Santiago de Querétaro, a city in central Mexico, is know for its well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture including a striking pink stone aqueduct. One of the States with the most stable social and political situation along with a low crime rate, Querétaro is noted as having the lowest levels of corruption among all of Mexico’s states. Querétaro is one of the countries strongest economic states and has three main sectors of the economy: agriculture, mining/industry and commerce/services. Agriculture makes up the higher percentage of local employment and GDP in rural municipalities. Also, one of the leading milk producers in the country, Querétaro farms also breed top quality livestock and dairy cows.
Sitting on the outskirts of Querétaro City in the municipality of Tequisquiapan is Rancho Fuentezuelas. The 1100 cow milking herd comprised of mostly Holsteins is owned and operated by José Ignacio Cervantes Noriega and his family.
Beginnings Lead to Expansion
Starting out with a farm in 1954 in the municipality of Zumpango in the State of Mexico, Jose Ignacio’s grandfather Ignacio Cervantes Spada built a commercial herd until 1984. In 1984, Ignacio’s son José Eduardo Cervantes Gutiérrez took over the general manager position. In 1999 José Ignacio took over the farm management and in 2005 a decision was made to move to their current location outside of Querétaro. Looking to grow in size, José Ignacio maintained 60% of the original herd and acquired another herd from San Juan del Rio. During this time Ignacio realized the importance of milk recording, registration, milk quality determination and cow classification and became partners with Holstein Mexico under the Ftezuelas prefix. Even though Ignacio’s father, José Ignacio Cervantes Gutiérrez’s main focus resided with a tricycle factory business and more recently rental office space, he has been the farms finance advisor for over 30 years and a true mentor to Ignacio.
Milking twice per day during the 1980’s and 1990’s, in 2005 the cows were moved to three times a day milking in a double 16 parallel milking parlour. Milking pretty much around the clock, the decision to build a 60-cow rotary parlour became a reality in 2015. This system has allowed the farm to track individual milk, fat, protein, lactose and somatic cell counts. These aspects along with automatic feeders sent the herd into the next level of innovation and large herd success.
After finishing college and then working for Alltech, Ignacio’s passion for the cows brought him home and he began classifying the herd in 2006. Focusing on first lactation cows with rescores on a small group of cows each year, today the herd average is 81.36 points with 6 Excellent cows including 1 cow at 2E and 1 cow at 4E along with 72 VG cows. The Afi Farm system is utilized for milk recording with owner
sampling information sent once per month. A herd average of 11,800 kilograms of milk with 3.7% fat and 3.35% protein also continues to be improved on. Feeding a total mixed ration five times per day for high producers with active pushing up of feed every 45 minutes provides better yields. Different feeding along with grouping by lactation, production and days in milk allows them to achieve top results in both
conception and production.
A land base of 300 hectares includes 200 in corn silage, with rotation of Triticale silage in the winter months, and 100 acres of alfalfa with 10 cuts per year. However, even with their irrigation systems it is still necessary to purchase alfalfa hay and barley straw each year. “At a feed cost of 72% of our costs it continues to be one of our biggest challenges in ways to maximize our cost of feed efficiency,” said Ignacio.
The 170 calves are housed in hutches and are fed whole milk that is purified through UV rays that break the pathogens down without losing the protein and fat. They are also fed a free choice calf starter and water as needed with hay introduced shortly after they are weaned at 60 days. In 2016 after a trip to Canada a decision was made to do combined housing for the weaning process to help alleviate stress. Setting their hutches up side by side has allowed them to drop the centre divider allowing calves to co-mingle and be social during the weaning process. Calves are then moved at 5 months of age to Rancho San Jose Buenavista where they are bred at 13 months of age and remain until calving.
Ignacio’s belief that allowing his managers to take major roles in the company has allowed him to retain a lot of good employees for extended periods of time. Tanhea Sotomayor has been with Rancho Fuentezuelas for 9 years. She is a certified veterinarian who focuses on cow health, management and nutrition. In the calf area, Mariana Camacho is responsible for the calf management while Gabino González looks after feeding and works on nutrition with Tanhea. These along with several outside consultants and a total of 80 farm employees for the land and cattle make up a strong team at Fuentezuelas.
Another part of the farm’s success has come through their improvement in genetics. The thoughts of having structurally healthy cows with longer productive life led Ignacio into a partnership with Semex in 1999. “My initial goal was to improve my herd’s udders as well as feet and legs. This led me to bulls like Lheros, Samuelo, Magot, Outside, Gibson and Spirte in the early years for corrective mating’s with great
success,” said Ignacio.
