Tractors60 million litres of milk per year from thou­sands of cows at San José Farm

In terms of milk produc­tion, it is the second largest dairy farm in Spain: the Granja San José farm has to feed 4,300 dairy cows and 2,250 young cattle. All the feed is grown on site. This requires an exten­sive and reli­able fleet of machinery.

Antonio Pont briefly summarises the devel­op­ment of San José Farm in recent years.

Antonio Pont summarises the devel­op­ment of San José Farm in recent years briefly: “In 2010, we had 1,000 adult cows and now we milk over 4,000 a day”. Mr Pont is one of the San José Farm part­ners. He and his two nephews, Jaume and Jose María Pont, are the owners of this farm, which is one of the best exam­ples of dairy cattle oper­a­tions to be found in Spain.

Jaume (left) and Antonio Pont (right) are very satis­fied with the perfor­mance of their 620 hp John Deere 9620RX.

The farm is in northern Spain, in the Huesca province, just over 100km from the border with France, in an area where condi­tions are perfect for forage produc­tion. Its dry climate allows forage to be harvested in optimal condi­tions, and at the same time farmers have access to water due to its prox­imity to the Pyre­nees moun­tain range.

Mr Pont, Jaume and José María are passionate about what they do. “To be a good farmer, you have to enjoy your work,” Jaume says. “We really like our busi­ness. We could use the land for other crops, but we do this because we like it.” And they are not alone in this adven­ture: They have 88 employees, including 12 univer­sity grad­u­ates, and several external advisers.

Green and yellow trac­tors domi­nate the appear­ance of Granja San José.

Mr Pont is passionate about agri­cul­tural machinery and espe­cially trac­tors. He has very good memo­ries of when he had the oppor­tu­nity to visit the John Deere factory in Mannheim, Germany. “We currently have 18 John Deere trac­tors, from 620HP to 60HP, including two we bought a long time ago that are still working.”  Among the oldest models, they are partic­u­larly fond of “a John Deere 3130 from 1975, which has a really good output,” says Jaume.

For a while, we had trac­tors from another brand that were cheaper, but they didn’t work as well.

Antonio Pont

Among his trac­tors, he high­lights the 9620RX with its rubber bands and 620HP (456 kW). This tractor is in oper­a­tion 700 hours a year exclu­sively on soil prepa­ra­tion work. The family also have several from the 8000 series, including an 8400R, 400HP (294 kW) and three 8R310s, 341HP (251 kW), used with self-loading forage trailers. “We need a lot of speed, espe­cially when tilling, sowing and processing forage: That’s why we buy high-powered trac­tors,” says Mr Pont.

Almost all the San José Farm’s trac­tors are green and yellow. “For a while, we had trac­tors from another brand. They were cheaper, but they didn’t work as well. Over time, we saw that they were actu­ally more expen­sive for us, because we lost a lot of hours main­taining them and repairing them when they broke down, as they often did,” he adds. “And that doesn’t happen with the John Deere trac­tors. That’s why we only ever buy John Deere.”

The Success Story began 1951

It was a long time ago, in 1951, when Mr Pont’s family bought their first piece of land in this area with the inten­tion of farming it. The first cows arrived 10 years later in 1961, and the milk was used only for the family and the farm workers.

Aerial view of Granja San José.

The farm currently has 4,300 cows and another 2,250 animals, between replace­ment heifers and calves. All are Cana­dian Holstein Friesians. The herd is closed, has an annual replace­ment rate is 25%, with 100% served using arti­fi­cial insem­i­na­tion.

“Due to biose­cu­rity issues, we do not buy animals from outside the farm,” says Jaume. “With this, we have achieved a healthy farm that is free of tuber­cu­losis, leukosis, brucel­losis and pleu­rop­neu­monia.”

Live­stock Feeding

Over 6,500 animals are fed with silage from the farm. “We are self-suffi­cient in cattle feed. We produce every­thing our cows eat on the farm,” says Jaume.

They culti­vate a total of 1,250ha, including their own and rented plots, which they irri­gate using pivot sprin­kler irri­ga­tion. Each year, they ensile about 100,000t of forage from four annual cuts of ryegrass, eight cuts of alfalfa, and other crops like trit­i­cale, barley, maize and some vetch. “For us, it’s very impor­tant to have forages of the highest quality and in large quan­ti­ties,” notes Jaume. “In winter, we grow trit­i­cale or barley and ryegrass. Once we harvest this crop, we plant maize. We use it all for silage. Then it’s very impor­tant that the silo is well compacted and left long enough.”

Farm Granja San José is self-suffi­cient in cattle feed.


  • 65 hectares of vetch and fallow
  • 175ha of alfalfa for three years
  • 260ha of triticale/barley and second maize crop
  • 750ha of ryegrass and second maize crop


The farm milks 22 hours a day in an 80-point rotary parlour with 80 seats. The team are very happy with this system and at the moment are not consid­ering replacing it with robots. “In the rotary system, the milking routine can be better controlled; it’s easier for the oper­ator to adapt,” says Jaume. “The rotary system performs really well per litre and per hour.”.

“We produce over 60m litres of milk a year,” he adds. In order to achieve these figures, each cow is milked three times a day, reaching an average produc­tion of 46.1kg of milk per day, at 3.72% fat, 3.33% protein and a somatic cell count of 135,000.

The cows are milked 22 hours a day in this rotating milking carousel with a total of 80 places.

This system runs well and there are no plans to use milking robots.

Animal Welfare

“We want the animals to be in very good condi­tion,” says Jaume. “Nobody is more inter­ested in ensuring that our cows have maximum comfort than us. This is why we take maximum care of animal welfare, so that the cattle can reach their full produc­tive poten­tial.”

We want the animals to enjoy really good condi­tions.

Jaume Pont

Maximum atten­tion to detail is given to facil­i­ties, biose­cu­rity, cleaning, hygiene measures, venti­la­tion, nutri­tion, milking, etc, always with the aim of opti­mising animal welfare. “We comply with all animal welfare regu­la­tions for cattle, and in some aspects we go further,” stresses Jaume. All breeding cows are housed on sand bedding cubi­cles, which are cleaned daily, with some of the sand replaced with recy­cled sand that has gone through a cleaning and drying system.

According to Jaume Pont, around 100,000 t of crop are processed into silage every year.

All dairy cows are housed in cow pens with sleeping areas made of sand.

Farm build­ings cover 80,000 m2.

Animal welfare n all aspects is the key focus area.

Key busi­ness factors

The dairy sector has its ups and downs. When there are is too much milk, the price plunges, and at other times the oppo­site happens and it rises. Jaume is clear about what the key busi­ness factors are: “To be compet­i­tive, it is essen­tial to achieve high produc­tivity with economies of scale, to be correctly inte­grated into the value chain, have a good financing system that enables us to with­stand bad times, and also to have a compe­tent team, iden­tify what needs to be done and be enthu­si­astic about doing it.”

San José Farm in figures

  • 4,300 Holstein cows
  • 2,250 replace­ment heifers and calves
  • 60m litres of milk per year
  • 88 employees
  • 80,000 m2 constructed area
  • 18 John Deere trac­tors
  • 3 irri­ga­tion reser­voirs with a total of 750,000m3
  • 1,250ha in sprinkle irri­ga­tion
  • 42 irri­ga­tion pivots
  • 800kW photo­voltaic instal­la­tion
  • 3ha compost facil­i­ties
  • 350,000m3 slurry lagoon