AUSTRALIAN FARMERS STUDY TOUR SOUTH AMERICA 27 JUNE to 31 JULY 2011 Tour Leader; Greg Cahill Agricultural Consultant Bendigo, Victoria This report has been prepared to assist tour members and theiraccountants with personal claims by summarising our study tour,which included visits to numerous farms, an abattoir, machinerydealers, research stations and other agricultural facilities.
SUMMARY The 2011 South American farm tour was a great experience for everyone, and areal learning opportunity as few people realised how progressive agriculture is incertain parts of SA, particularly Argentina and Brazil. The tour was very wellorganised and run. We visited 18 different farms and 15 other sites whichincluded research stations, machinery businesses, Co-operatives, saleyards,abattoirs etc. The program was very full on and often we did not get back to ourhotel till after 8pm at night. In fact, it was too full on for some people who wouldhave liked more leisure time, but everything considered, the farmers in the groupthoroughly enjoyed every visit we did. The volcano did alter the program onseveral occasions but people adapted very well so that we could stick to theplanned itinerary. A few examples of agricultural practices that we saw and which surprised manypeople were the advanced no-till cropping systems they have developed whichallow the farmers to multi-crop – that is get 3-5 crops per rotation every 2-5 yearsin regions where the climate allows this. This has increased productivity 3-4 foldin the past 10 years.Another example was the advanced, computerised breeding programs beingused in SA. These are available and used in Australia, but there is not thewidespread use here as it seems to be in SA, in spite of the simple and obviousbenefits to livestock breeders. The third area where SA is one of the worldleaders is the use of self made biofuels.Finally, the use of huge plastic tubes to store grain and silage was also an eyeopener as they are virtually unknown here. This is a widespread tactic in manyparts of SA but, on returning to Australia, I discovered that a Wimmera farmerhad only 2 years ago, imported the first tubes from SA to test market them here.It has been quite successful and since then, he has expanded the business andis now advertising on TV. It is a cheap and practical alternative to our normalgrain storage metal bins which Australian farmers are used to.
In summary, it was a very successful, educational tour and there is no doubt thatSouth America is going to be a major player in future in many of the world’sfarming industries.Monday 27 June, 2011Thirty six tour members from Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, New South Wales andWestern Australia flew from Sydney, Australia to Santiago in Chile where we met upwith our Principal Tour Leader, Michael Barker, who took us to our hotel. The tour wasmeant to leave Australia on Sunday 26 June and fly to Santiago via Auckland, NZ, butdue to volcanic clouds in the region, the flight was put back 24 hours and redirected toTahiti then on to Santiago.
CHILESome Background Information about Chile and its agriculture. 1. Chile has a population of 16 million people which includes Easter Island, of which 6-7 million live in Santiago. The country is about 4,200kms long on the west of the Andes mountain range which has about 2000 volcanoes along it. 2. The country has about 1.3 million ha of cultivated land, which is not expanding. Of this, 240,000 ha are used for fruit production, mainly cherries, walnuts and plums,120,000 ha of vineyards, which is a growing industry in Chile (they are trialling a lot of new varieties), 50,000 ha for seed production of various crops and the rest is mainly used for vegetables and grain production. 3. Most agricultural exports go to the USA and Asia. The first Chilean export used to be guano, a natural fertiliser made from bird dung, which was sent to the UK. This got refined over the years, using natural nitrates but this whole industry collapsed when the Germans invented and started selling synthetic fertilisers. 4. Irrigation for crops mainly comes from underground bores, using USA systems. Around Santiago (where the annual rainfall is only about 300ml/yr), these bores used to be about 20 metres deep on average but now the average is about 50 metres deep. Farmers pay about US$2000 per year for all their water, regardless of how much they use, but this price is steadily rising. 5. The average wage in Chile is about US$3000/month, with the minimum wage being US$350/month. Income taxes are 7% plus there are additional taxes to cover Pension, Superannuation schemes and Social Security Programs. 6. In Chile, 85% of people are Catholic with the rest being mainly Lutheran. Shops are open from 9am-8pm on trading days whereas shopping centre hours are 10am-10pm. Tuesday 28 June 2011. We had an early start this morning as we had 3 visits planned. Our local guide was Patricio Diaz, a local Advisory officer with the Ministry of Agriculture. The first visit was to a farm about 30kms south of Santiago, owned and run by Samuel Correa and his family. The farm was 50ha in size and was mainly a fruit growing enterprise. The farm has 6 full time employees and 20-50 part-time
workers in the pruning and harvesting seasons. These workers get aboutUS$25/day but Sam said it was increasingly difficult to get part-time workers.His main crop is Table grapes (12ha – Thompson seedless and Crimson seedlessvarieties) which produce about 36,000kgs/ha/yr for which the grower gets about$1.10/kg. Most of this is exported to Europe and Asia). They use a Spanish systemof growing them. Other crops include nectarines (4ha), cherries (a new crop, 4ha),plums (7ha) and peaches (4 ha). He is also trialling new crops such as macadamia nuts and pistachio nuts. One big problem they have is birds eating the fruit. Netting is not used to protectthe trees but it is being trialled and soon will probably be used. They do have aspecial product which is sprayed on the fruit trees to stop the birds but it is not100% effective.PHOTO 2Another enterprise on the farm is the breeding and training of rodeo horses. InChile the rodeos are different to the normal ones in that one of the mainobjectives is to herd and control cattle in the rodeo ring. To achieve this, theChileans have bred a special type of horse (a Xbred from a Spanish Andalusianbreed and a Peruvian breed) which can move sideways and control a cow upagainst a fence or wall. These horses are quite short-legged but very muscular andwe saw them being exercised and trained. These special horses sell for aboutUS$30,000 each, with stallions fetching up to US$80,000.
PHOTO 3The second visit was to Los Tilos INIA, the National Agricultural Research Instituterun by the Ministry of Agriculture. It is a combination of a research station, anursery (it is the oldest nursery in Chile) and an educational centre where theyteach people to grow and graft fruit and nut trees. The main crop is walnuts usingmainly USA varieties as Chilean varieties produce well but the nuts are too smallfor what the market wants. The walnut plantations yield about 5,500kg/ha whichbrings in about US$22,000/ha. They have developed new pruning methods whichhas significantly increased production. A walnut tree generally last for 50-60years, before being replaced. The old trees are used for furniture timber.Walnuts are an increasing crop in Chile. Five years ago, there were 14,000ha butthis has now increased to 24,000ha.
Besides walnuts, they are also experimenting and growing other crops such astable grapes, pistachios, squash, feijoas chestnuts, pecans and various fruit crops.The third visit for the day was to the Santa Rita Winery which was established in1880. The Chilean wine industry is known world wide and is a competitor ofAustralia for markets in Europe and America. We had a tour of their winemakingfacilities which included old underground cellars that had been affected byearthquakes over the years.The company has over 200 employees and produces 20 million litres of wine peryear. They still use wine barrels imported from Europe to age and store theirwine. They are continually trying new varieties from across the world to test themfor their ongoing markets.Wednesday 29 June 2011Another busy day commenced with a visit to a flower farm. Owned and run by MrArturo Catalan and his family, the 6ha property produced carnation flowers inplastic houses. There were a range of colours but the majority were red due tothe demand. The main production period was from September to December,after which the plants were pruned. A carnation plant produces about 14 flowersper year, mainly in the springtime and they are usually harvested once a week. Allthe flowers come from Europe as Chile has very few native flowers but thedemand for them continues to grow. Prices vary from 20cents to US$2 per unit.The main buyers are cemeteries but he does sell to local houses and shops. Thebusiness also rents a neighbouring 4ha place on which they grow potatoes for thelocal market. He employs 2 people full time from September to November to helpwith the harvesting.The second visit was to a 20ha vegetable farm, owned and run by Don Luis Gomezand his family. The farm grows pumpkins, cauliflowers, broccoli and sweet corn.He also has his own packing shed where he employs up to 15 people to pack theproduce and deliver it to supermarkets. He buys vegetables from neighbouringfarmers for packaging and selling. There are no contracts and prices aredetermined by what the market is paying on the day. Residue leaves left afterpackaging are used to feed cattle.
