Sunday, January 12, 2014

Saturday, January 11 - Group Heads West

At the farm resting and relaxing
Saturday, Jan. 11 This morning we bid farewell to beautiful Santiago and headed west to explore more facets of ag in Chile. Part of our group headed off to do a bit of touring before heading home. At the dairy called Santa Inez - Alpro, agricultural engineer Francisco Herreria, led us on a tour of the 1200-cow dairy owned by the Jimenez family. In 1983, the family had 30 cows and has built it to the current size. In addition to the 715 hectares in the operation we visited, the family owns 1,000 hectares of land in southern Chile where the calves are sent to be raised. Most milk production is in the southern part of Chile where cattle can graze on pastures making feeding costs much less. Santa Inez is one of the biggest dairy operations in the Santiago area. The company raises corn, alfalfa, canola and wheat to feed to the cows and to provide cash income.. There are 45 employees at this site. The average milk production per cow is 38 liters per day; in southern Chile the average is 22 liters. Leg devices and software track the production of the animals. Cows are milked three times a day. A person hired to milk cows makes about 500,000 pesos or U.S. dollars $1,000 a month. Cow comfort is essential in a dairy and Francisco answered many questions from our group about practices in Chile. Once again, we found common ground and learned from each other. The graciousness of South American people overwhelmed us again as we enjoyed lunch prepared by Mary Neito and served by her family, including her son Luis Nieto Gomez, grandson Ivan and his wife Natalie and granddaughter Maria Paz.. Three-year old Joaquin, son of Ivan and Natalie, brought smiles to faces as he went everywhere with his dad and toy John Deere tractor. Sitting down to lunch we enjoyed exceptionally fresh lettuce, onions and tomatoes --- so great for land-locked South Dakotans. And the main dish was cooked on charcoal and served braesco style. Once the meat was cooked, the steak, pork, sausages, chicken and potatoes were served on a metal plate that was then placed on a table-size grill. Once we thought we were full we were offered ice cream and fruit. And our second dessert was a luscious cake, finishing with a traditional Chilean coffee. Earlier we'd toured the family's farm that raises broccoli, sweet corn, cauliflower. With family members and five employees, the Farm Luis Nieto Gomez of Curogavi City packages these vegetables and provides them to local supermarkets for consumers. We witnessed the expert work with curved knives as the workers trimmed squash to be sent to market. The stalks and any material left over from trimming the products to get them ready for market is chopped and fed to their cattle. The group agreed that the samples of sweet corn were excellent.

 By Connie Groop

Checking out the sweetcorn with the hills in the background

Francisco explains their dairy practices

Checking out the sweetcorn packaging
Dairy Cows
Spending Sunday relaxing at the ocean.