Rugged mountains form the backdrop for Perazzo Brothers Dairy near Fallon, Nev. The dairy features dry lot pens that have several 310- by 40-foot shades to shelter the cows from the hot desert sun.
Rugged mountains form the backdrop for Perazzo Brothers Dairy near Fallon, Nev. The dairy features dry lot pens that have several 310- by 40-foot shades to shelter the cows from the hot desert sun. PHOTO SUBMITTED
    FALLON, Nev. – When you think of dairy farming, you may not think of the high desert of west central Nevada. But, this is the area Perazzo Brothers Dairy calls home.
    Located about 60 miles east of Reno, Nev., Perazzo Brothers Dairy is operated by brothers David and Alan Perazzo along with David’s sons, Daniel and Michael, and Alan’s sons, Tyler and Brent. The Perazzos milk 1,100 Holsteins three times a day on their 230-acre farmstead. They hope to expand their herd by several hundred head in the near future.
    In 1989, a few years after taking ownership of the family dairy, David and Alan remodeled their dairy facilities to a double-10 parallel parlor and expanded their herd to 450 head. They wanted to add more cows, but there was no place for the additional milk to go.
    “We didn’t have enough processing capacity locally,” Alan said. “This meant that we had to send some of our milk over the hill to be processed in California. Transportation costs were very high.”
    Trucks that hauled milk from Perazzo Brothers Dairy to California for processing had to negotiate the famed Donner Pass which bends its way through the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
    “The highway crews do an excellent job of keeping Donner Pass open, but sometimes it just isn’t possible,” Alan said. “There would be times when our milk tanks were full, and we had to send milk down the drain.”
    This changed in 2014, when Dairy Farmers of America constructed a new milk drying plant in Reno, Nev.
    “The additional processing capacity that came with the new DFA drying plant made it possible for us to expand our herd to its present size,” Alan said.
    In 2014, Perazzo Brothers Dairy constructed a new dairy facility that included a double-30 parallel milking parlor. The dry lots where they keep their cows were expanded, and they built additional shade structures.
    “We only receive about 5 inches of rain per year, so the dry lot situation works very well for us,” Alan said. “We scrape the cement apron by the fence line feed bunks once a week and make mounds in the lots for the cows to stand on. We groom the lots regularly and haul out the manure in the wintertime. Neighborhood farmers are happy to take our manure.”
    Perazzo Brothers Dairy purchases nearly all of their feed.
    “We buy our hay from irrigated alfalfa farms in Nevada,” Alan said. “Our corn silage, haylage and rye silage are all locally grown. We purchase cottonseed, almond hulls and distillers grains from suppliers in California. Our shelled corn is shipped in by rail from the Midwest.”
    Alan said they are paying $240 per ton for dairy quality alfalfa hay.
    Altogether, the 17 dairies located in the Lahontan Valley produce about 25 truckloads of milk per day. Five of those truckloads are bottled for fluid consumption at Model Dairy in Reno, with the balance going to the DFA plant where it is dried and sold to the export market.
    “We receive a blend price that’s based on what percentage of the valley’s milk is bottled and what percentage is sold as Class IV dried milk,” Alan said. “But our transportation costs are much less than when we had to ship milk to California.”
    Dairying in the desert means being acutely aware of water usage.
    “We do everything that we can to conserve water,” Alan said. “Some of our water is used five times. You have to learn how to use every gallon of water as efficiently as possible.”
    When the Perazzo family constructed their new barn, they did much of the work themselves. The cost savings enabled them to add a little something extra to their facilities.
    “We decided to put a museum in the area above the office,” Alan said. “The museum has a window that gives visitors a view of the milking parlor. Our mother, Nancy, taught kindergarten for over 30 years and wanted to continue the tradition of education. We collected some of the old equipment such as milk buckets, butter churns and cream separators that our grandfather had used and put it in the museum. It’s good for kids to see how things were done back in the old days and compare that to how we do things now.”
    The roots of the Perazzo dairy operation can be traced back to Ellis Island.
    “Our grandfather, Otto Perazzo, was 3 years old when he and his family immigrated from Italy to America,” Alan said. “Otto came to Nevada as a young man. He settled in the Lahontan Valley and married his wife, Noma. In 1941, Otto and Noma began a dairy operation. They milked six Shorthorn cows by hand in an old chicken coop that had a dirt floor. They separated the cream and stored it in a concrete basin that was filled with cool water.”
    A dam that had been built in the early 1900s made the dream of irrigating the Lahontan Valley a reality. The area came to be known as the Eden of Nevada.
    John, David, Alan’s father, and John’s brother, Jim, eventually took over Otto’s dairy operation. In 1972, John and Jim built a double-4 herringbone parlor and expanded their herd to 100 head. David joined the dairy operation in 1981. Alan followed suit in 1983.
    Sharing their dairy story is very important to the Perazzo family.
     “We invite friends and schoolchildren out to our farm so that they can learn where their milk comes from,” David said. “We feel that we have been extremely blessed and want to give back to the community.”
    Perazzo Brothers Dairy had over 400 visitors to their dairy in one day.
      “This past June 1 was World Milk Day, so we put out an invitation for folks to come to our dairy and take a tour,” Alan said.
    In 2018, Perazzo Brothers Dairy was named the DFA Member of Distinction for the western area. This honor is given to dairy operators who excel in their operations, their community and the industry.
    “Dairy farming is a tough life, but it’s a good life,” Alan said. “It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s enjoyable, too. I’m excited to work with my sons and my nephews and see the next generation of our family continue our dairy farming tradition.”