Land is very expensive in these good soil areas, with prices currently aboutUS$30,000 per ha.Another big issue facing farmers in several SA countries is inheritance taxes. If afarmer dies and the land is passed on to his children, they have to pay quite hugeinheritance taxes. The way around this is to subdivide the land or farm and passover the ownership before you die. In this way, you don’t pay this tax. Thedownside to this is that the “farms’ are getting smaller and smaller. In DonGomez’s case, his uncle inherited a small block next to Don’s on which he runs afew horses. Don’s mother still lives in the neighbouring family home and here sheinvited us all in to have a cup of tea.We then travelled to the nearby Casablanca valley to visit a rodeo horse breedingand training farm. Rodeos are very popular in Chile and Argentina and it is a bigindustry. This particular farm was established in 1880 to train UK bred racehorses.They swapped to South American bred rodeo horses but now concentrate ontraining Chilean bred animals.After a tour of the farm, we were given a demonstration of herding and horsesliterally dancing – a unique experience. There is a restaurant on the propertywhere we had lunch and watched a singing and dance routine, with the horsesactually being ridden inside the restaurant. Afterwards, three of the group wentfor a ride in the rain.The Casablanca valley is a vineyard area with about 20 vineyards, all with thelatest varieties. Along the way back to our hotel, we saw quite a few Eucalyptusplantations, a sight which we were to see many more times on our trip as Eucytrees have become very popular in SA because of their hardiness and qualitytimber .That night we had dinner at the Giratorio restaurant , a revolving restaurant inSantiago which gave us some wonderful sights of the city lights.ARGENTINAThursday 30 June 2011Today, we flew from Santiago to Buenos Aires (BA). There was a bit of drama atthe airport where LAN Airways had overbooked the flight but we all managed to
get on our scheduled plane. We had a magnificent flight over the snow cappedAndes to BA where we met our new local guide, Jorge Cazenave. We then had a 3hour bus trip to Melincue in the province of Santa Fe which is in the Pampasregion of Argentina, to our hotel.Friday 1 July 2011On our way to our first farm visit, our local guide, Jorge gave us a briefing onagriculture in Argentina, particularly referring to the Pampas region which wewere travelling through. The main points were;1. The Pampas (the Inca word for flat land) is a major cropping area in Argentina. The land is flat and fertile and the rainfall is around 1000mm/year, well spread out with the winter being drier than the summer. A “drought” in Argentina is 15 days without rain during the cropping season. One downside of this is that because the soils are so good and there is a lack of gravel and rocks in the region, dirt roads are a real problem in the wet, especially with all the heavy machinery and transport travelling up and down during the busy cropping periods.2. The 4 principles of good farming (cropping) are; No till; Good soil; Lease land; and No equipment.3. No Till is the normal practice in central Argentina and double cropping is practised everywhere in the region. In more southern areas south of BA, single cropping is the norm because of the different weather conditions.4. Stubble is regarded as a soil fertiliser and conditioner. “We feed the soil” is their outlook.5. Over 70% of grain produced in Argentina is grown on leased land. Almost all of it is sown with GM (Genetically Modified) seed6. Argentina cropping farmers use their machines 3 times as much as their USA counterparts, so they tend to use contract machines or contractors as the machines are usually traded in every 4-5 years, which makes it unprofitable for the average farmer. As an example, the Company who Jorge, our guide works for, grow 80,000ha of crop per year but they don’t own any farm machinery – it is all contracted out.
7. Argentina produces about 100 million metric tonnes per year. Of this 40-45% is stored in plastic bags or long plastic tubes because this is a much cheaper solution than silos. Birds are not a problem with these bags but farm animals and armidillos are8. All exports from Argentina are taxed, with agricultural exports being one of the most taxed; eg. export soyabeans are taxed at 35%.9. Land values in the cropping areas are US$15-18,000/ha whilst leased land costs US$4-600/ha/yr.10.The main export outlets are; Soyabeans (Europe and China – there are some restrictions on GM grain being sold into Europe) Wheat (Brazil and some Arab countries) Sorghum (Japan).11.Argentina is the world’s largest exporter of horse meat, mainly into France and Italy. One advantage of this trade is that there are very few regulations for this compared to exporting other meats such as beef, lamb etc. They even export hares (both alive and dead) to Germany.12.Argentina’s economy has been slipping in the past 10 years. In 2000, the Argentinian peso was worth about US$1 but today, one US dollar is worth 4 pesos.13.In South America, the El Nino and La Nina climate factors have the opposite effects to what we experience in Australia. The first farm visit we did was to a big mixed farm, comprising 10,000ha in 9 different locations in the region. Of this, 3000ha was not suitable for cropping so they run 1000 beef cows on this area. During winter, the cattle are fed with maize silage made on the farm. This is fed to them by a self feeding system using the long tubes that silage (and grain) are stored in. The cropping paddocks are not grazed at all. The cropping program involves maize, wheat, barley, ryegrass, soyabeans and sorghum. Every paddock is double cropped each year, with soyabeans being preferred as they add nitrogen to the soil. Stubble burning, which is still quite common here in Australia, was phased out in the 1970’s, but No Till only became popular in the 1990’s when the majority of farmers upgraded their sowing equipment.
We were taken out to some paddocks where we saw a modern sprayer inaction, all GPS controlled. Nearby was another 270HP tractor, GPS controlled,sowing a barley crop with no fertiliser and seed treated with fungicide. Thiscrop was for malting grade barley and they were expecting a yield of 5-7 t/ha.The next farm we visited was La Contancia, owned by the Gallo family, wherewe had a BBQ lunch in their restaurant. The Italian based family moved therein the early 1900’s and the family home was built between 1910 and 1920.They farmed the property for many years but, due to the inheritance taxes,the property was split up, so the Gallos have had to diversify to maintain theirincome on their 200ha.They breed long woolled sheep (stud Hampshire Downs which are quitecommon in SA) and llamas, as well as farming Merino and Corriedales. Theyused to also have Lincoln sheep but these have gone out of favour, as haveBorder Leicesters, as the South Americans are not big eaters of lamb meat.They sell 40-50 stud rams per year, with prices being US$600-2000 per ram.They also grow some crops, mainly wheat and flax, but to maintain theirincome, in recent years, they have diversified into running farm excursions anda farm restaurant which have been very successful.On the way back to our hotel in Melincue, we visited a Farm MachineryEngineering Plant, owned and run by a local manufacturer, Mr Victor Saluzzo.Years ago, when the first agricultural manufacturer started in the region, JohnDeere soon bought the licence (for a miserly US$100), but as the demand grewfor bigger and better machines, a lot of other local manufacturers have set upbusinesses. The current trend of farms getting much bigger has led to a strongdemand for this machinery, particularly 42 line seeders. Prices for thismachinery in Argentina are currently much cheaper than anywhere else butthese prices are rising rapidly. However, the local manufacturers are doing wellbecause the local farmers prefer to stick with their local manufacturers.Saturday 2 July 2011
This morning we travelled to “Cabana El Desafio”, a mixed farm near thetownship of Pergamino (250 km N-E of Buenos Aires), owned and run byAlejandro Caledron and his daughter Macarina. The property is 280ha in size,on which they grow crops and have a registered Aberdeen Angus stud. Theyalso lease another 1000ha which are used solely for cropping. He also has hisown grain processing plant where grain is treated for export markets. As well,he has his own transport trucks to cart the grain to local buyers and to exportterminals on the nearby Parana river.The average rainfall in the region is 1100mm per year with 40-50 frostsannually. They rotate the different crops with pastures. Generally pastures last4-6 years followed by 6-8 years of cropping, sowing both winter (wheat, oats,green peas) and summer crops (Soyabeans, maize). They have tried specialitycrops (eg with maize, you can produce crops for pop corn or hard red maize)but now they concentrate on the basic crops.When selling grain, the peas and wheat are sold to local markets, either oncontract to local processors or sometimes through a local Co-operative. Allexport grain (soyabeans, maize) is sold through a trader. To trade with theseexporters, the farm needs export registration and quality control procedures.About 90% of the soyabean varieties are genetically modified (GM) becausethey get a 5% premium for GM grain. With maize, about 70-80% of the maizeproduced in Argentina is GM.All crops are sown using the No Till system or conventional tillage, dependingon soil conditions, and they use their own machinery. They also do a lotcontract sowing and harvesting for other farmers, so their machinery is usuallytraded in after 7-8 years of use.With the cattle enterprise, the main aim is to breed stud stock for sale. Theyused to grow cattle for beef production but now concentrate on producingbreeders from their 170 breeding cows. The cows used to be mainly BlackAngus but they became too big and so Red Angus cattle were introduced andtoday, 80% of the stock are Red Angus. The aim is to produce animals of amoderate frame, high fattening rate and excellent quality meat.
