Saturday, January 4, 2014

Crop and Cattle Operation Tours

JANUARY 3, 2014

A Day on The Farm

Today we toured two farm operations: Pavon Arriba Cereales SA and Cabana el Desafio.

Pavon Arriba Cereales SA (PACSA) is primarily a beef feedlot with a grain storage site in the nearby town of Pavon Arriba in the Sante Fe province. Now owned by three partners, the feedlot started in 1999 with 3000 head and expanded in 2005 to a maximum capacity of 8500 head. The grain storage site originated in 1988 and can hold up to 3400 TT. PACSA also serves as a transport company moving the grain to terminals for export. Farmers from many of the surrounding communities store their grain at the PACSA grain storage facility and use the transportation services.

The site we toured can house up to 4000 head of cattle.
Here Gabriela Cornet, is leading our tour.
View of the feedlot from the working chute.

Branding is required prior to the animals being delivered to market. 
It was branding day at PACSA.
In the past three years the operation has taken an active role in social responsibility becoming involved in its community's education by bringing computer classes to school students and the local senior citizen center. PACSA also hosts tours of their operation to further the community's understanding of agriculture and how it is beneficial to the area. Finally, PACSA has put steps in place to offset environmental concerns related to water purity, manure and pest management and minimizing the smell. 

Prior to the 1990s cattle in Argentina were primary fed on pasture with a small amount of silage. Today the landscape has changed and a majority of the cattle are fed in feedlots mainly eating a silage mix of corn and some milo. Cattle moved to feedlots because the land is very fertile and the farmers began growing row crops pushing the animals to less productive land or into the feedlots. Today 50% of the beef raised are finished in feedlots in Argentina. Interestingly the cattle in Argentina are considered finished at an average weight of 700 lbs. Argentineans demand the smaller animals because they feel it is more tender so growers raise the animals according to the demand of the consumer. On the export market, the slaughter weight is higher with an average of 1000 lbs.
As in America, the cattle are fed rations based on specific
goals and needed nutrition for maximum gain.

Typical cattle at the feedlot.

Following the tour of PACSA we traveled on to Cabana el Desafio a diversified farm of grain and cattle owned by Alejandro and Maria Calderon near the town of Pergamino in the Buenos aires province. Even though Alejandro says raising livestock is not as profitable as crops he has chosen to continue raising cattle. He rotationally grazes his cattle changing cropland to pasture for four to five years and back to farm ground for the next 13 to 15 years. He says this helps the land hold better soil quality causing him less input costs and in a season of drought, he produced 60 bushel/acre wheat while neighbors only produced 50 bushels/acre. About 20 years ago Alejandro started raising red and black Angus in the search for better profitability. This decision has served him well as he now sells seed stock and has placed top in show for the last 7 years at national livestock shows. 

Alejandro Calderon in front of his home with Jorge, our interpreter.
This is one of the Red Angus bulls on the Calderon farm. Bulls from this farm
have won best of show seven years in a row at the local livestock expositions.
Calderon explained details of his Angus commercial cattle operation to us under the
shade of enormous trees. This photo shows just how tall the trees grow in Argentina.
Calderon owns 282 hectares and cash rents another 800 hectares. He also owns all of his own planting, spraying and harvest equipment in an association with other farmers. This allows the farmers to have adequate access to equipment with minimal costs. This is not the norm in Argentina as most farmers have this work custom done. The association Calderon is a part of also rents out the equipment to neighbors in the area. In an Argentina winter the low temperatures at night are right at freezing and the during the day often are 60 to 65 degrees F. This means the growing season is nearly year around. Winter crops grown on the farm include wheat, peas, and oats. Summer crops include first and second planting corn, pop corn, and first and second planting soybeans.

All loaded up...or at least all of us that would the wagon, on the tractor wheels, and in the
bucket of the loader. A few others went on foot for a tour of the Cabana El Desafio farm.
A few road along in the bucket.
This is one of the many typical fields in Argentina. The average field
is 110 acres with an average overall farm size of 370 acres.
One thing I have not mentioned to this point is the hospitality we have received at each farm we have toured. In the mornings we are treated with refreshments and snacks. Lunch, which is usually served from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. has been a three course meal including cheeses, meats, empanadas, wine, beef steak, fresh salads, brownies, and ice cream. Houses have been opened to us and we have also eaten in the shade of the beautiful trees as well.

Much of the steak we have eaten has been slow cooked over hot coals in grills such as this one
at the Cabana El Desafio. The slow cooking infuses the meat with much favor and leaves it tender.
Empanadas have been served at the beginning of every meal we have eaten at the farms. They are flakey dough on the outside with meat filling on the inside. The meat filling is usually burger and then has various other ingredients added such as onion, raisins, egg, nuts, and olives. They are quite delicious too!!
The Calderon's cleared out their sitting room to have room to set tables for us to eat.