Medeiros builds success
Medeiros builds success with conservative, progressive approach
Since graduating from Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo with a double major in dairy science and agribusiness management, Brian Medeiros, 25, has taken a larger management role at Medeiros & Son Dairy, Hanford, Calif.
Rui and Alvarina Medeiros and their son Brian were the 2013 Kings County Dairy Family of the Year.
(Photo by Jackie Giacomazzi)
By Ron Goble
Rui Medeiros has loved cows since his childhood in the Azores, where his neighbor had four cows. Anytime he’d get a chance to help with the cows, Rui jumped at the opportunity.
That love of dairy cows came with him when he immigrated to the United States from his native Portugal in 1987. Initially settling in Southern California, Rui milked cows for Chino dairy producer Dimas Costa. After seven years, Rui and his wife, Alvarina, purchased 64 cows of their own, renting a dairy facility in the San Joaquin Valley.
He and his young son, Brian, started milking for themselves in 1994. Today, father-son team are milking 2,500 Holsteins 3X on their Medeiros & Son Dairy, Hanford, Calif.
Brian, 25, grew up working on his father’s dairies, but has now taken a major management role after graduating in 2010 from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo with a double major in dairy science and agribusiness management.
“We talk through most every decision on the dairy,” said Brian. “Whether it’s a major addition or a relatively small investment, Dad and I talk about everything, and sometimes the discussions can be somewhat heated. But we work together well, with much the same goals and values.”
Their milking string averages 82 lbs. of milk/cow/day with a rolling herd average of 26,417 lbs., good enough to receive second-high herd honors for production from Kings County DHIA last year. All their milk goes to California Dairies, Inc.
Medeiros & Son Dairy has undergone several upgrades since its purchase in 2003. Originally, it was an open lot dairy for about 1,200 cows. But Rui’s vision was to build a freestall facility with twice that capacity. The open lots were replaced with five large freestall barns, each housing 500 cows, divided into two, 250-cow pens. They also built a large maternity barn, which has served them and their animals well.
The Medeiros don’t waste anything. They separate and compost all their manure solids, using what they need for freestall bedding. Any extra is spread on their 1,600 acres, where they grow about 60% of their forages – corn silage and alfalfa hay – and their entire supply of heifer and dry cow feeds.
They’ve upgraded all their farm tractors with GPS units, significantly cutting tractor hours and wasted trips through the fields.
In the milk barn
Medeiros went from an old double-15 to updated double-35 Westfalia parallel stalls in 2003. More recently, they replaced the manual milking system with BECO FlowNexus automatic detachers and the BECO ParlorScan monitoring system.
Brian said the new system has allowed them to milk more cows in much less time, and the software gives him the ability to monitor both individual cow and employee performance.
The system does more then just automatically remove units. Integrated with the BECO ParlorScan software, a clear picture on what took place during the milking session unfolds.
“Our new system allows us to see how things are being done in the milk barn,” Brian explained. “Before we thought our cows were being milked how we desired, but discovered that was not the case. Now we know exactly how our cows are letting down their milk, how long they are taking to milk out, and if our employees are putting cows on manual or not. This information allows us to better manage milking procedures and ensure we do the best job we can.”
Proper procedures and milking consistency are vital to maximizing production and maintaining good herd health. But, parlor management is one of the most difficult tasks on a dairy, because management cannot be there 24/7 to be certain everything is being done properly all the time.
The system monitors the number of cows milked, the number of automatic vs. manual detachments, and “no milk” detachments. Milking times, idle time and parlor turns are measured. More importantly, the system shows data and analysis of other critical events, such as cow prep and reattach data, and manual and over-milking numbers.
The new system also allows Medeiros to efficiently run at capacity: three 8-hour milker shifts, with only 15 minutes of down time after each shift.
“We’ve also noticed improvement in the teat-end health of our cows and overall improved herd health with less mastitis,” Brian said. Their somatic cell count has consistently been between 80,000 to 100,000 cells per milliliter.
“On the employee side, the new system has improved working conditions for our milkers, going from an antiquated manual system to one that’s automatic,” he said.
“I’m constantly looking at how to take different parts of our operations to the next level,” Brian explained. “Dad has always been very successful in getting us to where we are by maintaining a very fiscally conservative house. We look at all the numbers carefully – the income and the outgo – especially when we are considering something substantial. The bottom line is if we can’t pay for it, we don’t do it. That fiscal philosophy has served us well in good times and bad.”
Brian is always looking at maintaining and bolstering the sustainable aspects of their dairy and farming operation. He views sustainability from an economic, social and environmental perspective – and in that order.
“If it’s not economical, it doesn’t matter how environmental it might be, we can’t afford to do it,” he said.
“We’re not done yet with improvements,” Brian continued. “We are planning to add milk meters and RFID to the milking system. Our heifers already come back from the calf ranch with RFID tags in their ears. And eventually, we plan to be operating the dairy and the farm under solar power.”