uncovered on the counter, so that the vessel can be fingered by children or other persons entering the shop, there is also the danger of contamination from road dust. The milk should be kept in a well ventilated place and be properly covered. Milk readily becomes a vehicle for the dissemination of so many diseases that any legislation which will increase the control over the country’s supply from its origin to its distribution is to be heartily commended.

There are sixteen cowkeepers and seventeen purveyors of milk in the district; with the exception of four, all were found clean and in good condition. These four required limewashing, which was immediately done. There were no prosecutions during the year.

There are 16 cowkeepers and 17 purveyors of milk on the register. 136 visits have been made to these premises and on 4 occasions have had to request limewashing and 5 times the removal of manure from the premises.
On the 18th of May I found a cow lying down outside one of the cowsheds and was informed that she had slipped down and broken her leg. The cow was slaughtered and upon examination was found to be affected with Septic Metritis owing to calving troubles. The carcase was condemned by a Justice and afterwards destroyed.

A special letter was sent to every cowkeeper informing them that no animal intended for human food must be slaughtered in or about any premises except a licensed slaughter-house unless by special permission in case of emergency

There are 10 cowkeepers and 26 purveyors of milk in the district. All the cowsheds were found in good order, well limewashed and clean. One cow was slaughtered, as it was found suffering from General Tuberculosis.

These premises have been periodically visited during the year and have been found to be well kept. A distinct improvement in the Sanitary conditions in and around the premises is to be noted. There are 10 cowkeepers now on the register with a total of 35 cows.

On one of my visits to these premises in March last, I had occasion to note the condition of one animal (recently calved) which appeared to be suffering from Tuberculosis. As required by the Tuberculosis Order of 1913, the case was at once notified to the Local Authority under the Diseases of Animals Act. A subsequent examination by a veterinary surgeon indicated that the animal had Tuberculous. It was afterwards slaughtered and found to be suffering from Generalized Tuberculosis. The carcase was disposed of at the Knackers Yard under my supervision. There are 26 purveyors of milk on the register. The premises have been visited at intervals.

There are 8 cowkeepers and 26 purveyors of milk in the district. The sheds were found to be well kept, but several were reported as needing structural repairs and alterations. 2 cowkeepers have been taken off the register, thus leaving 8 cowkeepers in the district. 2 of the existing sheds have been unfavourably reported upon as regards their structural condition, inadequate lighting, insufficient ventilation and defective drainage, etc. The question of bringing these premises up to a satisfactory standard is receiving attention.

In two instances the attention of cowkeepers was called to animals which were developing into an emaciated condition The animals were ultimately disposed of. I had occasion during the year to note the condition of several bovine animals travelling along the highway, obviously in an advanced stage of Tuberculosis. They were followed for several miles, the Police and inspector for the district informed, and the animals secured. They were examined the following
day and found to be badly affected. Owing to the fact that the Tuberculosis Order of 1913 had been suspended no immediate action could be taken.

There are three dairies, 5 cowkeepers, and 14 purveyors of milk in the district. The premises have been visited at regular intervals and the following complaints reported and amended. Improper storage of milk (conditions unsatisfactory) 3. Dirty condition of cowhouses 2. Other defects 3.

There are 5 cowkeepers and 9 purveyors of milk on the register. The premises have been well kept, and the arrangement for the storage of milk much improved. There are but five cowkeepers registered as carrying on trade in the district with a total of 21 milking cows. The premises are in very fair structural repair and kept in cleanly condition. Open manure pits are still to be encountered at the majority of these places. It is to be hoped that the immediate future will see the abolition of all open and undrained manure pits of large capacity, forming as they do a favourite breeding ground for the pestilential house fly.

There are nine Purveyors of Milk in the district who obtain their supplies from wholesale agents outside the area. The old custom of storing milk in open vessels in shops has now been abolished, and suitable storage places are now provided, thus reducing the liability to contamination.

There are 6 cowkeepers and 11 purveyors of milk on the register. The premises are well kept and the facilities for milk storage are satisfactory. There are 6 cowkeepers with a total of 26 milking cows, carrying on business within the district. The premises have been visited at frequent intervals, and on the whole are well kept. I have reported 4 breaches of the bye-laws relating to dairies and cowsheds, one on account of overcrowding and 3 re-cleansing of the premises. These were remedied after notice. Three persons were reported for carrying on business as purveyors of milk without having been registered. In all instances application was subsequently made and no further action was taken.

10 purveyors or retailers of milk are registered as carrying on trade within the district. In cases where milk is sold from the premises, special storage places are provided, in nearly all instances being set apart from the dwelling and used solely for the storage of milk.

There are 7 cowsheds, 1 dairy, and 7 milk stores registered as carrying on trade within the district. The premises are well kept and the arrangements satisfactory. There are 7 cowkeepers on the register, the total number of cows kept being 25. The premises are visited at frequent intervals. They are on the whole well constructed and light. There are 7 milk stores and 1 dairy in the district. These are all satisfactory as regards milk storage and handling.