They sell 50-60 bulls per year, selling mainly through the auction system andthe average price received is about US$3000/bull. They use a combination ofnatural mating and AI in the breeding program but they are just starting tointroduce embryo transplants to speed up the breeding cycle. During thesummer, the cattle are pasture fed, with electric fencing everywhere on thefarm. During winter they are lot fed using silage (made from oats and vetch)grain (maize) and green peas (rejects from the processing plant)All cattle are vaccinated for Foot and Mouth Disease, as many countries won’taccept unvaccinated cattle into their countries. The vaccination is done byqualified people and over 90% of the cattle in Argentina are now vaccinated.This has led to a new industry for Argentina which is now a major source ofvaccines for other countries.
After leaving the farm, we visited his machinery shed in Permagino to see animpressive array of cropping machines.We then had lunch at the restaurant at the Royal Society Showgrounds inPermagino, where we each had a huge steak, before travelling back to BuenosAires. That night we had dinner at the Tango Theatre/restaurant. Some of thegroup took part in a Tango lesson before we all went downstairs for dinner,followed by an excellent Tango Show.Sunday 3 July 2011The morning was spent on a bus tour of B.A. which included a visit to the OldCemetery where 64,000 people (including Eva Peron) are buried in 16,000sites, the Plaza de Mayo where there are some historic buildings (plus a fewprotestors on that day) and the lovely Catholic Cathedral where mass wasbeing celebrated. We also drove through some of the more interesting oldparts of the city before having lunch at the Puerto Cristal restaurantoverlooking the river. We then got dropped off at a local market from wherewe each made our own way back to the hotel.Monday 4 July 2011We visited the biggest and most important saleyards in Argentina, situated inBA. It has a capacity for 30,000 cattle, making it the biggest market in theworld (the USA used to have bigger markets but these no longer operate),although on most days (sales are held on 4 days every week) between 2-5000head are auctioned. The yards have been operating for over 100 years andused to account for 30% of all cattle sold for slaughter in Argentina. This hasnow dropped to 10% and there is pressure to move the facility out of the city.Cattle come for sale from a 500kmm region with Tuesdays and Thursdaysbeing the busiest days. Sales start at 8am and there are to 50 auctioneersoperating simultaneously at 4-10 different spots within the yards.. This marketsets the prices for the rest of Argentina, with all prices being posted on line.Cattle come into the yards the night before sale and ere weighed upon arrival.. They are re-weighed after sale and this weight is what the payment is basedupon. All cattle are inspected for health by inspectors from the Ministry of
Agriculture. Bidding is by kg liveweight and there are no reserve prices.Payments are generally made within 30 days. Commissions vary from 2-4%depending on how well you know the auctioneer plus there are market costsand a government levy which all total up to 10-12% of the price. The saleyardsare government owned so the auctioneers pay a lease.All cattle are tagged but not necessarily electronically tagged. All the weighingis online so people can check at any time on particular animals. There are over400 registered buyers in Argentina, with the vast majority of cattle being soldbeing sent to abattoirs for local markets. There are no abattoirs in BA city itselfbut there are hundreds within a 100km radius of BA. Of these, 30-40% areregistered for export.In the afternoon, we visited “Martin Garcia”, a farm near Belgrano on theSalado river. Salado means salty, although the river itself is not salty exceptnear the mouth of the river where salt has been known to encroach up to100km up river. The owner is Raul Turenzo who used to run the farm with hisson Ferando but the son now works off farm so they have employed amanager. The home farm, owned since 1940, is 320ha and has very good soilsso is used for cropping. The other 400ha block is mainly used for beefproduction.The cropping program is a 4 year rotation system, involving soyabeans, corn,soyabeans, wheat and soyabeans again. They also grow about 35 ha ofsunflowers near the river which is prone to flooding. They also grow crops ofsorghum and oats to feed the cattle which for much of the year, depend onnatural pastures. All the cropping is done by contractors as the Turenzos onlyown one tractor and a grain auger.The beef enterprise is based on Black Angus cattle. They used to haveHerefords but they had trouble with the disease, Pink Eye. Up until 2009, beefproduction in the area was not very popular due to low prices but since then ,prices have risen and the industry is booming. The plans are to increase thecurrent breeding herd from 300 to 600 breeders. All cattle are raised onpastures but those that are to be sold are finished off in lot feeds. With thesteers, they have 2 options for selling, depending on prices at the time. They
sometimes sell them at 270kg weight to other farmers to grow out and fattenor they grow them out themselves to about 400kg liveweight and sell them toprocessors.Land values in the region are quite expensive as they are only a couple ofhours from BA, and city people are buying up land as weekenders. Currentprices in the region are about US$8000/ha for good soils and US$3000/ha forpoorer quality land. An interesting point was that in Argentina, banks don’tgenerally loan money for buying land or houses. Buyers may get financethrough a machinery company of another private company but interest ratesare very high – often as much as 20%.That evening we drove to Tandil where we stayed overnight.Tuesday 5 July 2011This morning we visited a big dairy farm, “Estancia El Choique” which is ownedby Clive Mulville, (a descendant of William Mulville, the New Zealander whobuilt the Anzac Memorial at Gallipoli and came to Argentina to help build theirrailways and who bought the farm in 1933). The farm is 550ha in size with anannual rainfall of 1200mm.They run 600 milking cows, (with another 700 replacements and young steers)which are milked in 2 dairies, one with 18 bails and the other with 23 bails. Themilkers are NZ bred Jerseys which are crossed with NZ Herefords, a strategythey have used for over 35 years. They mainly rely on paddock feed (there issome irrigated lucerne paddocks) with silage in the colder/drier times. Theyhave 2 years of reserves of good quality silage plus maize, sorghum and baledhay. They are tending to grow more lucerne and more drought resistantgrasses in response to climate change. The average milk production is about 5000lts/yr for which they receive 38 UScents/l. The average cost of production is about 28 US cents/l. They calve twicea year, using AI .We then had lunch at the farm before moving on to our next visit.The afternoon was spent visiting “El Hervidero”, a 2,500ha farm, owned andrun by Mr Subiare, which is a cropping and beef enterprise, plus breeds and
trains polo horses. He also owns and runs a grain storage facility in conjunctionwith his brothers. The storage has a 13,000tonne capacity, plus some othersmaller silos for seed storage. The big silos are temperature controlled to helpthe storage of grain, which mostly goes for exportHowever, it was obvious the big interest, and possibly income earner, was thepolo horse enterprise. Polo is a very big professional sport in Argentina,especially in the Spring and Summer, whilst in the other seasons, it is big in theUSA and Europe. There is a big demand for quality horses. El Hervidero hasover 300 horses, of which 70% are mares which are used for breeding, using AIand embryo transplants. As well, about 100 outside mares come here forbreeding every year. All the 7 stallions used are purebred and no AI is used.A Vet Is employed for 6-8 months/year, together with trainee Vets andbreakers and trainers to rear and train the horses. The average price for atrained horse is about US$30,000. A lot of the professional players breed theirown horses but there are 30-40 similar businesses to El Hervidero in Argentina.On the way back to Tandil, we got to see the silos and storage run by thebusiness.Overnight was at Tandil.Wednesday 6 July 2011In the morning, we set off to Mar del Plata. On the way we visited The NationalInstitute of National Technology, Balcarce (INTA), which is a government bodywhich was set up in 1956. Before that, it was an Experimental Station run bythe Province of BA. It is now run by a Board of Management with the Presidentand Vice President being nominated by the Government. Board members arereps from all the different agricultural industries plus farmer organisations.The Board decides on the policy for the whole organisation in Argentina whichcomprises 15 different regional institutions and 47 experimental stations.Also on the site is the College of Agriculture of the national University of Mardel Plata.Balcarce INTA is one of the biggest experimental stations in Argentina. It is2,340ha in size, of which 2000ha is suitable for cropping. The focus is on cattleproduction and cropping, although in recent times, cattle are being pushed out
