HOW EVERYTHING BEGAN
The São Bento Farm is located at the Vale do Paraíba region in Southeastern Brazil. The history of the São Bento Farm began around 50 years ago, when Francisco José de Andrade Costa (Sérgio´s grandfather) acquired 700 hectares (around 1750 acres) in the city of Cachoeira Paulista (São Paulo State), right by the Via Dutra Highway (connects the cities of Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo). Originally, the area was under Atlantic Forest vegetation, but during the Brazilian colonial coffee era, it became coffee plantations. When the farm was acquired, the land had a few left overs of the regeneration of the original vegetation and mostly weeds. From this scenario, new investments began, as the construction of housing for the owners as well as employees, hiring employees, corn, beans, coffee, manioc plantations and dairy production.
In the beginning of 1960, the government evicted around 80% of the farmland, to establish the National Center of Weather Forecast and Space Research (CPTEC/INPE). Around 550 hectares (1375 acres) were lost, where Francisco had made most of the investments. Therefore, such situation lead discouraging the farmer. Yet, Francisco´s son, Danilo de Andrade Costa , together with his wife Dulce Maria Valadão Cardoso (Sérgio´s parents), kept their hope and began the “reconstruction” of what was left of the São Bento Farm, in a very similar scenario to the one Francisco had begun his project. The farm continued with diversification in the farming activities, yet, the focus on milk production, by ameliorating cattle genetics (especially regarding Gir zebu cows from the Everest bull - one of the most famous Gir bulls for dairy purposes).
After, Danilo began using Holstein breeding with Gir cows, reaching the F1 “girolando” mixed-breed. The Frisian Holstein, a grazing breed of smaller size and more resistant to adverse conditions (when dealing with tropical conditions) was the basis of this “girolando” formation.
THE TRANSFORMATION, ETHICS QUALITY!
Around the year of 2009, the transition from Danilo to Sérgio in the farm´s administration began. Sérgio began his Agronomy major in 2002, graduating in 2007. After, Sérgio finished his master´s degree in 2009 and took over the business and started a new era of farming, focusing on educating young technicians, ameliorating cattle genetics, improving farm management (feeding machines, milking parlor as other instruments), and, specially, long-term strategical planning. Together with the support of a veterinarian, with Masters degree in ruminant nutrition, and a great friend of Sérgio, João Luiz, a project was elaborated. Such had a a goal to reach, in 5-7 years, a daily milk production between 4 to 5,000 liters, increasing daily yields per cow from 9 to 17 liters. Furthermore, improving milk quality (Total bacterial count <5,000 and somatic cells count <200,00), composition (fat %>5.0 and protein % >3.5) and obtaining certifications regarding “ethics quality”. Thus, turning the farm into a company concerned with environmental issues and social and animal welfare! Such philosophy based on a “knowledge”, ”management”, ”genetics” tripod.
In a long-term basis (till 2020) the goal was to turn the São Bento Farm into a first-class dairy industry, with artisanal maturated cheeses (3 to 36 months of maturation).
THE ORIGIN OF MEQ - Milk, Education and Quality
Due to the company´s growth and the demand for better administration, in 2014, the business acquired, Matheus Delavald (COO), an accountant, that took over as the company´s COO. Matheus focused his masters thesis at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil) on turning São Bento into a “dairy business”. Thus, knowledge, time and energy were invested in shifting the farm´s production philosophy and culture. That´s when the name MEQ “milk, education and quality” appeared! MEQ´s board (Sérgio and Matheus) averages around 30 years old.
MEQ has the mission to Produce food with excellence through a system of socioeconomic and environmental management that enables the continuous development of the business and a vision of becoming a reference in the international agricultural market with certified production and low environmental impact. MEQ hopes that, placing education as priority and having values as ethics, organization, balance, excellence and pragmatism, enables thriving in the farm business and, maybe, such a way of thinking can be an example for other Brazilian dairy farmers.
MEQ is managed into two sectors: operational and administrative. The first deals with everything involved in milk production. The second, the enterprise´s back office, where financial management, team management, feeding and other inputs acquisition and controlling operations are held, measuring the enterprise’s financial efficiency.