Thursday, 6 August 2009

Got Milk? Dairy Uses Water Beds to Increase Production- Points to Opportunity

Got milk? Munroe does
10:49 AM EDT on Monday, August 3, 2009
By Alisha A. Pina

Journal Staff Writer
Begun in 1881, Munroe Dairy’s processing plant in East Providence is the oldest business in the city at 128 years old.
The Providence Journal / Frieda Squires

Geovanny Hernandez pulls fresh half-gallon containers of milk off the line at Munroe Dairy’s processing plant in East Providence.
The Providence Journal / Frieda Squires

Munroe Dairy cows in Brooklyn, Conn., have waterbeds to rest on, which reduces stress on joints and hips and decreases a cow’s chances of getting arthritis, according to Lindsay Armstrong. The dairy’s cows are kept at five family farms in Connecticut.
Photo courtesy of Monroe Dairy

EAST PROVIDENCE — Happy cows are productive cows, say the folks at Munroe Dairy, the city’s oldest business.

So the Connecticut bovines that supply 11,000 customers in Rhode Island now sleep on waterbeds.

Less stress for the animals increases their production of milk, says Lindsay Armstrong of the Munroe sales department.

The beds consist of thick rubber bladders filled with water and covered with hay that reduce the strain on joints and hips and decrease the cows’ chances of getting arthritis, Armstrong says.

The happy cows — which are housed and milked on five family farms in Connecticut — can produce 40 to 80 quarts a day each and 500 of them are needed to supply the Munroe customers.The 128-year-old business is doing well despite the nation’s financial woes. Owner Robert Armstrong Jr. says it has 11,000 customers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, a thousand or so off its peak a few years ago.

“I would say we are doing good, but we could be better,” Armstrong said. His grandfather, Robert Armstrong Sr., bought the business from the Munroe family in 1936. “Within the last two months, we have dropped a bit.”

General manager Andrew Yaghjian said the dairy, which employs 63 people, has about $10 million in annual gross sales. It sells an average of 20,000 gallons of milk — chocolate, coffee, low-fat, fat-free, whole and others — a week. It also home-delivers a host of other products, such as eggs, juices, poultry, fresh breads and baked goods. North Brow St. plant to be upgraded, enlarged

After 128 years, Munroe Dairy has decided to stay put in its production plant on North Brow Street, overlooking the Seekonk River.

But the plant — particularly the maintenance garage for itssignature cow-spotted delivery trucks — needs improvements.

The doors of the garage, which is part of the original building from 1881, are smaller than the height of all the dairy’s newest trucks.

Munroe got zoning clearance from the City Council in July for a new four-bay, 5,000-square-foot garage, costing $350,000. “With this economy and businesses looking to move out, it’s heartening to hear [the business doesn’t have any plans to leave East Providence],” said Mayor Joseph Larisa Jr.

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