SAN PEDRO DE LOS MILAGROS, Colombia – In one of the most milk-producing municipalities in Colombia, Delio de Jesus Arboleda has developed special ties with the cows on his La Campiña dairy farm, where he has made milking an art aided by innovative technology.
Before the sun begins to rise over San Pedro de los Milagros, he makes his first contact with the herd, which only requires his presence to fall in line and start an organized amble to where he will begin collecting the first liters (gallons) of his well-known milk.
“Not everyone in this line of work gets such a fine quality of milk, because they don’t have that love of the animals,” Arboleda, who bought his first cow when he was 12 years old and now, after almost 50 years, has brought important progress to the village of Pantanillo, told EFE.
“From that age, the urge to do this work better and a liking for livestock began taking hold of me,” the farmer said.
The calm he communicates to his livestock keeps them “soothed,” but also raises the quality of the liters that a large company in the milk and meat sector buys from him.
“Cows are very special – they get tense if they’re not managed properly and that makes them gruff,” Arboleda said.
His day always begins at 4 o’clock in the morning, even on Sunday, with the milking of 16 Holstein and Jersey cows that provide more than 220 liters (58 gallons) per day after following a strict protocol that has made La Campiña one of the first small farms certified for good dairy farming practices.
And to this “love of milking,” reflected in methodical work, correct hygiene, healthy livestock and the permanent presence of a veterinarian, he has added the application of technology that has boosted quality, once he learned its benefits through training courses provided by the Interactuar Corp.
The arrival of experts to the municipality, who not only taught him about added value and technification, but also showed him that “at whatever age you can still make progress,” he became the first dairy farmer in his village to acquire a refrigerated tank to guarantee the conservation of all the good qualities of his milk.
“If you have fine quality milk, you’ll always be paid a better price,” said Arboleda, to whom a medical diagnosis gave the final push to quit milking manually: “I couldn’t keep milking, my hand was seizing up.”
So he switched to a milking machine that proved to be more productive, cutting milking time and causing fewer illnesses to the cattle while improving their health.
“That technology changed my life,” he said while lining up the cows for the afternoon milking, starting with his cow “Lavanda” and ending with “Tortolita,” in a process that went on for an hour in the green mountains of San Pedro de los Milagros, to which he brought this technology revolution.
From then on, according to the pioneer of that step forward, his neighbors began to change and now “only 20 percent milk their cows by hand.”
“At this moment there are eight hands milking,” he said as the machines operated and the sound of their suction was repeated on the neighboring farms, where parallel milking sessions were also carried out at 3 pm.
Hernando David Camargo, zootechnician and consultant for the Base Acceleration Method program at Interactuar, said that following a strict “sequence” allows the final product to be “innocuous.”
“It’s important that we don’t mistreat the animals and that we stick to a routine,” the expert said, adding that care must also be taken with other aspects such as “disinfection, hygienic milking and sealing the teats to avoid the entry of infectious bacteria.”
According to Camargo, San Pedro de los Milagros has developed into a municipality of “specialized dairy farms” with cattle “genetically adapted to the area,” land with hillside slopes and whose fertilized pastures are highly productive.
“Two milkings a day are done here, all diseases are under control, while an excellent management of the animals makes sure they stay calm and will be at their most productive,” the zootechnician specializing in nutrition said.