Modesto Dairy Solutions
It would be easy for younger generations to turn up their noses up at the dairy industry. Working in it demands long hours, knowledge of milking systems and science, compassion for people and animals. There’s a certain odor that takes getting used to.
That’s according to people who know the industry well, people like Ryan Calistro, co-owner of Modesto Dairy Solutions, which sells, installs, customizes and maintains DeLaval milking equipment and dairy systems.
Calistro is part of the dairy industry’s next generation, and he’s working to change the industry’s image, and the way dairymen in California and Arizona operate. He’s embraced the fine-tuned data and analytics that modern systems provide, and he’s helping dairymen customize and incorporate those tools into their operations.
Sensing what’s best
Modesto Dairy Solutions is a dairy farm equipment supplier with roots reaching back to the 1930s. It deals in DeLaval systems, and helps modern dairymen install things like identification systems, milk meters and activity collars. Together, those can identify individual cows, estimate how much milk each cow has and determine when cows are ready for breeding or no longer profitable.
They can control milk and wash temperatures and monitor electrical usage, too.
Thanks to modern technology, all of that information is fed into software which analyzes the data and can display it in user-friendly dashboards, providing daily reports on things like health and profitability.
This is a long way from the days of wooden milk buckets when dairy decision-making relied on experience and intuition alone. Yet, in an industry that can feel stuck in the mud when it comes to modernization, Modesto Dairy Solutions seems ahead of the herd.
Anticipating a tech-based trend
As it goes for so many, Calistro was born into the dairy industry.
His great-grandfather owned a dairy, and his father, who grew up on a dairy, began supplying milking equipment to dairy farmers as a young man. In 1998, Calistro’s father purchased Modesto Dairy Solutions, and Calistro, then 18, began working for the company.
But Calistro saw a shift coming. “I knew that a younger generation was going to be driven by data and information, more so than getting their hands in the dirt,” he says.
It’s no secret that the dairy industry is a tough business and dairies operate on a tight rope.
“The ones in business are doing that through extremely efficient systems and data processes,” Calistro says. “Whether it be through monitoring their feed or milk, every little part of the dairy has to be analyzed to be profitable, and so I wanted to be able to supply the equipment and the know-how, and have the team prepared to handle that switch.”
Since he took over in 2009, he’s been aligning Modesto Dairy Solutions with dairymen who are eager to embrace the benefits tech-driven systems can provide.
Talent tailors new solutions
Based in Hilmar, California, Modesto Dairy installs “all the guts inside the buildings,” Calistro says. That includes all of the controls and automation for milk handling and cooling.
In 2012, the company acquired another DeLaval dealership in Buckeye, Arizona. With it came electrical engineers and new talent who helped Modesto Dairy Solutions modernize its offerings even more.
“They’re just doing things in Arizona that the rest of the industry just doesn’t see,” Calistro says.
Thanks to the talent acquired, Modesto Dairy Solutions can now offer advanced monitoring, customization, touchscreen controls and mobile-friendly dashboards. The various components of the milking operation—milk tank controls, stall controls, wash controls, vacuum pump controls—can all be managed from a centralized station. That’s opposed to the older systems, in which each component would have had its own, separate controls.
“We just condense all of that, write it into one program, where you can have everything centralized and monitored on a level that no one else is doing because it’s customized by us,” Calistro says.
Customization is key, as it allows somewhat canned solutions to be tailored to each individual dairy and its needs.
And the needs of the cows. A big part of what Calistro purveys is systems that make cows more comfortable, and thus, more productive.
Customers who get it
A critical component of Modesto Dairy Solutions’ success is finding the right people—both customers and employees.
“The customer base I work with is progressive,” Calistro says. “I like to work with dairy farmers who are open to change and interested in the ideas and technology we have to offer.”
The company is about to complete a new facility, the first brand new milking facility that will use all of the systems Modesto Dairy Solutions has to offer. “All the bells and whistles,” Calistro says.
Modesto’s systems will allow that client, a dairy that currently has 1,500 cows, to grow to 3,000 cows.
Offering careers, not jobs
As a young business owner, looking to grow the company, Calistro is driven by potential return-on-investment, and one of his largest investments is the company’s employees.
Modesto Dairy Solutions seeks people who treat their work like a career, not just a job, hiring based on qualities that are not teachable, like personality and professional appearance. Ideally, he finds people who have some sort of technical schooling or have worked in a related field.
Once hired, each employee works with a lead service manager or lead installer for months, and during that time Modesto Dairy Solutions doesn’t charge for serviced rendered by that employee.
“A good employee is an asset to Modesto, and I’ve found that investing in employees with career goals helps us provide the best service to our customers and makes my business sustainable,” Calistro says.
Because Modesto Dairy Solutions has in-house mechanical and electrical engineers, it’s able to get into the “nitty gritty, the nuts and bolts” and build automations around what works best for each individual dairy, Calistro says.
“Each individual dairy is totally different,” he says. “That’s why I have to have a guy training for six months, because it takes that amount of time for him to understand the product and service well enough to properly serve our customers.”
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