Illawarra Cooperative Central Dairy

The Illawarra Cooperative Central Dairy (ICCD) Factory produced its famous Warrilla (correct spelling) brand butter from 1956. The name Warrilla is a derivative of the name Illawarra.

The milk dipper was used to test milk samples at the ICCD at Albion Park Rail.  The ICCD Factory opened 1 September 1899, with Mrs. Fraser breaking a bottle of milk instead of the customary Champagne. The factory was built on the western side of the railway line, for the fast transportation of milk to the Sydney markets.Prior to building of the new cooperative factory, each small farming community had its own butter factory. Butter factories existed at Albion Park, Tongarra, Yellow Rock, and Dunmore. None of these factories had refrigeration, so farmers began to take their produce to the modern ICCD for processing. This resulted in the eventual closure of the smaller factories.

The ICCD was one of the first factories in the Illawarra to use electricity by installing its own steam driven electricity generator in 1903.From the earliest days of the ICCD, butter making was a profitable by-product of milk production for both farmers, and the factory. Butter was churned at the factory by steam driven churns, and sent in wooden casks by rail to Sydney. The factory had a Swedish machine that cut bulk butter into either half or one-pound size weights, and wrapped them using the butter brand wrapper rolls.

The ICCD produced butter for 86 years, first under the factory brand Allowrie, until 1955, when it changed the brand to Warrilla. At its peak, the ICCD sent over 200, 56-pound boxes of butter for sale per week.On ‘block days’, the factory did not accept milk, only cream. Farmers separated milk from cream on the farms, and keep cream cool to get the first grade price. In summer, cream was placed in tanks in water, or in a nearby creek. Calves and pigs were fed with the separated milk.When the Milk Board brought in sediment testing of milk on the factory floor, farmers felt the impact, ‘Keeping the milk free of sediment when hand milking was a problem, with little water in the dairies to keep the dust down. Sitting under a cow on a wooden block with a folded hessian bag on top, plus a two or three-gallon bucket held between one’s knees, every puff or gust of wind would shower the open bucket with fine dust particles. The strainers that farmers used on their milk cans and wads would only collect the odd fly or any other coarse matter.’ (Martin, Jack 2005. Tongarra Tales, Tongarra Heritage Society Inc.)

Children were the common source of labour used to separate milk and cream, using a hand separator. If one lagged below 60turns per minute, a loud bell would ring and one had to increase the speed. Milk testers at the factory could tell if there was sour milk built up in the lids, or if the milk had been tainted by carrot or turnip weed. They could tell if cows were fed turnips, ensilage, clover or lucern.Up until 1967, all milk delivered to the factory was in 10-gallon cans. Each can when full, weighed about 120 pounds, and at only two feet high, were heavy to lift from the ground onto the back of a cart or truck. A popular sport with some was to see how many empty cans could be lifted at once.

Opening hours

Monday to Thursday 9.30am–8pm
Friday 9.30am–5pm
Saturday 9am–3pm
Sunday 12pm–3pm