Argentina – turning a crisis into an opportunity

By Elisabeth Avendaño, VikingGenetics distributor in Estancia San Félix, Treinta de Agosto. Buenos Aires, Argentina.
 
As a country, Argentina seems to be in a state of permanent financial crisis. However its agricultural sector tends to find a way to turn difficulties into opportunities.  
Elisabeth Avendaño, one of our distributors in Argentina, tells the story of how one major beef producer, in the face of a crisis, switched to become a successful dairy farmer.
On 8 March 2006, Argentinian President Néstor Kirchner took the drastic step of banning all exports of beef for a period of 180 days, in order to stop continuous price rises. Exports had soared after the collapse of the peso in 2001, which forced the government to let the national currency float and depreciate.
 
The measure was taken to ensure ‘cheap beef on Argentian tables’, as the former president explained, however, it did not give the expected effect unfortunately: the price of beef dropped drastically - so drastically, in fact, that raising cattle for beef became so unprofitable that hundreds of cattle-breeders began selling off females for meat and switched to growing corn and soya beans for export, instead. 
 
In the light of these events, Fernando Pueyrredon, an engineer and landowner decided to swap his red Angus cattle of his farm Estancia Aurora Sur in Cordoba, for dairy cows and to use half his land for milk production, and the other half, for arable farming. 
 
At that time, milk was attracting a good price and dairy production appeared to be a promising enterprise. Starting with Holsteins, he soon began to look for another breed to try to improve fertility, calving-ease and solids in his herd. 
There had also been changes in the price of the milk and Pueyrredon wanted a stronger cow who would be less demanding in terms of grain and concentrate feed intake. The choice fell on NZ Jersey, as this cross is common in Argentina.
 
Over time, Pueyrredon became less enamoured with the difference in size and type of his cows, and the udders left much to be desired. Male Jersey calves were also a problem, as they only obtained a very low price when sold.
 
Pueyrredon had read about Swedish Reds (one of the breeds in the VikingRed programme), that was still a fairly new breed in Argentina at that time. He began to introduce Viking genetics, slowly at first, but gradually realised the benefits of crossbreeding to get sturdier and less demanding animals. He is totally convinced today and now has an all pure VikingRed herd. 
We were able to provide Estancia San Félix with proven and extremely reliable bulls such as B Jurist, Gunnarstorp, O Brolin, Turandot, S Adam, Pell-Pers and later younger bulls including VR Capri, VR Leroy and VR Pablo. Despite not having a high NTM, VR Nero PP is also giving us lovely, sturdy daughters that are extremely fertile and easy-calving, sweet tempered and with strong ligaments and who seem to relish the grazing conditions.
 
When visiting Aurora Sur, you cannot fail to notice that all the young stock: from the smallest calves to the pregnant heifers, now have the red ear tags that show that they were sired by VikingRed bulls. Although you can still spot the Jersey traits, Pueyrredon has decided to rely on VikingGenetics and today all F1 and F2 heifers, as well as the milking cows, are bred from Viking bulls. 
Aurora Sur is an extremely well organised and neat establishment, where you can see the touch of an engineer everywhere: from the beautiful grounds surrounding the house, to the living quarters and gleaming cars of the employees, to the glossy hides and wonderful body condition of the cattle, to the tidy and clean pens, pastures, silos and fences, as well as the lush alfalfa pastures, where cows and heifers graze or where the alfalfa is cut and added to the ration fed to the younger stock.
 
Visiting the farm is a true pleasure and seeing this lovely operation with more and more VikingRed dairy cows offers a real sense of satisfaction.

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