In January of this year, Dr. Hugo Ramirez became the director of the Southwest Regional Dairy Center. He replaces Dr. Barry Lambert who has accepted a position at Tarleton as associate dean of the College of Graduate Studies and head of the department of wildlife, sustainability and ecosystems sciences.
The Dairy Center, which came online in 2012, is a testament to what a modern, efficient dairy business should be. It features automatic sort gates, a 24-cow carousel milking parlor with radio frequency identification capabilities, classrooms, research labs and a free-stall barn that serves to keep the cows cool in our hot Texas summers.
Ramirez points out that the Center, located on Highway 281 just north of Stephenville, is an interesting hybrid – a partnership between Tarleton State University and commercial dairyman Alan Vanderhorst. The nearly 350 head of dairy cows belong to Vanderhorst who, along with his own staff, operate a viable, working dairy at the facility. In return, Tarleton students and faculty have direct access to a commercial dairy operation for research, training and education.
“So often research is done in a laboratory in a research facility, so it lacks that commercial level being brought into it," Vanderhorst said. "By being a commercial operator and running this dairy as a commercial dairy, I think we gain more respect and peer review by the industry and the producers.”
Ramirez is originally from central Mexico, specifically the city of Celaya in the state of Guanajuato. He attended Chapingo Autonomous University in Mexico.
“It’s an exclusively-agricultural university with over 20 programs that include agricultural high school for three years, then college for four years – with a highly specialized major – for a total of seven years of agricultural training,” he said “My father is a professor of forestry, but I always loved animals, so I specialized in animal science. After graduation I managed a state-of-the-art dairy farm in the city of Leon in Guanajuato. The farm was pretty similar to the Southwest Regional Dairy Center; in addition it had a methane digester in which animal waste was converted into gas that fueled two engines to produce electricity.
“After working there, I decided that I wanted to know more about cows and started graduate school at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln where I obtained my Master of Science and Ph.D. working in the area of dairy nutrition.”
Ramirez and his wife, Barbara, moved to the Stephenville area in late January when he joined the Animal Science Department of Tarleton State University.
“My duties include teaching undergraduate and graduate classes, administration of the Southwest Regional Dairy Center and conducting research through Texas A&M AgriLife.”
His official title at AgriLife is Research Scientist: Ruminant Nutrition/Dairy Science.
He cites animal waste management as one of the principle challenges of dairies world-wide. “When you think about it, the problems for the environment are enormous. There are dairies almost everywhere. You might not think it, but even Saudi Arabia has dairies. They operate on desalinated water, which is an extremely expensive operation, but of course they’re a rich country. So even in the deserts the problem of what to do to manage animal waste is a factor.
“I look forward to developing a dairy research program that addresses those problems and the needs of the dairy industry in the state at state and national level in general,” Ramirez said.