Looking Back


Milking Cows Made Money!

Something as simple as a lantern at Onoway Museum opens the door to insights into the lives of those who lived in this area many decades ago.


Until about 1950, residents of the village of Onoway bought milk from locals who kept cows, among them Mrs. Meeklem, Mrs. Tonn, Mr. Pedersen and Mrs. Gray. Mrs. Meeklem was the main supplier; her cows paraded down Railway Avenue morning and evening from pasture near the Catholic Church to her barn on the east side of town.


Having milk cows was a given for virtually all farmers. They supplied the family with milk and butter (and home-made ice cream) and also fed young calves and pigs. But milk cows also were a source of income. Throughout the year, milking the cows was a twice-daily chore. In the dark days of winter, the designated milker would head off, coal oil lantern lighting the path to the barn, then to the stalls where the cows were waiting.


After milking, the pails of milk were brought in and poured into the cream separator basin then, via hand cranking, the cream was separated from the milk. Farmers in the Onoway area were lucky to have a creamery in town so they stored the cream in a cream can (probably lowered down the well to keep it cool) until the next trip to town.

Cream Separator
Outdoors Lantern

Cream separator - Milk was poured in the basin at the top of the separator and streamed out as cream and skimmed milk.

Outdoors lantern - The coal oil lamp lit up
the path regardless of the weather.

Cream Separator Oil

Milk tester - The milk tester enabled the farmer to test his cattle
at home and improve the dairy herd.

Cream separator oil - The right oil for the separator guaranteed easier cranking.

Not just anyone could take cream to the creamery and expect to sell it. A permit from the federal agency was required in order to sell milk or cream to the Onoway Creamery.


Once you had the permit, all was well. The cream was tested on site and the percentage of butterfat determined the grade and consequently the price. The price of cream fluctuated from week to week from a low of 49 per pound in August 1965 up to 65 in October that year.

Cream Statement

Permit - Without the permit, the Creamery wouldn't accept the cream.

Cream Statement - Testers and tasters at the Onoway Creamery
determined the quality of cream.

A farmer could purchase a milk tester to help decide which cows to keep and breed as milkers and which to dispose of. The four tubes on the tester were filled with the requisite amount of milk from four cows, then after spinning around, the butterfat would rise to the top. The cows with high butterfat content would be kept to build up the dairy cow herd.

Income from the dairy operations was often the farmer's wife's only "disposable" income so off she went shopping in Onoway!

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Last updated: June 29, 2019