Friday, 12 June 2015

The world's most versatile cows?

By Elisabeth Avendaño, VikingRed distributor in Argentina

1500 kms from Buenos Aires, at the feet of the huge Andes mountain chain, lies the small town of Aluminé.

Surrounded by the so called Pre-Cordillera mountains, the thousand year old "araucaria" pines and lakes filled with turquoise water from the glaciers higher up, the picturesque landscape is a favorite goal for tourists from Argentina as well as from abroad.

This is by no means an ideal place for rearing cattle, as winters are long and cold and more suited for skiing than for milking cows. However, during summer and early autumn there is nourishing, natural grasses in the "mallines" or valleys that are irrigated by the run-off from the mountainsides when the snow melts in the spring.

Jorge Martinez is a retired veterinarian who together with his associate Jorge Cuiñas decided to take advantage of his knowledge of cows, the beautiful landscape and the tourists and start a small enterprise milking cows and making a variety of cheeses for the tourists. 

The idea took form with whatever cattle they could find. Dairy cows are few and far between in these parts and livestock cannot be imported due to the Sanitary Border of the Rio Colorado – foot and mouth is obligatory vaccinated against in the whole Argentine territory north of this border, while the south is free from the disease.

So, starting off with whatever cattle they could find locally, Jorge & Jorge followed a course of artesanal cheese making and are now selling their cheeses, not only to passing tourists, but also to gourmet shops and restaurants in the neighborhood.

Aiming for higher productions and more solids, all the cows have now been inseminated with VikingRed bulls and next spring the first crossbred heifers will be bred back to red bulls.   

Calvings are seasonal due to the climate, the cows are dried off in the autumn and brought down to winter pastures until they are due to calve in the spring, when they are brought back to the "mallines" where the milking barn is situated.

The heifers will stay with Jorge Cuiñas to get special care and feed during the winter, to make sure they are fully grown when it is time to inseminate them. Jorge & Jorge are thrilled with the first bunch and looking forward to the next bunch, 30 cows and heifers are pregnant with the red bulls and will be calving in the spring.

A totally different setup is that of Martin Brito and his family in the town of Coronel Moldes, in the Province of Cordoba. Martin worked at the Prince’s establishment in California and came back to Argentina with the idea of "transplanting" what he had seen and learnt in California. 

On a plot of rented land, Martin with his father and brother constructed dry corrals and feeding lane for 100 cows. They also aim at making their own cheese, but for now are selling the milk to a nearby dairy.

From the beginning, Martin has decided to make a Three Breed Cross, using Holstein, Jersey and VikingRed and the first crosses are already milking. Martin is impressed with his VikingReds (heifers by Hällom, S Major, Fjärdinge and Russnäs, all exceptionally functional bulls, but maybe older bulls and maybe not the absolute top for production…) However, on top of the fertility, the easy calvings and the healthy udders, the first daughters of these bulls are peaking at 50 liters in their second lactations….

Martin is now inseminating with Gunnarstorp, but also with genomic bulls VR Hambo and VR Nero. 

Another extreme situation is that of Sister Veronica, Mother Superior and head of an excellent catholic agricultural school, close to the town of Federal in the Northern Province of Entre Rios.

Finding the hot climate too hard for the Holsteins, Sister Veronica had tried Brown Swiss and Jerseys in school’s dairy. Both breeds adapted well to the climate. However, looking for something intermediate in size, one of the employees saw our cows at a show and brought back word and brochures. 

Sister Veronica phoned and the doses were dispatched. Today many first and second crosses are milked at the school and as cheese is the main aim, all three breeds do well. 

When we visited last year, it was 40 degrees celsius in the shadow and the only cow out grazing in spite of the heat was the top ranking cow of the herd: a daughter of Fjärdinge. The rest were all lying in the shadow…

The nursery was surprisingly ‘red’. "They are the most fertile and have the healthiest udders", said Sister Veronica.  

(The week after my visit there was the outburst of the Chilean volcano and Bariloche and Aluminé were covered in ashes….Day turned into night, we even got some light residues of the ashes here…1.500 kms away !!!! Fortunately it rained a few days later, so Jorge & Jorge did not have to move the cows away from the farm !! But they told me ground was covered in between 5 and 10 cms ashes. Not toxic, but very gritty, a lot of wear on the teeth of the cattle.)

Jorge and Jorge happy with their first VikingRed crosses

The milking barn made of stone, abundant here

Traffic can be heavy on the mountain roads

VikingRed heifer in the Entre Rios bush

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I am happy to read about it that is very excellent post. The image is perfect and gives excellent information about cows which is very useful for dairy farmers. Thanks for share with us nice information.