Written by: Dave Kelly

Circa-1960 photo of Sunny Brook Dairy milk tanker

If you live in Florida, you know that we share our state with cows. Brown cows. Black cows. Cows of every color. When most of us think of cows, we think of cattle drives and steak—and may not realize that the Sunshine State has more than 200 dairy farms, as well.

M&B Dairy is a classic example of the family-owned Florida dairy. In addition to using local sustainable resources, the business features products that are consumed in our schools, and also gives time and knowledge to children in our communities.

M&B Dairy is really two locations: The dairy farm itself, with more than 650 head of cattle on a 325-acre site, is located in Lecanto, in Citrus County. M&B Products processing plant is in the original dairy farm location on 200 acres in Temple Terrace, in Hillsborough County.

Owner Dale McClellan’s journey to today’s successful operation has taken him and his family through years of ups and downs, all the while leaning toward community engagement. He was born and raised on Sunny Brook Dairy, the original name of the farm in Temple Terrace, which was owned and operated by his grandparents, the Lovelace family.

M&B Dairy was founded in the 1950s and it furnished milk the old-fashioned way—in individually-capped glass bottles. It supplied products to regional companies such as the Tampa-based Kash n’ Karry Food Stores, Inc. McClellan had “milk in his blood” from a young age, so when Sunny Brook Dairy struggled financially in 1977, he stepped in and started his own dairy on the land, with 500 cows that had been his grandparents’ herd.

Strawberry-flavored milk adds variety to school lunches
Leon McClellan with newborn calf

After years of work and preparation, he reopened the plant as M&B Products in 1987, and in 2003, he moved the cattle to the new location in Lecanto. At the time, M&B focused on juice items and schools—a smart decision that would pave the way for the future success of the dairy. Milk packaging started in 2006 for Gustafson Dairy, with the bulk of these products set aside for state schools.

These days, the herd is kept in a special barn at the Lecanto location, with temperature control to ensure comfort. Each individual cow is fed a nutrient-rich diet three times a day and consumes about 110 pounds of it. The feed consists of hominy, citrus pulp, cotton seeds, distiller’s grain from the beer industry, and soybean meal.

About 40 to 50 gallons of fresh water for each cow washes it all down. In between feedings, individual cows relax on specially imported clean beach sand that keeps them extra cool in the summertime.

 M&B Dairy is currently milking about 650 head of cattle each day, three times a day, every day of the week. Each cow produces about 85 pounds of milk daily, which is approximately 10 gallons. Exiting the cows at a warm 101 degrees, the milk is routed into cooling pipes that feed 6,000-gallon tanks, which fill up about every 18 hours.

When the tanks are full, the milk is sent to the Temple Terrace location. There it is pasteurized, homogenized and often flavored with chocolate or strawberry. It is then packaged for schools as far away as Seattle.

The production plant gets a large tanker of milk each day from its own dairy, and an additional seven to nine tankers from other Florida dairies, enabling the processing of more than 35,000 gallons of milk each day. Then, early each morning, M&B’s fleet of more than 50 trucks hits the road to distribute their fresh goodness.

Up to 20 cows can be milked at the same time

The McClellan family is proud of its implementation of a sustainable culture at both the cattle farm and the processing plant. The housing barn is flushed three times a day, washing waste down into a concrete-lined holding tank. This potential sewer water, as well as wastewater at the processing plant that has a special federal permit, is de-nitrified and used to water and fertilize the fields, thereby saving millions of gallons in sewer water annually.

Additionally, the solid waste that has been separated from the wastewater is sold to fertilizer companies to be reused in other Florida fields. “Reduce, reuse and recycle” is not just a slogan—it’s a way of life on the farms.

The McClellans have spent countless hours giving back to the local agricultural community. Every year, Dale McClellan’s son Leon takes pregnant cows that are ready to give birth to the Florida State Fair in Tampa. There they can participate in the “Moo-ternity” program, which is an instructional hands-on experience that allows the cows to give birth in a theater for spectators to learn from.

Additionally, each year the family donates calves to youths in local 4-H programs. These hardworking 4-H’ers raise their calves during the spring and summer months. The youths then sell their calves at auction, garnering money for an agriculture-based education and valuable life experience.

The dairy even has a mascot named “Buffy the Cow.” The mascot helps “Farmer Dale” explain to children that, while dairy products may be bought in a grocery store, they all originate on farms and come from cows such as “Buffy.” On its website, the dairy’s “Kids Room” offers educational coloring pages that can be downloaded.

With a growing list of school contracts, first-class production facilities and a deep-rooted commitment to their local community, McClellan family members are proving that investing in Florida’s agricultural growth is a great service to all.

Pints of milk being packaged in bulk


M&B Products

8601 Harney Road

Tampa, Florida

813-988-2211, mbproducts.com