Millthorpe was one the largest producers of quality chaff in NSW. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century chaff cutting contractors used steam power to cut commercial quantities of chaff, feeding stooks from the haystack into a chaff cutting machine before it was bagged and loaded onto wagons for transport to markets. Water was an essential ingredient in the process, creating steam to power the chaff cutter. Steam also softened the hay so that it was chopped crisply, making good quality chaff. In addition to powering the plant, water also kept the men and horses going during a hard day’s work.
Chaff cutting is the process of cutting sheaves of hay from a stook or hay stack into chaff. Chaff and hay played a vital role in most agricultural production up until the 1940s when tractors became more reliable for farming operations. Horses were the tractors and semitrailers of their day and chaff was the petrol. Chaff was cut from wheaten and oaten hay. It was the staple diet for horses that provided the power for cultivation, planting and harvesting crops. Horses were also the transport for those rare trips to town for supplies.