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A Donut for Calves?

By Mary Fox

Tuesday evening, July 19, 2012, the Salamanca Historical Society held their monthly meeting at the Historical Society Museum in Salamanca. President Cathy Lacy introduced the speaker for the evening, Dan Brown, who gave an entertaining account of one very special cow on his farm.

Brown’s farm on Snow Brook Road in Great Valley is unique in this area for his organic methods of farming and milk production.

His robotic milking machine has become a local curiosity. Cows enter the robot “room” when they decide they are ready to be milked, usually every 12-14 hours. The robot records vital information from a collar the cow wears. It washes and milks them, then lets them out where they get a treat of grain. When it was first being tested, one cow went through 16 times while the men were at lunch, just for that treat of grain.

Folks are encouraged to stop by Brown’s barn and watch the process through the large window of his viewing room. One time, upon coming home after picking up his daughter Maitlin, the viewing room was full of people who had overheard his brother Ed talking about the machine at a local restaurant and all came to see it. A woman in the group encouraged Brown to get up front where he could see better. “I’ve seen it before,” he told her.

Brown has very high standards to meet to keep his organic farming certification. Inspections occur frequently and without notice.

Because of the more relaxed way the cows are handled, they live longer, have higher milk production and their number of calves has increased,” he said.

At auction one year, he purchased an old, pregnant cow with a bad foot. Her ear tag said “Donut.” She was 14 when she passed away this past December.

Donut was a pet when I got her,” said Brown, “and got worse from there. She got special treatment, which only made it worse. We would just let her loose. Because of her bad foot, she couldn’t go far and always returned to her stall in the barn.”

One day, he milked Donut and was trying to feed two calves with her milk. Donut was standing right there and Brown decided to eliminate the middleman and let Donut feed them. The calves thrived and Donut became the surrogate mother to all the baby calves. When they were moved out to the field she carried on, but soon there were more for her to feed.

Donut’s favorite place to lie under and “hide behind” was an oak tree in front of the barn. When she died last December, she was laid to rest under the oak tree.

Donut gave nine calves all named after a pastry such as Éclair, Muffin and Cupcake. There was even a male named Crispy Cream.

We don’t want to talk about Crispy Cream,” he said. “He wasn’t as friendly as his mother. “He got angry with me one day and I paid the price.”

Brown has been the Town of Great Valley Supervisor for six and a half years. When asked what he does with the time he has freed up while the robot is doing the work, he said with a grin, “Run for the State Assembly.” Which is exactly what he will be doing on the Democratic ticket this November.

Cathy Lacy along with Kate Seiflen, Dan’s stepdaughter, who helped with the photography, have written a book about Donut. After Dan’s presentation, Lacy and Seiflen held a book signing for their book, “Donut on the Farm.”

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