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Segis Pietertje Prospect breaks world's record for annual milk production at Carnation Farms on December 19, 1920.

HistoryLink.org Essay 3904 : Printer-Friendly Format

On December 19, 1920, Segis Pietertje Prospect, a Holstein cow also known as Possum Sweetheart, breaks the world’s record for the most milk produced in one year. During the previous 365 days at Carnation Farms, the cow produced 37,361 pounds of milk. At the time, an average cow produced 4,000 pounds of milk.

Contented Cow

Segis Pietertje Prospect was born on April 10, 1913, at the Carnation Milk Farms in Carnation. She was sired by King Segis 10th, also known as “Old Buckshot.”

In 1919, Carnation Farms hired Carl Gockerell as a milker. For the next 25 years, Gockerell milked the test cows at intervals of six hours, day and night.

Gockerell also supervised the care and feeding of the cows, but soon took a liking to Segis Pietertje Prospect, whom he called “Possum Sweetheart.” This cow would always raise her head when he approached, even if he was not within her line of sight.

The first time he milked her, she produced twice as much milk as the other cows. Six hours later she did it again. And then again. Gockerell took note of this, and word quickly spread throughout the farming industry. Officials from agricultural colleges and organizations came to Carnation to observe this incredible cow. On December 19, 1919, the farm began tracking how much milk she could produce over a year’s time.

Udderly Amazing

At the time an average cow produced 4,000 pounds of milk a year. Test cows, like the ones at Carnation Farms, were on a more rigorous milking schedule and the current world’s record for annual milk production was 33,425 pounds, held by Tilly Alcarta. At her current rate of production, Possum Sweetheart seemed likely to beat Tilly’s record easily.

Milking continued six times a day, every day, for the next year. More and more people came to the farm to watch. On December 19, 1920, Possum Sweetheart finished her year’s production at a whopping 37,381 pounds of milk. She had produced her own weight in milk nearly every three weeks.

Newspapers around the world published the story, and Segis Pietertje Prospect achieved celebrity status. As befitting a celebrity, other famous people visited her, including then-heavyweight boxing champ Jack Dempsey, and French General and Commander-in-Chief of the French armies, Marshal Joffre.

Possum Sweetheart died in 1925 at the age of 12. Her offspring -- heifers and bulls -- were sold to breeders around the world, but her heifers' offspring remained at the farm and became high producers themselves. In 1928, a monument was erected in her honor at the Carnation Farms’ entrance.

Robert D. Moore, The Carnation Milk Farms: Home of Contented Cows (Los Angeles: The Carnation Company, n.d.), 26-29; also see Isabel Jones, A History of Tolt/Carnation: A Town Remembered (Snohomish, WA: Tolt Historical Society, 1987).
Note: The spelling of Carl Gockerell was corrected on February 1, 2012.

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Statue of Possum Sweetheart at Carnation Farms, 1999
Photo by Alan Stein

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