The simple‐seeming gift of a few cattle given to Kamehameha I by Captain George Vancouver in 1793 made a major impact on the Hawai`i’s economy and ecosystem. It also spawned a rich tradition of cowboy culture that is still here today.
When Vancouver landed additional cattle at Kealakekua in 1794, he strongly encouraged King Kamehameha to place a 10‐year kapu on them to allow the herd to grow.
In the decades that followed, cattle flourished and turned into a dangerous nuisance. By 1846, 25,000-wild cattle roamed at will and an additional 10,000-semi‐domesticated cattle lived alongside humans. Kamehameha III lifted the kapu in 1830 and the hunting of wild cattle was encouraged.
Hawaiʻi’s wild cattle population needed to be controlled for safety reasons, but the arrival of cattle hunters and Mexican vaquero (“Paniolo”) also happened to coincide with an economic opportunity.
Now, roaming nearly 750,000-acres of pasture land (as of January 1, 2013,) the total number of cattle and calves on Hawai‘i’s ranches was estimated at 132,000-head. Of these, about 2,100 were milk cows; another 2,000 were milk cow replacements.
There are currently only three dairy farms operating in the state of Hawaiʻi. There were more than 20, up until the early 1980s, when the pesticide heptachlor was found in much of Hawaiʻi’s milk supply. Heptachlor was used by pineapple growers, and pineapple waste was commonly fed to dairy cows. (dairystar)
Milk producer Meadow Gold Dairies Hawaiʻi traces its roots back to June 1897, when seven Oʻahu dairy farms formed a partnership to create a stronger presence in the marketplace.
The organization, comprised of the Waiʻalae Ranch dairy, Kaipu Dairy, Mānoa Dairy, Honolulu Dairy, Nuʻuanu Valley Dairy, Woodlawn Dairy and Kapahulu Dairy, came to be known as the Dairymen’s Association.
“It is a co-partnership rather than a cooperative plan. There is neither sentiment nor theory about the affair. It is the application of practical business methods and it may be said fairly and honestly that in banding themselves together the producers of milk for the public market benefit, largely and very decidedly, the consumers.” (Hawaiian Gazette, March 29, 1898)
“There are now eight dairies in the Association. These under the separate managements used ten delivery outfits in the service of routes. Four wagons are used now. The expenses are reduced in a number of directions. The owners of the cows deliver the milk to the Association manager and receive a stipulated price for the same.” (Hawaiian Gazette, March 29, 1898)
In order to promote more milk consumption, they later devised the ‘Healthy Baby Contest.’ The first took place in 1953 and, in cooperation with the Dairyman’s Association, was produced by the Honolulu Chinese Jaycees to promote healthy families in Hawai‘i.
The Dairymen’s Association’s sponsorship of the original Healthy Baby Contest aligned with its community initiatives at the time ― to raise awareness amongst Hawai‘i families of the importance of nutrition and healthy lifestyles – and drinking milk.
In 1949, the organization had already been taking a proactive approach in communicating and reaching out to Hawai‘i families and keiki when it introduced a young calf to Hawaiʻi, its Ambassador of Good Health and Nutrition.
A children’s contest was held to name the calf.
First grader Patricia Colburn’s entry, Lani Moo, was selected as the name of Hawaiʻi’s most famous cow. (MeadowGold)
Over the years, the various Lani Moos had various homes – today’s dairy diva resides at the Honolulu Zoo.
The Honolulu Zoo unveiled the Lani Moo Keiki Corner interactive educational exhibit, which teaches children about cows, milk and nutrition.
In addition, a costumed Lani Moo (and side-kick Kawika) travels to various events to help spread the message.
In 1959, the Dairymen’s Association, Ltd name changed to Meadow Gold Dairies Hawai‘i, and the name for the Healthy Baby Contest followed suit.
Meadow Gold Dairies Hawai‘i has been the title sponsor of the O‘ahu Healthy Baby Contest for decades, and through a few incarnations.
Later in 1986 the event was sponsored by Borden, Inc., which was the parent company of Meadow Gold Dairies Hawai‘i at the time. Contests are going on now across the islands to crown Hawaiʻi’s healthy babies.
Our family had experience with the Healthy Baby Contest.
Two brothers (my nephews) entered in 1996 and 1998, respectively. Unfortunately, young Jack White would rather have been elsewhere in 1996 (some photos in the album (he’s in the red palaka) show his various stages of tantrum.)
A couple years later, younger brother Monte White won 1st place in Waimea on the Island of Hawaiʻi (our old home town.) Monte recently graduated from college; he still has his 1st place trophy (photos in the album show the later Monte – he was about as large as the trophy in 1998.)