Our C.E.O Matt Nightingale was invited to Chile to look at producing greater volumes of beef from the national dairy herd as we do here in the UK. Read more about this trip here.
Chilean dairies breed their dairy cows almost exclusively with conventional dairy semen (Sexed dairy semen or Beef semen crossed onto Dairy cows in Chile is not common), so there is a real need to try and increase efficiencies in the rearing and then growing and finishing of Black & While bull calves to provide better quality beef carcasses for their meat industry. For this reason they have seen what happens in the UK, and Meadow Quality in particular, with the progress made by utilising Black & White calves to produce good quality beef, and as a result are keen to replicate our models.
The country has very high health status (FMD free, TB Free, BSE Free and close to Brucellosis free status), it does however still use growth hormones in Beef production. This excludes it from several export markets, including the EU, and the revoking of the use of anabolic steroids is currently a hot topic in the country.
There are 2 very distinct natural barriers on either side of Chile’s borders, the Pacific Ocean to its West bordering runs the entire 2,600 miles of coastline and to the East the Andes mountains. The climate ranges in the North of the country from the Atacama Desert (the driest place on the planet, where it has not rained in 400 years) to Patagonia in the South that runs to the most southerly tip of South America, and is only 750 miles from the Marambio base on Antarctica.
My visit was based in the Los Rios (Rivers) and Los Lagos (Lakes) region of Chile, where two-thirds of Beef production in the country is centred.
During the trip Matt presented every day to many different people, from Agri-students to politicians and often both at the same time with the help of a translator!
There are many differences between the trade in the UK and Chile as you would expect but perhaps more surprising are the similarities. Below you can see milking time at Pozo Brujo a set up that would not have looked out of place as a high-end milk producer in any European country. 1200 cows producing c7,800 litres predominantly off grass, with genetics selected for management traits primarily longevity and productive life, but most definitely Holstein Friesian as their base. The key difference on the unit was the calf rearing pens (see below). Not only were heifer calves penned on straw with plenty of available space with good food and clean water availability, so were the bull calves. The pictures below are opposite sides of the same shed. Heifers on one side and bull calves on the other. Weights were monitored from birth, and the unit was currently concentrating on a project feeding weaner pellets that had a high level of palatability and were being used to try and get bull calves off milk as young at 42 days and onto their weaner pellets, with heifers transitioning at c60 days. Results and growth rates are being monitored by Dr Martinez and I will be kept informed of the results of the trial. The weaner pellets were being marketed under the brand name of Vitulus (Latin for calf)
Conversely, the trading is somewhat different! Below you can see
the livestock market at Osorno, a town of around 150,000 people in central Chile, with a cattle market that operated twice weekly on Monday and Friday, and traded c3,000 cattle each day. Matt found i
t eye-opening to see so many
still being sold through auction marts (often many times during their lives), and that every type of animal from young calves through to Cull Cows were traded on the same day.