of the better areas where cropping is becoming the major enterprise. Themajor crops are cereals, soyabeans and maize but it is also one of the biggestpotato growing areas in the nation, with McCains being a huge processor whosupply the McDonald chain all over the world. Other big industries includevegetables, fruit, dairy and bees.INTA has 320 employees, which includes 120 professional people. They dobasic and applied research as well as extension programs, dealing directly withfarmers. They also do contract research projects with private companies.The College of Agriculture is on the same site and work closely with INTA. Itwas established in 1962 and now has 190 lecturers, many of whom are fromINTA. They provide Degrees in Agronomics, Plant Production, AnimalProduction and Food Science Technology. In the 50 years they have beenworking together they both see real benefits in the union. There are 800students at the College, doing the 5 year courses. There is increasing interestin these Ag courses and other institutions are setting up similar integratedunits. Many students are offered jobs before they finish their course. LikeAustralia, there are other educational institutions who also offer lower coursesand short courses for farmers.We then had 2 presentations from INTA scientists focussing on the wheat andbeef industries in the Pampas region.1. CROPPING Dr Pablo Abbate, Agronomist. In Argentina, agricultural exports are the major income earners for the country. The biggest export earner is soyabean meal, followed by soyabean oil, car parts, cereals and then lubricants made from soyabeans. Wheat is not a very popular crop because of political based restrictions on prices received by farmers for the grain. In the Pampas region around Balcarce, the soils in the wheat growing areas generally have good organic matter but levels have dropped by 50% since cropping began. These soils generally have less water holding capacity than soils in the wheat belts of Australia, but generally they get more rain than Australian wheat areas. Wheat is sown in June – August and harvested from mid December to mid January. They usually treat crops with fungicide and herbicide, with P and N
fertilisers being used at sowing. Trace element deficiencies are no real problem in the Pampas as potassium levels are quite high. Average wheat yields in Argentina are about 2.4t/ha but in the Pampas, the average is 3.6t/ha. Good farmers are getting 4.4t/ha but trials run by INTA have achieved yields up to 6t/ha. Scientists estimate that potential yields could soon be as high as 9t/ha. Farmers can get higher yields if they sow early and the plants flower earlier but there is increased risk of frost damage with this strategy. Prices for wheat depend on protein levels and weight – there is no classification of grain quality other than protein levels. Organic production of cereals in Argentina is a very small proportion of the total production.2. BEEF Dr Enrique Pavan Beef production was once the biggest agricultural industry in Argentina but since the early 1990’s, cropping has doubled in size and has pushed beef production into the less productive areas. Up till 2009, there were about 55-60 million beef cows in the country but this has now dropped to about 48 million because of drought and the increasing emphasis on cropping. However, scientist estimate that that they could increase the herd size from 48 million back to 55 million using the same area but by increasing production efficiency on farms. From 2007 to 2010, the steer/cow ratio has dropped from 69% to 47% in the Pampas region but in the N-E regions of Argentina, the ratio has increased from 39 to 45%. So the system in the Pampas region is changing from mainly fattening to breeding and fattening. The main areas of research are to improve forage quality and improve breed quality. In the northern areas, there is a lot of cross breeding with Brahmans, but in the south, farmers are sticking with the Hereford and Angus breeds and trying to improve the quality within these breeds. Export markets are demanding bigger animals but this market is decreasing whilst the local market wants smaller, better quality animals. Slaughter weights have actually increased, due to Government regulations that have forced up minimum slaughter weights. Production for 2010 was 2.6 million tonnes, of which 310,000t were exported. In 2016 it is estimated that production will rise to 3.8 million
tonnes and exports will amount to 520,000t the average slaughter rate isnow 340kg but they are hoping to raise this to 450kg/head which has thepotential to increase exports to 1.4 million tonnes.South America is known for its grass fed beef. They want to build on thisbut they need to produce healthier meat all round and develop their ownspecialised market. Beef prices are currently high but this has led toincreased production, and competition from other meats, so they need todevelop more competitive export markets for beef to cater for thepotential increased production.Following our visit to INTA, we travelled to Mar del Plata for the night.Thursday 7 July 2011O n our way to “San Eustaquio”, our farm visit for the day, we stopped offand visited the local school in the nearby town of Quequen. At the school,there were 73 children; 13 kindergarten kids, 30 primary and 30 secondarypupils. They put on a song and dance show for us.The farm is owned and run by Luly and Andy Pavlovsky. The family hasowned the farm for 150 years. The farm is in 2 lots, totalling 1405ha, onwhich they breed horses and cattle and lease out quite a big area toneighbouring farmers for cropping. They have 700 Angus cows to breedsteers for local and export beef production and 160 horses, of which thereare 34 stallions.They breed a particular type of Arabian horse which is used in Shows andfor long distance racing. The horses are sold all over the world, with SaudiArabia being a major market.After lunch at the farm, we were scheduled to return to Mar del Plata andfly back to BA, then fly on to Iguazu, but the volcanic ash had disrupted allflights in the region, so we decided to embark on a 26 hour bus trip straightto Iguazu.Friday 8 July 2011
The whole day was spent travelling, finally getting to our hotel in Iguazu at5pm. Along the way we saw all sorts of farming, with beef cows being themain enterprise. However, what did surprise us were the huge areas ofplantations that we saw, mainly pine trees and eucalyptus trees. Eucy treesare quite common all over central South America, and all originated fromAustralia. The locals quickly discovered that eucys are very adaptable andare very good with dealing with droughts and prolonged dry periods. Alsothe quality of wood is very good and can be used for many things includingbuilding. We also saw numerous timber mills for processing the timber.Saturday 9 July 2011The whole day was spent in and around the famous Iguazu waterfallswhere , with normal flows, about 3 million gallons/second flow over thecliffs. We caught a train up to Devil’s Throat lookout which gave a greatview of the falls. In the afternoon, we were taken on a boat trip underneathone of the falls, plus taken on a truck ride through the neighbouring forestto look at the local wildlife and vegetation. BRAZILSunday 10 July 2011This morning we met up with Priscilla who was to be our guide in Brazil. Shetook us from our hotel in Argentina to the nearby Itaipu Dam, a hugehydro-electric dam which is shared between Brazil and Paraguay. We weregiven a special tour inside the dam to see the operations. Inside, there is aneutral zone, controlled by both countries. Brazil buys a lot of its powerrequirements from this facility. There are 3000 employees at ItaipuBinacional, the world’s largest hydro power plant, which is on the ParanaRiver. There are 20 14,000MW generator plants producing enough powerto supply a city of 2.5 million people.They have a Fish Migration Channel built into the wall to allow fish goupstream during the breeding season.
