ROYALTON, Vt. — Bringing the cows back home is the tag line for Bob-White Systems, a storefront and Internet business in Royalton. And bringing cows home to communities where their milk is consumed is the vision that inspires Steve Judge, the founder and owner of Bob White Systems.
Judge thinks big by embracing small.
Most people think of micro dairy herds as 40 or 50 cows, he says. I think in terms of four to six — 10 cows at most. This is the future of local milk production, and this is the scale that our equipment focuses on.
Since 2008, Bob-White Systems has sold vacuum pumps, milking machines, 40- and 50-gallon bulk tanks, butter churns and more. His customers are as close as the neighboring town of Randolph and as distant as California. Judge credits the Internet as an essential marketing tool for his business.
In these days when dairy farmers are facing enormous challenges, Bob-White Systems is in the final stages of bringing an efficient and economical farmstead pasteurizer to market. A floor model of the pasteurizer stands on display in the company’s front room. Judge is assisted by Kramer, the large orange barn cat, as he gives an overview of the system’s features.
He calls it the Bob-White Low Impact Farmstead Pasteurizer (LIP). It can handle milk from any dairy animal — cow, sheep or goat. The construction is stainless steel and is barn-integrated, meaning that it does not require expensive infrastructure to operate. It has four simple connections for electricity, cold water, raw milk input, and an output drain.
The pasteurizer gently pumps the cold milk through a heat exchanger at one gallon per minute. Pasteurization takes place when the milk is heated to 163 degrees and held at that temperature for 20 seconds, eliminating any potentially harmful bacteria. The processing channels are oversized and are very gentle to reduce the turbulence that destroys milk flavor and consistency, Judge says. The milk is then rapidly cooled back down as it flows into a small bulk tank for further cooling and storage.
Judge fell in love with dairy farming as a teenager growing up in what are now the southeastern suburbs of Boston. He was one of the founding farmers of Vermont Family Farms Milk Co. in Whiting, Vt., in the 1990s and the general manager of a central Vermont food co-op. Most recently, he has dedicated his full attention to the development of this farmstead pasteurizer.
Judge and his wife, Wendy, maintain a herd of four Jersey cows on their farm in Royalton, which also serves as the research facility for Bob-White Systems. Though they cannot currently sell their pasteurized milk, Judge can vouch, from personal experience, for the cost efficiency and ease of use of the system, and quality of milk that it produces.
The pasteurizer’s design criteria include that it be good for farmers, good for cows and good for consumers. When it becomes commercially available, the pasteurizer will enable small herd dairies to process milk on the farm.
It will give farmers and consumers a choice, Judge says. On-farm pasteurization will allow farmers to sell either raw or pasteurized milk to their local customers.
Judge estimates that his herd of four cows produces enough to supply 60 families with milk. He bases that calculation on each cow producing about 5 pounds of milk per day and three customers for each daily gallon. As the interest in, and need for, increased local food production grows, the possibility of locating small-herd dairies in communities where the milk is consumed is very attractive.
Bob-White Systems recently held a week-long open house to help increase public awareness of the pasteurizer, which is moving through the regulatory phase. Current raw milk legislation does not include regulatory accommodations for farm-fresh pasteurized milk. Officials in at least two New England states are in conversation with Judge.
In keeping with his vision of bringing the cows back home, Judge — with appropriate permission from the town’s Select Board — brought a Jersey cow on the South Royalton village green as part of the open house festivities.
I like to put cows back in sight of the community, where they belong, he says enthusiastically. Small herds are green, humane and help to restore our working landscapes. I want people to see dairy animals grazing and appreciate them for all that they do.
For more information about Bob-White Systems, visit www.bobwhitesystems.com.