NH Dairy Industry Timeline

As the dairy industry in New Hampshire matured, many changes occurred and new challenges emerged with each passing decade:


  • The change from hand power and oxen to horses started the American agricultural revolution.
  • The first rail shipment occurred in 1851.
  • Ayrshire, Jersey and Holstein cattle were imported and bred.
  • The first milk laws were passed in Boston in 1856, making it illegal to add water or remove cream from milk.
  • Gail Borden received a patent for the first successful milk condensing plant in 1856.• Louis Pasteur developed the process of heating milk to kill bacteria in 1864.
  • Civil War introduced New Hampshire men to new land resources and the farm exodus began.
  • The first vacuum-type milking machine was patented in 1865.
  • New Hampshire College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts was started in Hanover in 1866.


  • The railroad boom broadened agricultural markets.
  • Silos came into use for storing fermented forage crops.


  • Granite State Dairyman’s Association was established in 1884.
  • The glass milk bottle was invented in 1884.
  • The depressed wool and meat industries created interest in developing the dairy industry in the state.
  • The dairy industry became concerned about western agriculture competing against the northeast.
  • Cattle breeding and crossbreeding were becoming of more interest as a means to influence the butterfat content of the milk.
  • A bottle filler machine was invented in 1886.
  • The Hatch act created the first agricultural experiment stations.


  • The development of new milk separating machines which were more efficient in removing cream for making butter.
  • The first gasoline powered tractor was invented.
  • The Meat Inspection Act of 1890 established USDA inspectors to enforce sanitary standards in the meat and dairy industries.
  • Balanced dairy rations were promoted at dairy meetings in the 1890s.
  • W.D. Hoard, former governor of Wisconsin and editor of the Hoard’s Dairyman magazine, spoke at Granite State Dairymen’s meetings in 1891, 1893, and 1894 about current dairy production practices.
  • The Babcock Test was invented by Stephen Babcock in 1890 and became an acceptable laboratory test to measure for butterfat in milk.
  • The New Hampshire College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts settled in Durham on the land willed by Benjamin Thompson in 1893.
  • Pasteurization machines were introduced in the United States in 1895 after being developed by Louis Pasteur in 1864.


  • The devopment of oleomargarine, made from vegetable oils or animal fats, was a threat to butter sales.
  • There was the concern about the possible spread of foot and mouth disease from foreign countries.
  • The number of cows in the state peaked at 115,036 in 1900.


  • New Hampshire’s dairy industry fell on hard times and production of butter declined.
  • For the first time figures showed that more of New Hampshire’s population lived in urban rather than rural areas.
  • The New Hampshire Department of Agriculture was established in 1913.
  • Sullivan County Farmers’ Association started in 1913 which led to the N.H. County Farmers’ Association and it adopted the Farm Bureau name in 1924.
  • Cooperative Extension started as a joint effort with Sullivan County Farmers Association (Farm Bureau) and became an off-campus outreach of the College in Durham in 1915, bringing research-based information to farmers.
  • There was an increased use of commercial fertilizer in growing crops.
  • Cow numbers in New Hampshire declined to 81,561.
  • The Delaval Milker became the first widely used milking machine in 1918.
  • Homogenized milk was sold for the first time in Connecticut 1919.


  • There was a shift from creameries making butter and cheese to farm processing plants bottling fluid milk.
  • A rapid expansion of local milk processing plants in towns around the state made fresh, fluid milk available to households.
  • The New Hampshire College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts became the University of New Hampshire in 1923.
  • The first commercial production of hybrid seed corn occurred in 1926.


  • T.B. and brucellosis outbreaks required the slaughter of many animals and the introduction of vaccination programs.
  • All-purpose, rubber tired tractors with complementary machinery were popularized.
  • Wax-coated paper milk containers were introduced in 1932.
  • The Soil Erosion Service (SES) was established to show farmers how to protect their land in 1933.This was the beginning of the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) which later became Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
  • The Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act authorized Federal Milk Marketing Orders in 1937.


  • Electricity became more available in New Hampshire through rural electrification programs and refrigeration proliferated.
  • Home refrigeration started a decline in the need for daily delivery of milk.
  • The N.H. Artificial Breeding Association was established in 1945.
  • The Agricultural Act of 1949 authorized the dairy support program, which still functions today by establishing a floor price for dairy products.


  • Bulk tanks replaced milk cans. Many small producers were forced out when they couldn’t afford the cost of a tank. This caused a major shift in the industry.
  • Public health requirements required cows to be milked on concrete floors rather than wood.
  • Improved highways made milk more transportable across the region.
  • Artificial insemination of cows was more widely used and greatly improved genetics and milk production per cow.


  • The introduction of the free-stall and milking parlor concept of dairy cattle management changed the way cows were managed.
  • A major change in the state control of the pricing of milk with the dissolution of the N.H. Milk  Control Board.
  • Home milk delivery became a thing of the past as supermarket shopping became the major way of purchasing food.
  • The Fair Labor Standards Act was extended to include agriculture.• Plastic milk containers were first introduced in 1964.


  • High fuel prices and grain shortages set new input cost levels that never receded.
  • No-tillage agriculture was popularized.


  • The Milk Diversion Program of 1984 was implemented as an incentive for dairy farmers to reduce production.
  • The National Dairy Promotion Program was introduced in 1984.
  • The Dairy Termination Program of 1986 was put in place to reduce surplus milk supplies. New Hampshire farms submitted bids for ceasing production and 59 left the
  • There was a reduction and consolidation in the number of farmer cooperatives.


  • There was increased pressure for dairy farms to remain competitive and profitable through the economy of scale.
  • Rapid expansion of the dairy industry in California, New Mexico and Idaho made a major shift in centers of milk production.
  • The bovine somatotropin ( BST) became commercially available to dairy producers as a way to augment milk production in 1994.
  • The 1996 farm bill required that the number of milk marketing orders be decreased to no more than thirteen or fourteen if California was included.
  • The northeast dairy contrct was approved by each state legislature and Congress in 1996 and required that farmers receive a minimum price of 16.94  per cwt for class I milk. The money to support this floor price comes from the market place. It expired in 2002 and was not reauthorized.


  • The three northeast federal milk marketing orders were combined into one and a component pricing system was adopted.
  • The Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) was implemented by the government to guarantee a minimum Class I price of milk for the first two million pounds shipped per farm.
  • There was a movement toward a consolidation of the dairy processing industry to just a few national companies.
  • There were fewer choices for marketing milk and cyclical pricing became the norm.
  • Emphasis on bio-security to control the spread of Johnes disease changed management practices on many farms.
  • A growing demand for organic milk expanded throughout the country.
  • UNH became the first Land Gant University to establish an organic dairy herd.
  • New Hampshire changed from a semi-rural state to  a suburban one.  (Source: Granite State Dairymen Minutes, World Book Encyclopedia, USDA History of American Agriculture Timeline, 1607-2000)

The history of the New Hampshire fluid milk industry is revealed through the evolution of milk sales from doorstep delivery to distribution through gigantic shopping centers. This is best encapsulated in the detailed historical article, “From Dairy to Doorstep: The Processing and Sale of New Hampshire Dairy Products, 1860s to 1960s,” written in 2003 by Judith N. Moyer for Historical New Hampshire, the journal of the New Hampshire Historical Society.  She is an assistant research professor of history at the University of New Hampshire. The article is in the appendix in its entirety with permission by Historic New England/SPNEA, Historical Society of Cheshire County, HP Hood, and the New Hampshire Historical Society.