After lunch, we headed off into the Brazilian countryside towards Cascavel.The two things that stood out were the big number of plantations and thevery small number of farm houses. We learned later that in many parts ofBrazil, farmers live in the nearby towns rather than on their farmsOur first farm visit was to Star Milk – at Fazenda, Iguazu, owned andoperated by Mr Fayet, his son Trago and daughter who is training to be aVet. This is a 570 cow dairy farm, one of the few dairies in the whole region.The farm is 1100ha big, with grain production being the main enterprise,employing 6 people.The cows are milked 3 times per day and the farm produces 16-17,000litres per day, for which they get about 85cents/l. There are 28 employeesdoing the milking, working 8 hour shifts. The farm delivers its own milk tothe factory. Cows are kept for 4-5 years and they are mainly US bredHolsteins, using AI. The major health problem are to do with sore feet and alot of foot trimming needs to be carried out (they lose about 5 cows/monthdue to this problem). The total farm herd is about 950 head. All areelectronically tagged. Male calves are given away as they are not worthanything.The cows are kept in pens designed so that manure cannot contaminatethe fodder and there are automatic floor sweepers to remove all the dungfrom the pens. All the manure goes to the farm’s bio-diesel plant where it isused to make methane to power the generators that power a lot of thefarm equipment. The solid residues are used for fertiliser.The farm could be self sufficient in its power needs but, because theydepend on a power company to supply emergency power, the companyinsists on the farm using 20% of its power requirements from its supply.However, the farm can supply XS power from the bio-diesel plant back intothe power grid for which they are compensated.We travelled on to Cascavel where we had dinner and then we had apresentation about Biodiesel fuel from representatives from FAG (which isthe Bio-fuels Research Program of Gurgacz College), Mr Richard Bonorneto,an engineer and Pro. Cornelio Primieri.BIODIESEL FUEL
Brazil is one of the world leaders in making and using biofuel. The worldpresently uses 14% of renewable energy and 86% of non-renewableenergy. In contrast Brazil’s energy sources are 45% renewable and 55%non-renewable. It is the second largest biofuel producer in the world, (withGermany being the biggest) and is the only major country to expand itsbiofuel production because it has the capacity to greatly expand itscropping areas. Brazil’s fuel use is currently 5% 0f its fuel consumption butby 2012, it is estimated this will rise to 10%. Brazil is aiming to use 23% ofbiofuel by 2023.Brazil grows about 19 million hectares of crops per year. Biomass is used tomake biofuel (there are 67 different plant species which can be used), aswell as animal fats. Soyabeans are by far the biggest source, supplying 83%of the biomass products with the animal fats from cattle, pigs and poultrysupplying another 12%. A tonne of soyabeans will produce 120-200kg of oilwhich can be converted into biofuel.The process of making biodiesel involves filtering the natural oil from theplant, mixing it with ethanol or methanol and, through a process calledtransesterification, eventually ends up as biodiesel.Renewable energy is creating more jobs and more income for the country.The Carbon emissions from biofuel are 98% less than ordinary diesel.However, the price of biodiesel is expected to get more expensive thanordinary diesel because of the competition for oilseed crops to be used forhuman consumption. Also, taxes on Biofuel are basically the same as forordinary fuel.
Researchers are trying to find alternative sources of plant oil that are notused for human consumption (and hence be cheaper to produce biofuel)One possibility is Crambe which is quick growing, does not need any specialmachinery to grow and harvest ,and has a relatively low cost of production.Monday 11 July 2011Today, we visited COODETEC (CDC), the Central Cooperative of AgriculturalResearch, which was established in 1974. It is owned by 34 Brazilian Co-ops.and its main objectives are to develop, breed and sell new crop varieties,develop regional varieties and specific products for members, develop newmarkets, improve technology of growing crops and to work in partnershipwith new and independent groups such as universities, governmentDepartments and private companies.The Co-operative system is important in southern Brazil, although it is notas common in the northern parts of the country. As an example, 60% offarmers in CDC’s region of the Purana are members of a Co-op. CDC has185,000 farmers associated with it through the 34 member Co-ops.
CDC is run by a Council with members elected by the farmers. There aretwo divisions – one is the Research division and the other looks after thecommercial aspects. The Co-op’s headquarters are at Cascavel and it has4other research stations plus 10 trial sites. They employ 13 research officersplus another 450 employees. It is self sufficient in funding and so the 34Co-ops don’t have to fund the organisation. They also employ agronomistsin each of the Co-ops 8 regions to help farmer members.We then were taken on a tour of the Research centre.1.Research Labs. This is where they are developing new technologies tomodify DNA analysis genes to improve crops.2.Plastic Houses. Researchers can vary the climate conditions to suit theregion they are experimenting for.. It usually takes 5-10 years to fullydevelop a new cultivar.3. Glass houses. For growing plants that are used for crossbreeding.4. Soyabean Lab. (also separate ones for wheat and maize) For growingsamples to be used in field trials.5. Quality Control Labs. To test all seeds for quality. Seeds are germinated,tested and if OK, kept for sowing in the next season.6. Pathology labs. To produce various diseases and use them to test newcultivars for resistance, susceptibility etc.We then travelled to Toledo where we had a buffet lunch. Interestingly, atthe restaurant, they weighed your meal after you had served yourself andyou paid according to the weight.After lunch we headed off to Londrina. On the way we visited a pig farm,owned and managed by Mr Granja Stuani and his brother. The businessstarted in 1977 with 30 sows. Today, they have 850 sows on the 15haproperty. Besides the pigs, they grow corn, soyabeans, sugar cane (used formaking rum) and grapes (for winemaking).The basic business is breeding pigs. Once the piglets are weaned at 28 days,they are sent to one of 2 other farms for growing out and then all are sentto a third farm for fattening. This is now a common system. Fifteen years
ago, pig farmers did the lot but now they specialise. They sell by contractand get US$40-45/piglet.They don’t castrate the male piglets but use a sterilant which wasdeveloped in Australia 10-12 years ago. This steriliser has only beenavailable in Brazil for 2 years. The reproduction rate is 25 piglets/sow/yearand the breed of sows is a Large White/Landrace cross. Each sow has a boxto keep the piglets warm. They are fed corn plus a 4% nutrient additive withan antibacterial supplement. The feeding system is automatic. Boars areused to detect sows that are on heat.A large Australian pig farmer on the tour remarked that he had travelled alot throughout Europe, America etc but he had never seen a cleanerpiggery than this, and he was very impressed at the piglets/sow produced.After the visit, we had a 6.5hr bus trip to Londrina where we arrived at8.30pm to spend the night.Tuesday 12 July 2011
The first visit this morning was to the New Agro farm machinery dealershipin Londrina. Established in Londrina in 1999, New Agro has built up a veryreputable dealership across Brazil, renowned for its sales of New Hollandmachines throughout the country. There was quite a big range of machinesand prices were generally much cheaper than in Australia. We then headed out to Santa Helena, a huge cropping farm of 4000ha(valued at US$20,000/ha) which is all continuously cropped. The summer cropis soyabeans whilst in the winter, there are soya and corn crops. The corn issown with pasture, so after harvesting the corn, the pasture is mulched andreturned to the soil. The soya crops also leave plenty of mulch after harvestingand this is all returned to the soil. With the 2 crops per year, the farm actuallyproduces the equivalent of about 6000ha of crops per year, which amounts toUS$8-9 million annually.
