Kiwi invention that changed dairy farming

The first mechanised milking system for dairy cows was invented by New Zealand dairy farmer Norman Daysh. It was finetuned by DeLaval and commercially launched in 1917.
The first mechanised milking system for dairy cows was invented by New Zealand dairy farmer Norman Daysh. It was finetuned by DeLaval and commercially launched in 1917.

The centenary of the launch of a milking machine that went on to revolutionise the dairy industry has been held in Hamilton to share the story of an unknown Kiwi inventor.

In the early 1900s, Norman John Daysh invented the first commercial vacuum-pump milking machine — something his grandson John Daysh said has been an untold story until now.

"It's something we Kiwis should be really proud of. Norman grew up as a farm boy in Pahiatua and he was fascinated by all the machinery being developed at that time, and he decided to find a way to milk cows mechanically."

His grandfather experimented with early machines on a cow called Daisy in the Wairarapa farmhouse kitchen.

"What Norman Daysh achieved remains the basis of our company today."

"People had been trying to find a milking machine for 50 years or so, including [Thomas] Edison, the great inventor in America, but none of them were actual dairy farmers.

People had been experimenting with all sorts of things that sounded quite painful for the cow, including rollers and copper pipes inserted into the teats.

"My grandfather's was successful because he was a dairy farmer, and he knew how sensitive cows were, and how to extract milk in a way which was comfortable to the cow and efficient for the workers, which was revolutionary really."

Norman Daysh secured more than 20 patents for his machine before travelling from Wairarapa to New York in 1913 in the hopes of finding a global company interested in helping him perfect the machine he had designed.

In New York, the DeLaval company recognised the potential of Norman's machine and his innovative spirit.

Together they fine-tuned the machine then, in 1917, launched it to the world.

"We knew a little bit about this story within the company, but we were just blown away to hear John Daysh talk about Norman in such fantastic new detail," said DeLaval chief executive Joakim Rosengren from the global dairy equipment company headquarters in Sweden.

"As soon as we learned Norman Daysh had living grandchildren still in New Zealand, we knew we needed to do something special to mark the centenary," he said. "What Norman Daysh achieved remains the basis of our company today.

"His innovative thinking, his concern for the welfare of dairy cows, his insistent on engineering excellence, his vision for an efficient and safe industry, all those things remain just as important to us today as they were to him one hundred years ago."

At the event today, the company will make a presentation to John Daysh and his sister Mary.

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