Although she’s second in milk production only to the Holstein and is well-known for her docile personality, the Brown Swiss has never caught on with the popularity of some of the other milking breeds. For the Smith family of East Dixfield though, there’s no other breed they would rather have in their barn.
The first Brown Swiss cow dairy farmer Les Smith’s father owned wasn’t much of a milker. “She didn’t give milk, but everyone loved her disposition,” Les said. That was 1961. The Smith family of More Acres Farm originally bought dairy cows as nurse cows to supplement their Beef Shorthorn calves and promote their growth. Hollis Smith had started with beef cows in 1938 on a couple acres in-town Dixfield.
“He started accumulating more cattle, and people told him, ‘If you’re going to buy more cattle, you’re going to need more acres,” said Les’ wife Judy. Hence the farm name – More Acres. At the farm’s height, it covered 800 acres.
The farm Hollis bought, and Les and Judy still farm with their son Matt and his family in East Dixfield, came equipped with a Sears Roebuck milking machine and four milk coolers in the barn, so he decided to start milking cows.
“We had some grade [not registered] Holsteins, Jerseys, and we tried Ayrshires – that was back when they had big, long horns,” Les said. It was the Brown Swiss though, her personality, calm nature and gentleness that was really the start of More Acres becoming a dairy farm. “They’re pretty hard to beat as far as disposition,” Les said.
There was just that tiny issue of her not giving much milk …
“We looked for better ones,” Les said. “My father told people, ‘It’s a breed I think we could help.’”
Brown Swiss is not a popular breed like the Holstein or Jersey. “At that time there were some small herds in Vermont, New York and Ohio,” Les said. His father started buying up some of the best he could find until More Acres became the largest Brown Swiss breeder in the state of Maine. Today, they milk about 30 Brown Swiss cows and ship their milk to Horizon Organic.
It’s another gentle soul in the barn that is the Smith family’s prize possession – an 11-year-old Brown Swiss named Revlon. Calves born on the farm are named with the same first letter as their mother – in this case “R”. When Revlon was born, she had dark lines around her eyes like eyeliner and was named for the famous makeup line.
She descended from Matt’s line of 4-H show cattle, and she was a winner in her own right as well. “Oh, yes!” Judy said. “She won her share of championships.”
“If she were in school, she’d get straight A’s,” added Matt’s son Matthew Jr. (M.J.)
Along with the Brown Swiss, the family also shows their Beef Shorthorns and sheep. But Revlon’s been a favorite of everyone in the Smith family. “It’s just the way she is,” Les said.
Unlike the family’s first Brown Swiss, Revlon is a milker. Even at her advanced age, she is still producing 70-80 pounds of milk (nine or more gallons) each day. Her latest calf, Ripley, will be M.J.’s show animal this year.
The Brown Swiss cow is a North American breed derived from the Alpine Braunvieh (German for “brown cow”). Since July is National Ice Cream month, I decided to make a super simple brown (coffee) ice cream recipe in honor of this brown cow. This is also a great way to use up left over coffee.
More Acres Brown Swiss’ Coffee Ice Cream
2 cups brewed coffee
3/4 cup of sugar
2 cups of cream
3/4 cup whole milk
Directions: Simmer coffee in a sauce pan on the stovetop on medium to high heat until it is condensed down to 1 cup. Stir in sugar until dissolved and remove from heat. Chill thoroughly. In a bowl, add the chilled coffee to the cream and milk. Mix well and chill again. Follow the instructions on your ice cream maker to complete. Optional: top with a few chocolate covered espresso beans.