Production of soya crops is 3-4t/ha and with the corn, the yields are about6t/ha. The fertilisers used are lime and potassium.There are 32 employees on the farm who work 8 hour shifts, with 2 shifts perday during the sowing and harvesting periods. These employees each earnUS$1000/month plus they usually get a bonus at the end of the year.There are no silos on the farm as all grain is delivered directly to central grainstorage depots in the region. The farm is owned by Mr Jose Ludwig and his sonwho is completing an Agronomy course and will eventually take over themanagement of the farm.They use only New Holland equipment, which includes 7 huge harvesters, 8trucks, 8 planters and 12 tractors which don’t have cabins yet (cabin roofswere only fitted 5 years ago).After lunch, we were taken to IAPAR (the Agronomic Institute of Parana) whichis a state owned research station for crops, soil conservation etc. It is 220ha insize and has about 500 employees plus another 200 students/trainees. Theyare funded by the government of Parana, one of Brazil’s States , but they alsoget additional funding from other research bodies in Brazil and other countriesplus private companies. They also have a seed production unit to sell new cropvarieties and hybrids developed at the Station. They also have an AdvisoryBranch to work closely with farmers. They work with soyabeans, cotton, apples(initially apples would not grow in this climate but they have now developed acultivar which is growing quite well), beans (they are trying to increase the ironcontent of bean crops), medicinal plants and a new venture with Neem treeswhich have a natural insecticide in the oil of the leaves and this oil can bemixed with water to produce a natural insecticide spray.After a tour of the station, we were addressed by Herbert Bartz, a Brazilianpioneer and world expert on zero-till planting.Brazil has extremes in weather in their cropping regions and the soils quicklydry out without protection. Also bare soils are prone to erosion. US farmersstarted no-till in the 1960’s so in 1971, they tried the first experiment in Brazilon a 35ha wheat paddock. In 1972, Herbert used the first no-till planter inBrazil. Initially, no-till was only designed to stop erosion but since then otherbenefits of the new method have become obvious. They had to develop new
ploughs and in 1973, they developed a low volume spraying technique whishwas used when there was still dew on the groundIn 1976, the first commercial crop was sown in Brazil, using the no-till method..In 1979, Herbert was involved in the formation of the “Earthworm Club” whichlater became the “Soil Friends Club” to promote the no-till technique. All theinformation was made available to anyone at no cost.Since 1972, the crop productivity/ha in Brazil has almost tripled because of no-till. Recent studies have shown that in summer soil temperatures can reach 74degreesC in bare soil but in covered soils, the temps are only 39C.Of course this is nothing new. The Babylonians knew 2,500 years ago that toget good crops, they aimed for minimum soil disturbance, permanent soilcover and rotate crops. They used water buffalo to develop their systems.Wednesday 13 July 2011After an early 7.30am start, we headed for a sugar cane plant at Taruma. Onthe way we were given some background information on aspects of Brazil’seconomy. Brazil is now the fourth or fifth largest economy in the world.Incomes in the 1970’s averaged about US$1000/person but today it is aboutUS$10,000/person. The country had huge inflation rates in the late 80’s andearly 90’s but this has settled down.Brazil has similar inheritance taxes to other SA countries. If you pass on yourassets to your children before you die, you pay 10-12% tax. If you leave it untilafter your death, the tax rate jumps to 20%. The third option, which a lot ofwealthy people do, is to form a company and put all your assets in the Co. andthus you can keep it in the family without having to pay taxes on your demise.The sugarcane plant is run by the Raizen organisation which is owned by Shelland another huge company, Cosan. Using sugarcane produced by farmers inthe region, they 24 different factories across Brazil, producing more than 2.2billion litres of ethanol per year for the national and international markets, 4million tons of sugar plus 900MW of electrical energy. The Company has over4,500 service stations for retail fuel distribution in Brazil, over 500 convenience
stores, 53 fuel distribution depots and an aviation fuel business in 54 airportsin Brazil.The sugarcane is processed and made into ethanol and sugar (both white andbrown). Ethanol is only made during the sugarcane season but sugar for eatingis made all the year round. The waste/residues from the ethanol productionline are used for fertiliser, stock feed and producing power to run thegenerators.Trucks bring in 50t loads to the factories where they are weighed and sampled(farmers get paid according to the weight and the quality). The plant works 24hours per day except when they shut down from mid Dec. to April. There are750 employees at the plant who each work 8 hour shifts.After lunch, we set off for Palmital township where we visited the HalotekFadel Industry factory, a family business which grows and processes cassava.Antonio and Victorio Fadel, 2 grandsons of the man who established thebusiness, manage the farm and factory.Cassava (which comes from the root of the plant) is an interesting species,originally being used by the early Indian inhabitants of the region as theirstaple diet, together with fish. Today, cassava has many uses (about 80different ones) such as human consumption (it can’t be eaten raw) and makingpaper, glue, starch, perfumes, cosmetics , rum etc. The composition of cassavais 40% starch, 10% fibre and 50% water.The crop is sown in neutral soils (often lime needs to be added to the soil toneutralise it) by cutting 10cm stems or sticks from mature trees and sowinghorizontally in the ground (in Thailand, another big cassava producer, they sowthe sticks vertically in mounds because of the much wetter conditions there).Sowing time is March to October and it can be harvested from 1-3 years olddepending on the variety. Yields range from 20t/ha in the first year to 40t/haafter 2 years growth. Contract growers who supply 80% of the Factory’srequirement, always plant several varieties.The Fadel brothers grow their own crops and use the cassava in the off seasonwhen the contractor supplies dry up. Overall, they harvest and process about3000ha of cassava annually. The two main competing countries are China andThailand. The industry in SA is stable but not growing.
After the visit, we had a 1.5 hour trip to Presidente Prudente, where we stayedthe night.Thursday 14 July The morning was spent travelling towards Campo Grande. On the way wecrossed the Parana river, a huge waterway with a 2.5km bridge over it. At theend of it, police were weighing trucks and buses and apparently our bus wasoverweight and the driver was fined. After lunch, we visited “Bela Vista’, acattle farm owned and run by the Coelho family.It was first developed by the family in 1892 when it was a 1 million ha farm.The current house was built in 1938 and the present property is 9000ha in size,of which 2,500ha are used for growing soyabeans and corn (which are used tomake feed and silage for the lot fed cattle), 4,000ha as pasture and theremaining 2,500ha is forest (contained a lot of Eucalyptus trees which supplywood to power the grain mill). They have their own mill to make the feed forthe cattle. They have about 8000 animals in the feedlot plus they also produceand sell about 600 pure bred bulls annually.The animals enter the feedlot when they are about 300kg in weight and aresold at 500-550kg weight 3 months later. The males are not castrated becausethis is what their markets demand. About 90% of the animals on the farm arebought in. The heifers are kept on the grass paddocks whilst the breeding cowsare run on another farm. The cattle in the feed lot are fed 4 times a day, Theyare vaccinate for Foot and Mouth disease but the only real health problemthey encounter is acidosis which is fixed by feeding them a carbonate mixture.The lot fed cattle go straight to an abattoirs from where most of the meat issold overseas, mainly to Japan and Russia.With the breeding enterprise, the farm initiated the breeding of the “Patanal”breed (Bos Taurus) and later the Zebu (Bos indicus), but now they areconcentrating on breeding and selling the Nelore breed. These were brought infrom India in the 1960’s. Twice a year, they auction the bulls in Campo Grandeand prices range from about US$3,500 to $8,000 per head.The breeding program on the farm is one developed by Embrapa Beef CattleStation, which is part of a large research institute (see notes for Friday 15 July).
The program, called Agroplus Geneplus, was set up in 2000 and it is acomputerised system which allows animal breeders to evaluate genetic trendsin their breeding herds, select the best progeny, rank cows and bulls anddevelop breeding plans for each herd. It can check individual animals on awhole range of traits and mix and match different bulls with different cows.Farmers can also see the genetic improvements in their herds and comparethese with the average.After this visit, we travelled to Campo Grande for the evening.Friday 15 July 2011This morning we visited the JBS Abattoirs located near Campo Grande. Thesewere built in 2006-2008 and now employ 1200 people, including 6veterinarians plus Inspection officers. They showed us all over the complexfrom the slaughter pens to the packaging areas and the new hamburgerprocessing facility being installed.The facility can slaughter up to 3,000 animals per day (810tonsof meat) but theaverage is about 900 animals daily. The average speed of the deboning chainsis 600t/day. There are 18 cooling chambers which can hold about 2000carcases and they have Cryovac packaging facilities.The meat and offal are sold all over the world to Europe, Asia, Africa, USA,Canada and, of course, South America. They do not export to Australiabecause we are one of a few countries that don’t allow imports from countrieswith F&M disease.We then went on to Embrapa where we had lunch.Embrapa is the Brazilian Research Service,which was established in 1973 todevelop new technologies for Brazilian agriculture and pass this knowledge onto farmers etc. There are now 46 separate research centres, including 7Ecoregional Institutes, employing 9342 people, which includes 2,282 researchofficers, 71% of whom have a PhD qualification. By 2010, Embrapa haddeveloped 110 new technologies and 140 improved varieties for commercialcrops. For every US% dollar invested in Embrapa, the return to the country’seconomy has been US$9.35, with 93,442 new jobs having been created.
