Andy and Jerry Vaz knew they had found the right lender the first time they reviewed their financial records with Shane Hall, chief lending officer at Ag New Mexico.
The brothers — owners of Vaz Dairy in Roswell, New Mexico — try to keep their debt load low. And they prefer a loan officer who respects and supports their fiscally conservative approach to dairy farming.
“Shane looked at our portfolio and said he could work with us to meet our immediate and long-term business goals,” says Jerry. “Now, we are well-situated thanks to our work with Shane and Ag New Mexico.”
For Vaz Dairy, disciplined spending and strong risk management are key to the operation’s success.
“We are confident that our business strategies and our strong relationship with Ag New Mexico will help us weather the highs and lows in the market,” says Jerry.
Starting in California
The brothers’ entrepreneurial spirit and love for dairy farming started with their grandfather, Evaristo Vaz. He emigrated from the Azores Islands in 1906 and established a farm in California. Their father, Raymond, followed in his footsteps, building a 300-cow dairy in the state’s San Joaquin Valley.
A generation later, when Andy and Jerry joined the family operation, the facility was not large enough for them all. And buying expensive farmland was out of the question.
In 1993, Raymond packed up his family and several hundred dairy cows and moved to eastern New Mexico. They wanted the opportunity to expand their herd and grow their own feed.
The move paid off. The family formed Vaz Dairy, leased an existing facility near Roswell and tripled the herd size to 900 cows. Ten years later, Jerry and Andy formed a partnership and bought the business.
Running the dairy
Today the Vaz brothers milk 3,500 cows and raise 3,000 replacement heifers. They are members of Select Milk Producers, and much of their milk is sold to Leprino Foods, the world’s largest mozzarella cheesemaker, which has a plant in Roswell.
They also grow 60% of their feed — wheat, barley, alfalfa, corn and sorghum — on 1,000 acres of farmland.
If the right growth opportunities come along or if their children choose to join the business, they will consider expanding the operation.
To remain profitable, Andy and Jerry continually seek ways to improve efficiency and reduce risk. They forward-contract milk and participate in the Dairy Revenue Protection insurance program, which protects against unexpected declines in milk revenue. They’ve also expanded their milking facility and redesigned pens every decade to maximize efficiency and capacity.
“The number of cows three employees used to milk in one hour, we are now able to milk in 45 minutes due to remodeling,” says Jerry.
These days, they are adding more Jerseys to their herd of mostly Holsteins. The higher butterfat and protein content in Jersey milk earn a premium on their milk check.
But to the Vaz brothers, milk production is not the only thing that matters.
“I don’t just want a cow that makes me money — I want a cow that looks good too. That’s always been our motto,” says Jerry. Andy, who has judged numerous dairy shows, agrees.
“Andy takes pride in having a quality herd,” Jerry says, “and we’ve had a lot of success with our cattle at commercial and purebred shows.”
Andy and Jerry enjoy sharing their cattle with local 4-H and FFA members. They often sell or lease heifers to young people for club projects. Vaz Dairy also supports sales at fairs throughout New Mexico and Texas.
“The Vaz family has contributed so much to the dairy industry and the community,” says Hall. “Ag New Mexico is proud to help them pursue their goals.”
Financing with a trusted lender
Andy and Jerry turned to Ag New Mexico for dairy financing three years ago, and they’re glad they did.
“With Ag New Mexico, we get sound financial advice and knowledge about current trends in the dairy industry, banking and agriculture,” says Jerry. “We were already self-disciplined, but Ag New Mexico Farm Credit offers us more stability.”