The retailing of milk from small shops has been practically abolished as the conditions under such circumstances were found to be far from satisfactory, the milk being liable to contamination. Sterilised milk in stoppered bottles appears to be gaining favour.

There are 6 cowsheds, 15 retailers, 1 dairy and 9 slaughterhouses registered in the district. They are well kept and the arrangements are of a satisfactory character. There are 6 cowkeepers and 15 retailers of milk on the registers, the total number of cows kept being 32. The premises have been visited at frequent intervals and have been found to be well kept. As regards the retailers, every precaution is taken to avoid contamination during retention of the milk on the premises.

There are 23 retailers and 5 cowkeepers on the registers. The premises are well maintained and periodically visited.
Retailers of milk living in the district provide separate storage places for the milk, thus reducing any risk of contamination. The premises have been visited at regular intervals and found to be well kept. There are 30 milk cows in the district and the premises where they are kept are periodically visited, both as regards the condition of the premises and the general condition of the animals.

The Milk & Dairies Act 1915 which came into operation on the 1st of September of this year and co-incident with the Tuberculosis (Disease of Animals Order), 1925 should be of great value in obtaining a pure milk supply, free from disease. To bring this object to fruition it is of course, essential that samples of the milk should be taken at intervals for bacteriological examination. Within the last five years and previous to the introduction of the above legislation, two milk cows have been reported as tubercular, and subsequently slaughtered. Post mortem examinations revealed that they were affected with generalised tuberculosis and totally unfit, either for milking purposes or for food, thus emphasising the need for periodic bacteriological examination of the milk before a beast develops into an emaciated condition. In one instance such examination would undoubtedly have revealed tuberculosis of the udder and thus called for stoppage of the milk supply.

It is to be hoped that examinations of this character as now permitted by the legislature will be generally carried out. All cattle found to re-act to the tuberculin test, should be branded so that their condition would be obvious to anyone contemplating purchase. It is only by such means that the disease can be eradicated, both in dairy and other cattle.

There are but 4 cowkeepers carrying on trade within the district, the number of cows kept varying from 16 to 24.
Although the cowsheds in the district are well constructed and maintained, the occupiers do not as yet realise the importance of giving close attention to detail cleanliness, such as daily cleansing of the milking stool and proper storage of the utensils between milking hours to avoid contamination, also grooming of the cattle and clipping of the hind quarters. However a decided improvement has been noted as a result of frequent visits.

There are 29 retail purveyors of milk registered as carrying on trade within the district. 15 of these reside within the area. Separate milk stores are provided at all registered premises within the district. Two were found not to be up to standard and were eventually replaced by new structures. Periodic visits have been made to inspect these stores which have been found to be well maintained.

Examination of samples for T.B. and dirty milk are undertaken by the County Council. Two adverse reports have been received, both complaining of dirty milk. In both instances the retailers were cowkeepers, and the fault was found to be due to carelessness in handling utensils, and not sufficient care in grooming of the cattle. As both cowkeepers seemed anxious to carry out the suggestions made, no proceedings were instituted. The cowsheds were well constructed in
each case, with excellent floors and drainage.

One retail purveyor’s name was removed from the Register for failing to observe the several provisions of the Milk and Dairies Orders for protecting milk against infection and contamination. 1 milk cow was reported as suffering from an indurated udder. However before the official visit the animal was moved out of the district. It was eventually traced by the authorities and dealt with under the Tuberculosis Order.

There are 37 registered retailers, 11 of whom reside within the area, and 5 Cowkeepers registered as carrying on trade in the district, two having given up business during the year The previous year’s figures were 42 Retailers, 15 of whom were residential, together with 7 cowkeepers. There are no bottling establishments in the district.

No complaints have been received as a result of samples taken by the County Authorities for examination for cleanliness, etc. The following matters have been dealt with during the year: Failure to have name and address conspicuously inscribed on the vehicle or utensils - 3. Unsuitable or unsatisfactory methods of delivery - 2. Failure to register - 2. Defective drainage to cowshed - 1. Dirty milking stools - 2. Inadequate water supply - 1.

Instructions to take proceedings were necessary in two instances, but it was unnecessary to proceed as the complaints were remedied forthwith. Despite efforts to the contrary, the public do not seem to appreciate the safety value of pasteurised milk, especially as regards children, the juvenile consumption of sterilised and condensed milk being rather high. There is no doubt whatever that responsible authorities favour pasteurisation by means of which the nutritional powers of milk are not vitiated by the introduction of tubercular germs into the system of the youthful ingurgitant.

It is to be noted that the delivery of milk in this district, often made with open can and dipper, is not entirely free from the possibility of contamination especially in dry and dusty weather, or by the hands of the vendor; the universal use of closed containers, waxed, glass, or other substance, leaving small possibility of dirt entrance, being worthy of commendation.

There are 3 cowkeepers registered as carrying on trade within the area, 2 having given up business during the year. In one case considerable structural alterations were required to the building as a result of which a new cowshed was erected and put into use. One of the remaining sheds which can hardly be regarded as satisfactory, will shortly be given up as the adjoining premises have been condemned.

