The number of cows kept depended on the size of the farm, most small farmers had one cow this supplied milk and butter at least for part of the year. The cow would be milked and the milk stored in a crock 'A large flowerpot shaped crockery container holding about x liters (x gallons)', when left to stand the cream rose to the surface and would be skimmed off and stored in another crock to be made into butter.
The crocks were usually kept in a larder with a stone flagged floor, this helped to keep the milk cool. Eggs were also stored in crocks for the same reason.
Butter was made in a churn, there were two types, the simplest resembled a large wooden bucket with a close fitting lid which had a hole in the centre, the cream was put into the churn and before the lid was fitted a wooden rod with a paddle was inserted through the hole, this was plunged up and down until the butter was made. he other which came much later was a small wooden barrel, this has a tightly fitting lid, with a little glass viewing lens, and a push button valve to release the pressure, the barrel had steel trunnions Axles' bolted to its sides, these trunnions rested in bearings which were set on top of a wooden frame, one of the trunnions was extended and a handle was attached to it. When the handle was rotated the barrel turned end over end tossing the cream and converting it into butter.
When the process was complete the butter would be floating in the ' butter milk' in small lumps, this would be strained off through muslin and the butter formed into blocks with butter pats 'small wooden spade shaped implement with a short handle.' The buttermilk was used to bake soda bread using white flour or wheaten, using whole meal flour, the buttermilk would also be drunk with meals, if you have ever tried drinking today's buttermilk and not been particularly impressed, it bears little resemblance in taste and texture to that which was produced on the farm.
The image on the left is of a creamery can, in later years these were used by the farmers to store the milk which was to be sold to the dairy, a standard creamery can held 10 gallons. These cans were collected daily and clean ones left for the next day. Today the milk is collected from the farms by tankers
Butter which was surplus to home use would have been sold in the local market, in the south west of the country a vast trade in butter grew up with thousands of tons being sold in the famous Butter market in Cork, much of it destined for export. This trade eventually declined mainly it is thought because of a lack of continuity in quality.
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