As we research topics here at The Bullvine there is always an undercurrent of expectation. You never know the “when” or “where” of the next big surprise. Most often it is the “who” that makes our days special. As we began the background work on a series we have planned on robotic milking, we lined up several interviews (Read more – Robotic Milking: More than just automation it’s a new style of herd management). It became obvious that the go-to expert in this area would be Francisco Rodriguez, DVM, Holstein Breeder, Dairy Management Advisor Automatic Milking for DeLaval North America. Not only did we get tremendous insight from his experience in this new and growing field but, once again, we met a passionate cow man who is following a dream.
Five Farming Generations in Colombia
Francisco is the 5th generation of farmers in Colombia. His grandfather was a dairyman, cattleman and one of the pioneers in the genetic development of the Paso Fino horse. Francisco, like others in his family, inherited that love for raising livestock. He recounts how his own interest was ignited. “Our dairy was relatively small and my Dad needed a simultaneous job to keep up with his new family. Then he joined Semex Colombia as a sales representative, I remember going to the farm since the beginning of my life, but I got in love of Dairy cows when every month a catalogue or a magazine from Canada or USA arrived home. Instead of reading about superman or batman I started reading about Starbuck, Aerostar, Raider, Laurie Sheik, etc. etc. I developed a true love for cows and genetics becoming the foundation of my life together with my passion for business, as my mother has had clothing stores her entire life, allowing me to get the entrepreneur spirit at a very young age.
Single Minded Student
Because of his passion for dairy cows and horses, Francisco decided to go to Vet School after graduating from High School. He had tremendous academic success and was the best student in the faculty for four years in succession. After graduation, Francisco’s internship continued in the USA. “When I finished my Vet School I started an internship in one of the largest and most progressive western dairies in the USA. I learned from the management of an operation milking thousands of cows.”
Vet-Businessman in Colombia
After one year gaining experience, Francisco made the decision to move back to Colombia. His career now became more business focused as he adapted to the opportunities arising there. “When I arrived in Colombia two very interesting things happened. My Dad Francisco Rodriguez and my genetics mentor Juan Pablo Muriel started a partnership and became the exclusive Select Sires Dealership in Colombia!!” This was exciting explains Francisco because of the opportunity it gave him to understand both the genetics industry from both the Canadian and the US perspective. A new opportunity soon presented itself. “At the same time DeLaval hired me as a Sales Manager for The Andean and Caribbean countries, working with farmers from 1 – 30,000 milking cows, from Water Buffalo to High yielding Holsteins, and traveling all over the world learning the different dimensions in milk production. “
More Diversity. More Studies. Big Vision.
By now, it was clear that Francisco like generations before him could comfortably handle several different challenges at the same time. He clarifies. “Simultaneously with my work at DeLaval I continued developing my business skills graduating from Business School as a Strategic Marketing Management Specialist. I am a passionate individual, a dreamer, and I’ve been developing my life under friendship, excellence, focus and education, always starting small but thinking big, with a wide vision.
Achieving the Dream
It isn`t surprising that someone whose family, studies and passion all revolve around cows would want to own them as well. Sure enough he confirms, “Since I was a kid I had a dream of my own registered Holstein herd, I liked my Dad’s commercial cows but that was not enough for me, I wanted purebreds, I wanted to become a real breeder.” With that end in mind he worked very hard to make it become reality. He outlines what it took. “Simultaneously with my position at DeLaval, in 2007 my parents and I founded Colganados RV.” Colganados is a dairy business based on added value strategies, particularly genetics. Francisco explains how they carried out this philosophy. “Colganados started with 15 cows, 30 heifers and 25 embryos selected from the best cow families available in the Colombian Market, most of them coming from well known Canadian and American Blood lines. Today Colganados RV milks approximately 200 registered Holsteins and develops one of the most aggressive Holstein breeding programs in Latin America.”
Open to A New Opportunity
For many, this would have marked the high point in a fast-rising career. For Francisco – dairyman- veterinarian- breeder- businessman it was just the beginning. In 2010 DeLaval offered to relocate Francisco to Madison, WI as the Dairy Management Advisor – Automatic Milking for North America. In describing what this felt like, he says, “I compare it to a pilot being asked to race in Formula 1.” Joking aside he admits that it was a tough decision to make. “I had a life built in Colombia and at the same time I had a unique opportunity in the heart of the dairy industry. My parents and employees gave me the strength and then I accepted the challenge and moved to Madison in 2011.”
Love and Marriage
2011 marked special changes in Francisco’s life. He sums it up, “I got married to a wonderful woman, met wonderful people, made new friends and of course that put in the best place to continue reaching my dreams and accomplishing goals as a professional and as a breeder.”
Enter Robotic Milking
An interesting facet of Francisco’s career opportunity would be that he would be working with Robotic Milking and high end technology. This has been tremendously positive he reports. “It has exposed me to the most progressive farmers and advisors around the world, especially in the North American Market. On average I visit two robotic herds every day, it is amazing to evaluate the quantity of miles and farms we see in a year!!!”
Building on a Firm Family Foundation
Even more amazing than the miles Francisco travels, are the achievements he makes on several fronts simultaneously. “In the beginning of 2012 I was missing having my own herd so together with my wife we started looking for the next level. For us that would mean being a dairy breeder in the North American Market with a global Scope.” Never one to dream big without doing his homework Francisco tells what they did next, all the while making it sound easy. “After visiting some of the most influential herds in the USA and Canada we met the foundation of our new project KHW Regiment Apple A1 RED-ETN a clone of the R & W world champion 2011 and million dollar APPLE.” This purchase is a fascinating story on its own. Another day perhaps.
The Bullvine Bottom Line
And so a passionate cattle man continues on several fronts to build his dream. In April 2012 Colganados began its history as a member of the USA Holstein Association. There have been many dimensions to the journey so far but Francisco recognizes that the diversity is what keeps him passionate “At the end of the day, the combination of all different kinds of knowledge, experiences and daily life bring a unique vision for every person.” Exactly!