Thursday, February 20, 2014

Day 10: Livestock auction visit, Micro-brewery visit, Farewell

Wednesday, February 19th

Class VII started another busy day in the Bio Bio region, in the country-side around the city of Chillan, which is one of the major agricultural regions of Chile.
Our first stop was very interesting to our group, especially to the beef producers in the class, as we visited a Chilean Cattle Auction, which would be the same as a sale barn in South Dakota. The most noticeable thing when we arrived was the auction was almost totally outdoors. All the livestock were unloaded into outdoor pens with an extensive catwalk system above the livestock. Livestock sold at the auction included cattle (feeder cattle, finished cattle, cows, bulls); sheep; horses, goats and pigs. The sheep, goats and pigs were sold directly out of the pen to buyers on the catwalk. But the cattle were sorted into pens, branded with a paint brand after they were inspected coming right off the truck by agricultural inspectors and then put into order to go through the sale.
The sale began at 9:30 a.m. Buyers sat in a stadium seating setting.  Cattle were sold individually (which happens the majority of the time) and two auctioneers rotated the selling of the cattle. One animal came in from the right side and was weighed and sold, and the other animal was in an adjoining but separate pen waiting on deck to be sold by the second auctioneer and also weighed on a scale under that pen. Most noticeably was the quietness of the sale. Other than the auctioneer chant, there was not much noise indicating bidding or numbers raised or even hands’ raised. It was difficult to tell who was buying but obvious there was interest in the cattle and price discovery taking place.
Tourguide Fred and Gregorio, manager of the "CAR"
Gregorio Cornejo Baeza, General Manager of the Cooperative Agricola Remolachera LTDA. (CAR)cattle auction, visited with our group. He explained auction days are Wednesdays and the livestock comes in from midnight to 2 a.m. the morning of the auction. Monthly they sell 10 – 12,000 head of livestock that come from a 100-150 mile radius. Cattle sold at the auction either go back out to feedlots to be finished or to the packers for processing, if they are at the finished stage. Buyers come from up to 600 Km away (360 miles). Sales can go as long as till 8 p.m. at night, starting with the feeder cattle, then the finished cattle. The country monitors Brucellosis closely so all the cattle have to be tested for brucellosis prior to arrival by Ministry of Agricultural Inspectors and all animals must be identified with a system of traceability.  The CAR general manager indicated that prices had went up the week before, but this has been a hard time for the cattle business due to the long extended drought which in some areas of the country is going into its 5th year.  Fat cattle prices were averaging $2.20/kilo and feeder cattle $1.80/kilo.
Since the auction is a cooperative, 15% of the cattlemen which sell there are members of the cooperative and 85% are non-members.  Prices of the sold cattle are published every 15 days by official representatives so the cattlemen can track the prices and market. Overall the SDARL members really enjoyed their visit to the auction seeing the similarities and differences from a  South Dakota Sale Barn.
The group then returned to Chillan, for some time to visit a large local market selling many handmade and specialty Chile made products as well as locally grown fruits, vegetables, etc. Markets of these types are very popular in Chile. After a short visit to the market the group was treated to a 100% organic lunch by a local farmer with a small restaurant in his home called Amla Ata. In addition to the local restaurant, they have an organic apple orchard producing many common names of apples we are familiar with such as Fuji, Granny Smith, and Pink Lady. These organic apples are shipped by container to U.S. ports and sold in the organic markets in the U.S. under the label of Viva Tierra and often found in Whole Foods stores.
The final stop of the day was at a diversified farm still in the Chillan region. Unique about this diversified farm was that it is also home to the oldest micro-brewery in the region. Juan Huenuman, manager of Toropaire Brewery showed us the facilities where their six different kinds of beer are developed from hops that are imported. The farm used to grow their own hops but they found the climate in this region difficult to produce the quality of the hops they wanted to incorporate into their beers. He explained that hops need a dormancy period for several weeks and in this region of Chile there is not a period of time with cold enough temperatures for a long enough period of time to push the hops into the dormancy period needed. This small micro-brewery and its equipment can bottle 200 bottles of beer during one processing time period taking it through the fermentation process in the holding tanks and also in the bottles. All the steps are conducted by hand. The total time period to produce the beer from fermentation until it is ready to drink is 45 days. They are classified as a micro-brewery due to the level of production they produce being small producers of alcohol. They produce 24,000 bottles/year. Four of their 6 varieties have been recognized nationally in Chile for awards by an independent review team. Juan explained the micro-brewery industry is a fast growing industry in Chile. Their brewery was once the only one in the region and now there are 30 micro-brewerys’ in production. Nationwide, he estimated there are 300 micro-brewery companies in production in Chile.
As the day wrapped up we all enjoyed an evening meal at our hotel and time to look back over our time in Chile and discuss what we have seen, learned and enjoyed the most. Since some of our group will be leaving early in the morning for their extended trip to tour the country of Peru, Class VII took the opportunity as a class to thank our Chile Tour Hosts/Guides – Fred and Consuelo with Anglatin. They were super hosts and we couldn’t have asked for two more knowledgeable guides about Chile and Fred’s understanding of the U.S. agriculture. They organized some fantastic educational tours with a lot of variety and provided Class VII with a great learning experience in Chile.
Reporter – Lynn Gordon
Note from the administrator: more pictures will be added later due to limited internet access.
Thank you for your patience and understanding.