There are 11 retailers resident in the district and 29 non-resident. There are no bottling establishments.

The number of registered cow-keepers has now been reduced to two, the total number of milking cows kept varying between 30 and 40. One of the two cowkeepers only keeps two cows.

In connection with the Government Scheme to improve the quality of the nation’s milk by making it an offence to sell milk by retail unless it is heat-treated or otherwise graded as defined, one of the afore-mentioned cowkeepers will be giving up, and the producer retailer will turn over to accredited milk.

Seventy per cent, of the milk now being sold in the area is sterilised, and of the remainder 4.8 per cent, is raw milk, the remainder being graded milk—either pasteurised or T.T. pasteurised. The T.T. milk retailed is all pasteurised, the producers of such holding both licences.

There are 14 registered wholesale purveyors of milk, and 88 retailers. In addition, there are five persons holding Dealers’ Licences for the sale of pasteurised milk. There are no bottling establishments in the district.

Two complaints were received from the County Authorities in 1942, one with regard to accredited milk, and the other pasteurised, both producers having their establishments outside the area.

Several complaints were received with regard to bottled milk. In January of that year the sterilized milk of one firm was found to have little or no keeping qualities, and frequently sour on the day of delivery. The matter was taken up with the proper authorities and it was found that the sterilising apparatus had been out of use for two or three weeks owing to a breakdown, the necessary parts having been difficult to obtain, in consequence of which deliveries were only being made twice per week, and the milk was on the turn when delivered.

The second complaint in February with regard to another firm was, after close investigation, found to be due to faulty bottle washing and indiscriminate use of caustic soda, leading to tainting of the bottles and their contents.

Repeated complaints in the early summer of 1943 of repeated souring of bottled milk was traced eventually and found to be due to the fact that the milk, at the time of its reception at the depot, was of doubtful keeping qualities, and was more or less unfit for processing. The matter was taken up with the Milk Marketing Board, and a decided improvement was noticed, although there was a further series of complaints in October due to a similar cause, i.e., “ processing of milk of doubtful keeping qualities.” One further and later complaint was traced to an old and dilapidated bottle washing plant which was no longer capable of doing its work, and in addition to which the management was also open to criticism.

There are now two registered cowkeepers in the district, the total head of cattle varying between 30 and 40.

By far the largest percentage of milk retailed is sterilised at least 70 percent. About 4.8 percent is untreated milk, the remainder being bottled milk, sold under licence. There are no bottling establishments in the area.

One complaint only was received from the County Authorities during the year and traced on investigation to inefficient sterilization of equipment. An electric steam sterilisation plant was installed later for the efficient treatment of vessels.. No further complaints were received. The difficulties encountered in the previous year with tainting and souring of bottled milk have not recurred, so it would appear that the action taken at the time has produced good results.

There are two registered cowkeepers in the district, with from 30 to 40 head of cattle. There are the only above two producer retailers in the area, and no bottling establishments. Registered Milk Retailers - 84.

As regards the milk retailed in the district, approximately 70 percent is sterilised, 4.8 percent untreated milk and the remainder graded milk (pasteurised, T.T. or accredited).

No complaints have been received with regard to failure to comply with official tests, and no further complaints have been made by the public as regards souring of milk.

There are two registered cow-keepers in the district who are the only two producer retailers in the area, and no bottling establishments. As regards the milk retailed in the district, approximately 70 percent is sterilised, 4.8 percent untreated milk and the remainder graded milk (pasteurised, T.T. or accredited).

One report was received with regard to an unsatisfactory sample of bottled milk taken by the Sampling Officer of the County. This referred to a bottling establishment outside the area and was dealt with by the appropriate authority.

There are two registered cowkeepers in the district. These are the only two producer retailers in the area, and no bottling establishments.

Sterilised milk still retains its popularity due primarily to its keeping qualities and the preference it enjoys for making milk puddings, custards, etc. It represents approximately 70 percent of all milk retailed in the district.

There are two registered cowkeepers in the district. There are only two producer retailers in the area and no bottling establishments.

Sterilised milk still retains its popularity principally on account of its keeping qualities and preference for making puddings, custards, etc. 70 percent of all milk retailed is sterilised. Reports on samples of milk submitted for examination will be found in the report of the Medical Officer of Health.

Under the new Milk (Special Designations) Regulations 1949, which came into force in October of this year, the following were registered for the sale of milk in this area :-

Supplementary Licences:
  Sterilised 11
  Pasteurised 2
Dealer’s Licences:
  Sterilised 81
  Pasteurised 10

Milk production has come to an end in Darlaston, as the one cowkeeper who ran a reasonable herd gave up business and the other now only keeps one milking cow.

The whole of the milk supply in the district is heat treated, approximately 75 percent of the milk retailed being sterilised. There are no sterilising plants in the district. Details in connection with the bacteriological examination and the results are indicated in the Medical Officer’s section of this report.

There are no registered cow-keepers in the district.

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