The overall aim is to make the Brazilian agribusiness economy morecompetitive and they deliberately work with other countries (56 of them –Australia is not one of these) and other institutions (89 different ones). The 3main areas of research are animals, plants and integrated systems of farming.BEEF CATTLE and ANIMAL BREEDINGDr Luis Otavio, a beef specialist gave us a summary of the animal breedingprograms at the Institute. In Brazil, up to the 1950’s, productivity of the beefindustry was very low. In the Patanal region, which had 90% of the beef cattle,the average stocking rate was about 1 animal/3-4ha whilst in the northernregions, it was only 1 animal/15ha, all run on native grasses. Today, theaverage stocking rate in the Patanal is about 1.6 animals/ha. In that period,weaning %s have increased from 45% to 75%. Mortality rates have droppedfrom 30% to 6% and the average age of slaughter has dropped from 58 monthsto 30 months. Beef production accounts for &.3% of Brazil’s national product,employing about 7.5 million people. There are currently 193 million beefanimals of which 85 million are breeding cows. About 87% of cows are pasturefed, 7% are in feedlots and the remaining 6% live on pastures andsupplementary feed. Up until the 1980’s, the major goal was to increase the size of animals andincrease the milk production of cows but research showed that these 2objectives were less profitable than smaller cows and more efficient growingsystems.This led the Animal Breeding program to focus on selection systems to selectthe desired qualities in breeding stock and to encourage crossbreeding. In theearly 1980’s when the genetic evaluation programs were first set up byEmbrapa, there were only 300-400 bulls in the scheme in 1984. This year thereare 54,199 bulls, of which 40,000 are the Nelore breed. The Nelore breed hasbeen popular for many years, but recent research has shown that crossingNelore with breeds such as Simmental, Charolais or Chianina, increases thereturns to farmers by 10-15% when compared with the straight Nelore orBrangus cattle.PASTURES and VEGETATION RESEARCH
Dr Arnildo Pott then gave us an overview of this program in Brazil. Much of theprogram is focussed on breeding native plant species for use as commercialcrops. Brazil has an amazing number and variety of wild species of crops thatare commercialised in many other countries. For example, with peanuts, thereare 80 different species known in the world – 50 of these grow in Brazil.Other native species include wild rice, wild passionfruit, and some wildvarieties of paspalum and lemon grasses. Native fruits include wild cashews,custard apples, small guava, cumbaru nuts, marmalade box (related to coffee)and Buriti palms which Macaw birds depend on to live. There is also a wholerange of native medicinal plants which tend to grow in the poorer country,very similar to many Australian regions.When it comes to retaining native vegetation and wildlife, there are laws inplace but there is a big variation across Brazil. There are restrictions aboutclearing native forests but these vary. Atlantic forests on the east coast ofBrazil are protected, but generally, farmers can clear up to 80% of their farmsif they want to. The authorities are just starting to encourage wildlife corridorsand Off-set planting schemes. In the east of the Patanal region, pine trees arestarting to encroach into native bushlands and this is a real concern forauthorities. In some areas, there are numerous water buffaloes but these areharming the native plant species. When buffaloes were removed from onelarge wetland area, 25 aquatic plant species reappeared soon after.After the lectures, we set off for Bonito where we spent the night.Saturday 16 July 2011Today was a day for sightseeing. In the morning, we had a look around Bonito,visiting an aquarium and a Farmers Market. In the afternoon, we visited theMacaw Hole, a huge natural hole, 100metres deep and 500 metres incircumference, where we saw plenty of native birds such as the macaws,tucans etc. and wildlife such as alligators, armidillos, deer, anteaters etc. Thefarm on which the Hole is situated has changed from normal farming practicesto promoting and running an eco-tourism business, running excursions andproviding accommodation for tourists.After a tour of the property, we returned to our hotel in Bonito.
Sunday 16 July 2011 This morning, we left for a 3 hour drive through the Patanal region to SanFrancisco Farm, a huge multi enterprise farm on the Miranda River, owned bythe Coelho family. The farm was originally 15,000ha in size but was split upwhen the father died recently. The farm is a major eco-tourism site plus theyrun cattle, sheep and grow 4000ha of rice. Roberto Coelho, with his daughter Carol, owns and operates 4,500 ha, most ofwhich contains the swamplands and lagoons which are the basis of the Eco-tourism business. There are 26kms of waterways in the area, 19 of which areon Roberto’s farm. We were taken for a boat ride along some of thewaterways, seeing a big range of native birds plus caymans (alligators),anteaters, the biggest rodents in the world, etc. We stopped and did somefishing, with some of us catching a pirana or two. We stopped at one place tosee the Century Tree, an old historic tree that is over 100 years old where wefed caymans in the river. These nearly became extinct in the 1980’s because ofover killing for their hides, but now the wild ones are protected and numbersare increasing. In fact some people are farming them for their hides, such isthe demand for this product.Most of the farm is subject to flooding so they have had to build a big ditcharound the edge to keep the flood waters out. The sheep enterprise is small,as they need 24 hour protection from Jaguars as do the cattle at calving time(they lose 10-12 calves per year to jaguars).The cattle enterprise is based on breeding Senepols, a Braham-Red Poll crosswhich has good growth rates, very tender meat and can tolerate the hotweather conditions. They use the Geneplus breeding program to continuallyimprove their herd. They are trying to breed the whole year round, with thesteers and some of the females being finished off in feedlots. All the meat usedin the restaurant at the Eco centre comes from the farm. They used to growMontana cattle, which are a Neloro x Simmental cross, but they produce multi-coloured calves and the quality is not as good, hence the shift to Senepols.They have 600ha of rice, with another 3,400ha being grown on other parts ofthe family farm. The rice is irrigated using 100kms of canals supplying water
from the nearby Miranda river. Current yields of rice are about 6t/ha but withnew varieties coming soon, they are hoping to increase this to 8t/ha. At themoment, prices for rice are very low, so they are looking at other alternativesfor their irrigated paddocks such as soybeans.They also grow a lot of Eucalyptus trees along the banks of the canals andlagoons and use the wood for drying the rice after harvesting.After the extensive farm visit, we set off for Campo Grande where we arrivedat our hotel at 10.30pm after a 4 hour drive.Monday 18 July 2011The whole day was spent travelling from Campo Grande to Rio de Janeiro viaBrasilia.Tuesday 19 July 2011The day began badly when some of our group were attacked whilst going foran early morning walk along the beach. Fortunately, they escaped unscathed.The day was spent sightseeing which included a train trip up to see the statueof Christ the Redeemer (which was largely covered in fog) and a cable car rideup to Sugar Loaf mountain which has some wonderful views, although alsofoggy.That night, we had a Samba Show at dinnertime which was excellent, withsome very athletic dancers. Also, the dances demonstrated the developmentof the Brazilian culture, starting from the ancient Indian culture through to thePortugese culture.Wednesday 20 July 2011The whole day was spent travelling by bus from Rio to San Paulo, then catchinga flight to Lima in Peru, arriving after 11.00pm. On the road to San Paulo, westopped to see the Aparecida Catholic Cathedral, the third largest in theworld, which was built in 1954 and can seat 150,000 in the main building.
