If you drive past the pastures on the farm of Neal Monson and his brother-in-law Peter Imbier, you might not see what you expect. Sure, there are cows lolling in the sun and grazing in the pastures, but they aren't the white and black-spotted Holsteins so common to the dairy industry. And they aren't the brown Jerseys some farms choose for their high butterfat. Nope, the Imbier-Monson Farm is populated by a breed that's quite rare to dairy farming in the Northeast: Brown Swiss.
"I grew up with Swiss. It's the breed I know best," explains Neal Monson when asked about his somewhat unusual choice of cattle. "We're all about commitment and longevity, and Brown Swiss fit that model perfectly. We've got one Swiss that's 15 years old and still milking strong and calving every year. To have Holsteins that last for six years and then get put on a truck... that's out of my ballpark."
Of course, there are compromises: Brown Swiss simply don't produce the same quantity of milk as their more common bovine cousins. But, as Monson is quick to point out, they compensate with high butterfat and protein, qualities that allow Imbier and Monson to collect a significant price premium. These premiums are particularly important during the downturns in the market.
While market conditions can make Monson's goals a bit challenging, there's little doubt that he shares at least one trait with his beloved Brown Swiss: Longevity. Over fifty years old, with the entirety of his adult life already devoted to milking cows, Neal Monson's not planning to quit anytime soon. "I just want to milk cows and make a living. It's not very complicated, but it feels right to me."