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Hibbard, Benjamin Horace, 1870-1955 / The history of agriculture in Dane County, Wisconsin

Chapter IV: The dairy industry,   pp. 176-184 PDF (1.8 MB)

Page 178

but by 1870 the tide had turned, the census of that year showing
the product of Dane county to be about a million and a quarter
pounds of butter-a gain of 33 per cent. within a decade. There
is no occasion to dwell upon the reasons for giving so much atten-
tion to dairying at that time: it was a mere turning from a dead
industry to a live one, from a process which was fast sapping the
soil of its remaining fertility to one which would slowly but surely
replace the needed richness. From 1870 to i88o prices were low
and the increase in butter production was small.
   With cheese a remarkable change had taken place. In 1870
the quantity of cheese was less than one twenty-eighth that of
butter: in i88o it was almost one-sixth. This gain was due to
two principal causes: first, the relative price of cheese was high,
and second, the Swiss people from Green county spread over into
Dane and engaged in cheese making, since which time cheese has
steadily taken a more important place. During the '70's cheese
factories were established in nearly every town: there were two
in Bristol, two in Dane, one in York, one in Blue Mounds, etc.;
but by i88o, or soon after, the most of these were closed for want
of patronage and the cheese and butter industries instead of run-
ning side by side in direct competition began to localize them-
selves with respect to physiographic areas. It may be shown
that Wisconsin is a cheese-producing state because of climatic
conditions: it may also be shown that social influences have re-
sulted in localizing the industry, as in Green county, where the
map is dotted with Swiss cheese factories; but neither nor both
of these reasons can explain satisfactorily why there are thirty-
nine cheese factories in the "driftless" area in the southwest
of Dane county and a single one in all the remainder. True this
section is near to Green county and the Swiss gradually spread
to the north, or at least furnished cheese makers whenever there
was a demand for them, but they were equally near neighbors to
the southeastern part of the county where the single cheese factory
is found. The explanation seems briefly to be this: There is
more money in making cheese. especially Swiss or Limburger,
than in butter. But on the other hand, the whey is worth almost
nothing, while skimmed milk and butter-milk are excellent feed
for pigs and calves. In the hilly districts corn cannot be raised
in large quantities, hence it is useless to attempt raising large
numbers of hogs. With these facts before him the farmer in the

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