When all the outlying chapels are used, the complex can accommodate300,000 people.On the way to Guarulhos airport, our bus was weighed and we were onceagain over the limit and the driver had to pay a fine before we were allowed toproceed.Overnight in Lima.PERUThursday 21 July 2011Lima has a population of about 9 million. Temperatures range from 12C to 30cbut the annual rainfall is only 75mm which is extremely low but they are onthe west side of the Andes where most of the rain falls. Peru gained itsindependence from Spain initially in 1821 but consolidated it in 1824. In theearly 1900’s, there was a great influx of immigrants. Over 10% of the currentpopulation has a Chinese background with Japanese and Italians also beingprominent. Over 65% of Peru’s exports are minerals, including silver, copper,zinc, lead and gold. It also exports oil. Tourism is another big income earner forthe country. The day was spent visiting the many historical sites and buildingsin Lima.Friday 22 July 2011Today was spent flying from Lima to Juliaca, via Cusco. Juliaca (altitude of3,800m) has a population of 300,000 and is the commercial centre of theprovince (Puno is the capital). Juliaca is close to the Bolivian border so many ofthe local businesses are illegal. The annual rainfall is 600-700mmwith the maincrops in the area being potatoes, quinoa and other tuber crops, barley, oatsand beans. Sheep are the next biggest industry followed by cattle then camels.Milk production is increasing in recent times in the area as other more arablecountry in Peru is changing to cropping.On the way we saw a lot of raised bed cropping which originated way back in5000BC when the first inhabitants from the jungles came out into the flat plainlands and started growing crops. We also saw a lot of llamas and alpacas whichare very popular in Peru. Another feature of the farm houses were small clay
bull heads on top of the roofs. This is an old tradition of scaring evil spiritsaway.We then set off to drive to Puno, visiting the Sillustani graves on the way. Thisis an ancient burial ground of the pre-Inca people who inhabited the regionover 2000 years ago. We arrived at Puno where we were advised to get agood night’s sleep to acclimatise to the high altitude.Saturday 23 July 2011An early start again, commencing with a 3 hour boat trip on Lake Titicaca (the“Grey Puma”), firstly to the floating islands of Uros and then to the island ofTaquile. The floating islands were amazing in that they were literally formedfrom reeds growing in the lake. Titicaca is a huge lake, 8,600 sq. kms in size, allof which is fresh water. Reeds cover about 25,000ha of the lake, and over thecenturies, people learnt how to make floating islands from these reeds andthere are now about 60 floating islands on which about 2,500 people live,making their living from fishing, tourism and working on the mainland. Thereare 3 schools on these islands and a hospital with a doctor and nurse. Thereeds are also used for eating and making their houses and boats.Afterwards, we had a 2 hour boat trip to the island of Taquile where we weresupposed to climb 600 steps to the pinnacle, but, because some people werestill struggling with altitude sickness, we look a longer but gentler climb to thetop. This island has about 5000 inhabitants who make their living via fishing,farming and catering for tourists. All the families work co-operatively and takeit in turns to run the island’s shops and businesses. There has been acommunity decision not to allow horses or donkeys on to the island.Another interesting fact about the people here was that they dress accordingto their marital status, to distinguish between who is available for marriageand who is already taken.We then had a lovely 2 hour boat trip back to our hotel in Puno.Sunday 24 July 2011Today was spent travelling from Puno to Cusco (formerly known as Qosquowhich means the Middle of the Earth). Cusco is the 6th largest city in Peru with
a population of 450,000 – Peru’s population is 30 million. On the way wevisited a couple of ancient temples.We also saw numerous alpacas and llamas which are farmed extensively inPeru. There are 2 types of llamas, one with a lot of wool and this is used formaking clothes etc whilst the other sort were used as carriers by the Incas.They were also used for meat, with the hides used to make ropes to pull thehuge heavy stones up the mountain sides to build the famous Inca towns andfortresses. There are also 2 types of alpacas, one with a lot of wool, once againused for clothes and the other used as a source of meat which is very tasty andhas no cholesterol.We also passed many plantations of Eucalyptus trees. The wood is used tomake houses (although most houses are made with mud bricks) and forfirewood and the leaves are used for medicines.Peru has 3 basic regions – the Coast, the Andes and the jungle of the lowerAmazon region. There are only 2 Universities in Peru, one public and the otherprivate, plus there are Technical Colleges. Education in Peru is compulsoryfrom 5-16 years old. Health care is free but only for Government employees.Peru’s power comes from 95% hydro-electric and 5% from natural gas.We spent the night at Cusco.Monday 25 July 2011Today, we travelled west from Cusco to Ollantaytambo in the Sacred valley ofthe Incas, which was a major Inca military, religious and agricultural centre. Onthe way, we saw Cachimayo, a big fertiliser plant that was built in 1930’s. Itoperated 24 hours per day, supplying fertiliser to farmers all over the countrybut in the 1990’s, the government started importing fertiliser from overseasand this severely affected this business, which now only operates part-time inthe busy season.The town of Ollantaytambo was built as a fortress, high in the mountains toprotect the people from invaders. This was successful up until 1537 when thethen native leader, Manco Inca, decided that his situation was untenable so hewithdrew from the site back to the heavily forested site of Vilcabamba. Thesite was then assigned to a Spanish nobleman, Hernando Pizzaro.
Some very interesting buildings, situated high above the town on steepmountain slopes, are grain storage houses where the locals stored their grain.The reason for building them high above the valley floor was because thelower temperatures and more wind helped to stop the grain decaying. Thegrain was poured in through the windows on the uphill side of each building,then emptied out through the downhill side windows.During our trip there and back to Cusco, we saw a lot of cropping farms. Themain crop in the area is potatoes, which are sown when the first rains come inOctober. There are about 150 different varieties of spuds, depending on therainfall and the altitude. In Lima there is a Potato research Centre which isbreeding new, better varieties. They also keep all the old varieties going whichnow number about 3000, some of which are known to be 5-6000 years old.The main potato area in Peru is based around Chinchero, a town of 10,000people. Most potato farmers today still use oxen, old ploughs and harvest byhand. Only the rich farmers have tractors. In recent times, Co-ops havebecome popular as members buy machinery between them and share it duringthe sowing and harvesting seasons. Other crops grown in the region are oca(the root has natural sugars which are good for diabetics, but too much of itlowers testosterone levels so men affected eat another crop product calledmaca which is like a natural Viagra. This maca is also good for mothers withyoung children). Quinoa is another crop, being good for treating memory lossdue to its high amino acid content.Corn can be grown from 500m to 3,600m altitude and there are about 40different varieties. One interesting use of corn is to make a Liquor drink (3%alcohol) which is very popular and we saw quite a number of Corn Liquor Barsin towns.Timber plantations of Eucalypts were also very common and can be grown upto altitudes of about 4.400 metres. The Eucy timber was initially used forrailway sleepers but today is used for building houses and heating places.We then returned to Cusco for the night.Tuesday 26 July 2011
Today was entirely devoted to visiting the famous Machu Pichu site. Wetravelled by bus to Ollantaytambo where we caught the train to Machu Pichu.Once there, we were taken by bus up to the historic site which is 2.430mabove sea level.In spite of seeing many photos of the ruins beforehand, to actually see the sitewas awesome. To hear about the history left us wondering how the Incas everachieved what they did. For example, the entire complex was built fromgranite stones, many of them weighing over 10 tonnes. All these stones camefrom a mountain 8km away. They were cut out of the mountain and takendown to the nearby valley floor where each one was precisely shapedaccording to plans and models developed beforehand. They were thentransported (using animals, ropes, people and timber rollers) to pull eachstone up the mountain to the Machu Pichu site where they were used toconstruct the various buildings, temples, forts etc. in designs that not onlyachieved the religious and cultural objectives, but as well to successfullysurvive the common earthquake tremors that hit the are. It took an average of1 whole year from the time a rock was cut from the first mountain until it wasput in place at the city site. When you see how many thousands (millions?) ofstones were needed, it is beyond our comprehension but it was carried outand it served the Incas well.We returned to Cusco on the train which was a wonderful trip with all thevarious sites of mountains, rivers, farmland etc. Also, whilst on the train, thestaff entertained us with a comedy show and an alpaca fashion parade.Wednesday 27 July 2011This morning, we had a tour of the city centre of Cusco, where we visited theTemple of the Sun, which demonstrated the incredible masonry of the Incas.Huge stones were placed together, all to build the Temple and no mortar wasused, thanks to the perfect fitting together of every stone. We then visited theSpanish built cathedral which was over–the-top ornate furnishings of goldplated picture frames, candelabras, carved woodwork, altars and paintings.The cathedral was deliberately built on the site of a former Inca temple, usingstones taken from the famous Saqsayhuamann site, just outside Cusco , which
was the original city of the Incas in the area. The stones were also used for government buildings and homes for the wealthy Spaniards. Whilst we were in the city, we were fortunate to see a huge demonstration in the city centre, celebrating Peru’s Independence Day which is officially on July 28. There was a great display of military personnel, bands, government officials and thousands of people. The ceremony also celebrated the commencement of the newly elected Peruvian President’s 5 year term. We then went out to Tambomachay (known as the Baths of the Incas) which, besides all the ruins of buildings, consists of aqueducts, canals and waterfalls running through the terraced rocks. We also visited the underground cave and temple of Kenko which was an important worship centre for the Incas for ceremonies dedicated to Mother Earth. That night we enjoyed dinner in Cusco. Thursday 28 July 2011 The day was spent travelling from Cusco to Lima where we spent the night, after enjoying our farewell Dinner. Friday 29 July – Sunday 31 July We departed from our hotel at 10.00pm and went to the airport where wecaught a plane to Santiago. We then flew back to Australia, via Auckland NZ, arrivingearly on Sunday morning.