Last Friday, I got to visit the Brunton Dairy in Aliquippa, Pa. The Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture was making a visit.
And the first thing that became clear is that this truly is a family farm. That is probably what impressed me the most about the facility.
The oldest generation was there, along with their children and even their children were in attendance and that is something special!
The farm is milking 90 Holsteins. At one time, the dairy was up to over 100, but due to a change in operations, they downsized last year.
However, this is obviously not stopping the spirit behind the farm.
The farm is very unique because they were adding to a product they were producing right on their farm! Brunton Dairy was bottling 4,500 half gallons a week and cattle were producing 700 gallons a day.
Their operation, up until last October, did not center around milking the cows and having the milk shipped to United Dairy. They wanted more than that and they were doing just that.
Last fall, some tests performed by the Allegheny Department of Health showed the Yersinia enterocolitica bacteria and tests from the PDA did as well. However, the tests from the PDA turned out to be a false positive.
Eager to resume bottling
Nonetheless, Brunton Dairy has survived and the family is eager to get back to doing what they do best; bottling their own pasteurized milk. Before the store shutdown, Brunton Dairy was doing it all. They produced skim milk, whole milk, 2 percent milk, chocolate milk, strawberry milk and ice cream!
Not only did the family work either milking the cows or bottling, but they also had other job duties.
The dairy was providing home delivery to customers in south Beaver County and Allegheny County. In addition, they were wholesaling their product to Butler, Allegheny and Beaver counties.
Currently, the store on the farm is the only place to purchase the milk and ice cream production has not started up again.
Besides the onsite bottling and ice cream production, something else stuck out to me while touring the farm. It was how the Bruntons talked about their cattle. They take pride in the cattle and to this family, they are more than just an animal.
As Herb Brunton and the rest of his family stood in front of the cattle, it was obvious the family knew who to thank for their business. The Bruntons discussed how the cattle are fed four times a day and the individual care they give them.
Missing pasture and parlor
On this farm, there are two things missing or maybe I should say not being used. First of all, the cattle don’t go out on pasture. The family explained it enables them to control what the cows eat and, in return, gives the milk a uniform test.
Herb said he worried that the cattle would find a bunch of wild onions and he’s not sure there is a big market for onion-flavored milk.
The other thing not being used on the farm is a milking parlor. I know some farmers are going, “What? No milking parlor?”
Instead, the cattle are milked directly in their stall. The family explained that it enables the milkers and caregivers to deal with each individual cow instead of just the “udder,” which is the main thing you view when utilizing a parlor.
The family members went on to explain that by milking in the stall and looking at the entire cow, they can treat the entire cow right away if they show a lack of appetite or something changes from the morning milking.
It was obvious from talking to the Bruntons that their cows are more than just a business. The farm is a way for the family to stay connected.