Current Progressive Dairy digital edition

0609 PD: Bruce Bradley: He found a better way

Leon Leavitt Published on 09 April 2009

Some of my earliest memories of Bruce Bradley took place when my sons and his sons were involved in Boy Scout activities nearly 28 years ago.

Fond memories of Scout campouts and the preparation of such events come back to mind. One late fall evening Bruce came to my garage to build a dog sled for Scouts to pull during a forthcoming winter Scout competition. Since Bruce was also handy with wood-working tools, we worked together in cutting, planing, drilling, screwing and gluing the sled’s framework to the ash runners underneath. Bruce made suggestions on how to build it better and stronger. That was his nature; he was always looking for a better way.



This same characteristic motivated Bruce to shift gears in his profession. He was involved in post-doctoral research in a medical facility in Vermont and decided there had to be a better way to make a living, especially if he could return to his native Idaho and be a part of the rapidly expanding dairy industry centered in Idaho’s Magic Valley.

After locating a home in Jerome during the summer of 1979, Bruce began his first laboratory for testing milk components, known as North West Labs Inc. Six months later he was joined by a former college associate, Bob Whitchurch, also a Ph.D., specializing in nutrition consulting and forage analysis. Together these two brilliant men expanded their business of dairy consulting, milk testing and forage analysis to include dairy farms in Oregon, Washington, California, Utah and other nearby states. In more recent years, microbiology services (bacteria, pathogenic organisms, etc.) were added to complement their complete dairy services. Bruce was always looking for and finding a better way.

While the emphasis in the early years was on providing the best testing and consulting services, there was a vacuum of printed information for dairymen in the Northwest. It was a lack of practical and useful information. In late 1986, they sent out their first newsletter entitled Northwest News to nearly 700 clients.

Bruce was not pleased with the newsletter’s name. He felt that progressive dairymen were the ones who would utilize the best management tools available, and the ones he provided, to maximize their dairy’s investment. Those progressive tools included milk testing, total mixed rations, scheduled vaccinations, forage analysis, artificial insemination, professional consultants in the fields of nutrition, finance, milking equipment, veterinary services, etc. The more he thought about it, the more the idea became riveted in his mind that “progressive dairymen use progressive tools.”

That was it! The next issue of their newsletter (March 1987) was to bear the title, The Progressive Dairyman. The name hit a responsive cord, and Bruce found a better way.


Because of my dairy science background and work experience, Bruce and I had much in common. We often talked about the possibility of me working as a field representative for their company, but it was mainly just “firing a shot over the bow” from both of us. Until that serendipitous day in March of ’87 when I walked into the front office of North West Labs Inc.

Bruce was standing there, holding the first issue of The Progressive Dairyman. He was a little frustrated on how that first print job turned out. And he was determined to find a better way.

In 1995, Bruce formed Rocky Mountain Resource Labs, a total microbiology lab, plus became involved in several areas of research, particularly in the detection and identification of pathogenic organisms in meat and dairy products. He developed and patented a bacterial sampling device known as the Microbial-Vac. He started another company in 2002 called MSI (Microbial-Vac Systems Inc.). His new company has 18 employees in Utah and Idaho. Bruce acquired a contract and several grants from the U.S. Department of Defense to further his research. His research has resulted in an effective tool (the M-Vac) for identifying harmful pathogens that could endanger meat and milk supplies, not only in the U.S., but worldwide. He found a better way.

It has been a unique and wonderful privilege for me to know, associate and work with Bruce and his wife, JoAnn, and their family. While his many projects and discoveries are numerous and worthy, I value most the commonality of our shared tenets which provide candid answers to life’s basic questions, “Where did I come from? Why am I here? and Where am I going?” Bruce shared with me and others his witness of these things over campfires, in church settings, in his home and in my home. Over the years our paths have crossed hundreds, if not thousands of times, and I have been a stronger person by being around this man who was always searching for, and finding, a better way. PD

Leon Leavitt
Publisher Emeritus
Progressive Dairyman