Thursday, February 25th
The ambitious SDARL class left Cordoba in the dark. Though it was tough on the sleepy bodies, it was well worth it to see the beautiful sunrise over the hills full of olive trees. The early start was also worthwhile because we received plenty of time at the COVAP cooperative.
This cooperative is the second largest in Europe and quite the site to see. Understand that the function of the cooperative is a bit different then what we are used to back home. This co-op was started by twenty-two dairy producers more than a half century ago with the goal of creating a place to process and market their product. Since those humble days, the co-op has really grown to over 15,000 members as well as a waiting list to gain membership.
They have expanded from dairy to feed supplier, beef, lamb, and pork. The brand is very visible in the major grocery stores here in Spain and is an example of the power farmers can gain with collaboration. The power this cooperative has is keeping a foreign corporation from coming in and controlling the area’s markets.
First we went to the dairy plant where they produce many boxes of milk using ‘Ultra High Temperature’ pasteurization. Let’s take a look at what this is. In the United States we go to the store and grab a carton or jug of milk out of the refrigerator just the way God intended. In Europe, you go to the store and buy a box of room temperature milk off the shelf and drink it warm. They can do this because of Ultra High Temperature (UHT) pasteurization. The milk stays good unopened at room temperature for up to six months! This is safe to do because the milk is pasteurized at a much higher temperature than here in the States.
The next COVAP enterprise to tour was the lamb feedlot. All the lambs were fed under roof to a kill weight of about eighty pounds. This seems to be significantly less that what is typically seen in the United States. We saw no tails docked and all bucks were intact. These different practices were based on what the European customer wanted.
And the last stop for the COVAP cooperative was the beef feedlot. This seemed similar to American feedlots. A couple things stood out like all the feeder bulls being intact. It is not common practice to castrate in Europe, and because of this, hormone implants are not used. The cattle looked much the same as our northern plains cattle we see back home. They feed them almost as heavy as is common in South Dakota.
Now I write this to you as I look out the window and watch the world whiz by at over 185 mph. This is done from the comfort of my roomy seat aboard the high speed bullet train on our way to Madrid. Our tour is almost complete!