In 2003 Promate was introduced and by 2013 Semex decided Rancho Fuetezuelas should be part of their worldwide “Ranchos Elites” program. In 2011 genomic sires were introduced with Immunity+ Sires put on the mating sire list after 2014. Even though Ignacio now works on group matings instead of individual he still uses a strict selection for traits focusing on 50% production and 50% type. These include positive
numbers for milk solids, health traits and a focus on immunity health while trying to choose bulls over 1500 GTPI. Using 90% sires from Semex has allowed him to utilize bulls like Gymnast, Apprentice, Kerrigan, Archemedes and Eugenio along with sexed semen from Macadam, Fortune and Millenium, while Alta’s 10% in the tank include Mantra and TooHot.
Even though Ignacio admits he loved importing cattle from North America and has some great genetics from there, the introduction of sexed semen to mate all his virgin heifers has allowed him to use his own genetics as replacements each year. This aspect, along with the opportunity to sell some pregnant heifers, has helped increase the genetic gain and cash flow from genetics.
Ignacio openly admits, “Even though our main business is not selling genetics, exhibiting at Queretaro twice a year has provided a great social outlet and a way to compare our cows.” Ignacio laughs, “it has been a lot of fun and…well maybe a bit of an expensive hobby!”
One of the most significant purchases Ignacio made was Framan Rhyme Shelley EX-95 5E. Shelley was purchased with a group of open heifers in 2009 from Canada and in the last couple of years has become well known throughout Mexico placing 2nd as an Aged Cow in 2015 and then 1st in the Aged Cow class and Honorable Mention Senior Champion at the Mexico National Holstein show in 2017. Most recently
Shelley was the 1st Aged Cow at the 2018 Leon show. Shelley, now with over 80,380 kilograms of milk, joined the EX-95 club along with the herds first 95 point cow, Ftezuelas Instict 1417 1F. Instict has 7 lactations with 74,649 kg of milk at 3.6% fat and 3.0% protein and is now EX-95 4E. Two other cows have made a big impact at the farm are Ftezuelas Fever 5337 EX-91 and Ftezuelas Kingly 3306 EX-92 2E. Fever 5337 was the 2nd 4 Year Old and best bred and owned in class at the Mexico National Holstein show in 2017 and was the first animal to be sold for show; she is now owned by J. De Jesus Garcia Plascenia. Kingly 3306, with her massive frame and width of chest, captured 2nd 5 Year Old and best bred and owned in class at the Mexico National show in 2015 and continues to be a farm favorite. “We have been in the hunt for Premier Breeder for about eight years. We consider this a big accomplishment
because our show cows and heifers run with the general population all the time. Winning the Junior Breeder banner at the Conference of America show last summer was really exciting,” said Ignacio.
Plans for the future
The continued focus on increasing production and cow numbers also promotes a plan to continue to educate consumers through farm tours. “We already have about 10 tours per year which we really enjoy. We hope long term we can have more Agri-Tours at the farm because I feel it is very important we continue to educate our consumers,” said Ignacio.
In the consumer consumption area, Fuentezuelas is already looking towards the future and currently ships 300 litres of milk to a local cheese maker, Bocanegra Iker Zarain. “I believe times are moving fast and it is important for our business to continue to provide what the consumer is asking for when it comes to milk products,” said Ignacio. This opportunity and a goal of continuing to add to the litres shipped has given Ignacio a reason to consider adding Jerseys to his herd.
Ignacio’s dedication to the industry and his farm’s future is represented through his roles as a member of the Holstein Mexico board and a member of the Genomics committee for Alpura. The early interest of his children Sofia (13) and Iñaki (10) is also a great reminder of his passion. Ignacio admits an email from Tom Byers in February 2017 after a classification workshop at Rancho Fuentezuelas was something he was extremely proud to hear. “Ignacio and Tanhea, your enthusiasm, your management, particularly your passion for cows gets me excited! The highlight for me was the quality of your cows but also the uniformity among your 1st lactation heifers. Your cows are very healthy looking dairy cows with good udders and great body condition. It was great also great to see how healthy and well cared for your young calves are, as they are your future,” said Tom. Ignacio’s drive and commitment to the future improvements of his herd and his business along with his passion will continue to make Rancho Fuentezuelas a leader in the industry.