Lancaster farming. (Lancaster, Pa., etc.) 1955-current, March 27, 1993, Image 24

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    Farming, Saturday, March 27, 1993
Milk Drinkers Come To The Cow In Westmoreland County
Westmoreland Co. Correspon-
KECKSBURG (Westmoreland
County)—A family dairy here has
milk drinkers coming to them.
Gilbert and Jane Hutter, with
their sons’ (Dale and Blaine) fami
lies run a dairy production and dis
tribution operation that has grown
in the last 40 years from a one fam
ily farm to a three family business.
The dairy and farm, located
between the villages of Norvelt
and Kecksburg in rural Westmore
land County, seems to have deve
loped a producers dream situation.
Almost everything they produce is
either consumed by their herd, or
sold to consumers.
In the process of growing food
and family, all the children helped
milk cows before breakfast There
has been growth, including purch
ase of land (125 acres in 1973 and
92 acres in 1983).
A major step in the business
development, according to Gilbert,
came in 1969 when they decided to
increase income by adding retail
ing to their dairy production. Their
retail milk store opened in 1969.
Beginning the farm
The farm began in 1950 when
Gilbert moved from his parents
home in near-by Weltytown. The
original farm consisted of a house,
bam, 203 acres, and milk shipment
of 5 gallons a day.
Gilbert recalls those days before
Carol Gary, a daughter, loads the plastic milk Jugs into
the bottling machine at Hutter Dairy. This Westmoreland
County dairy combines retail and wholesale distribution
with production to provide income for three family house
holds. The dairy processes 3-4,000 gallons of milk each
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any soil conservation measures
had been implemented on the land.
After a rain "I don’t know why I
went back over the hill. Between
each of the rows of grain the soil
had washed down and started cov
ering the plants below.” Seeing
that damage to his land motivated
Hutter to begin extensive conser
vation steps.
First came contour farming in
1953. Then three diversion ter
races. including grassed water
ways to allow runoff without ero
sion in the middle ’6os. Minimum
till cultivation began in 1974.
In analyzing the benefits of
minimum till, the Mutters point to a
variety of advantages in addition to
saving the soil. The advantages
they see are; reduced labor, better
nutrient management, ground
water preservation, reduced fuel
use and lower equipment invest
ment. Mutters current minimum till
cycle includes planting, herbicide
application, harvest, disking
(sometimes) and manure injection.
With the retailing operation tak
ing time, the reduced labor is sig
nificant for the Mutters. “We have
kept labor in the family,” said
Minimum till fits their nutrient
management needs, which became
a high priority in 1979.
“We inject the manure,” said
Blaine. Injection confines the
nutrients to the ground, which “cut
fertilizer use about half. When you
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can smell it all the good stuff is
getting away.” he said.
The key to planting in the mini
mum till approach, according to
Gilbert, is watching the seed depth.
He feels some have planted too
deep and then are disappointed in
the stand. “You have to keep
checking the seed.” he said. Diffe
rent soils and conditions require
different planter settings to get the
seed covered but not too deep.
Packaging their own milk
In 1969 when they decided to
start the retail business, the Mutters
built across the road from the
house and bam to give physical
separation between the herd and
the processing and selling opera
tion. Now milk amounts to two
thirds of the store’s sales. Between
the store and a wholesale route
developed by Dale, all the milk
from the 140 head (85 milking)
herd is sold.
But matching consumer need
with production has required a
close eye on the freshening cycle
of the cows. “If we see a time com
ing up when a lot will be dry, we
try to hurry some heifers into pro
duction,” said herdsman Blaine.
And there has been an arrangement
made to buy or sell with other sour
ces, but that has to be minimized
because “we have to buy at pre
mium prices and sell at surplus.”
In setting up the first processing
system, the family worked with
dairy supplier Oaks and Burger,
Cleveland, Ohio. The connection
has been maintained to this day. In
addition, the family credits Sid
Bernard, an Ag-extension worker
from Penn State, with helping
them set up their processing sys
tem in the beginning. And with
maintaining quality. One time, the
dairy had trouble with high bacter
ia, and Sid helped solve the prob
lem by reviewing their whole pro
cess. His simple solution: hotter
cleaning water.
Developing the wholesale part
of the milk business has been up to
Dale. Current customers include
gas stations, dairy queens, and
restaurants. But, he said, time for
expanding that customer list has
been limited. Processing is done
three times a week, and then the
milk has to be delivered.
The processing begins when the
milk is hauled from the bam to be
cooled and stored. On processing
days, the milk is nm from storage
through a tri-processor. The skim,
2%, 4%, or chocolate milk is then
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Gilbert Hutter can sometimes be found at the cash regis
ter of the retail portion of Hutter Dairy in Westmoreland
pasteurized at 140 degrees for 30
minutes in a 200 gallon vat In a
continuous stream, the milk is
homogenized under 2,000 pounds
per square inch pressure, then
cooled to 40 degrees with well
water, before bottling.
“If all farmers processed (and
sold) their own milk, and heard the
complaints, we’d all be producing
better milk,” said Gilbert. One key
he cites is feeding time: to prevent
feed taste in the milk, feeding three
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hours before milking should be
restricted. And they emphasize
that no feed should be given the
hour and half before milking.
In conclusion, (he sales side of
the dairy seems to have had a posi
tive impact on the production side.
And to produce a similar income
without the retail outlet, the Mut
ters would have to double the herd
size. In good conservation prac
tices and responding to the times,
the family has found a key to
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