Travel through Brazil
Iowa Farm Bureau Trip
The Iowa Farm Bureau took a group of farmers and agribusinesses
to Brazil to learn about the country’s growing cattle industry and the
limitations infrastructure puts on crop exports. Stacy Timperley, with
Forbs Export Services, captured these photos on the trip and provided
info for the captions. In Mato Grosso, a major producer of crops
and cattle, soybeans are typically the first crop; the second is corn
(like the yellow corn shown at left), sunflowers, or cotton.
When you combine the lack of paved roads with a high cost to maintain rural roads, a lack of funding, and an average rainfall of 50 inches per year, you end up with bumpy roads that make travel difficult and expensive. “To get soybeans from Mato Grosso to a port costs farmers $2.40 a bushel,” says Timperley. “If you relate that to here in the U.S., it costs only 80¢ per bushel to take grain from Iowa down the Mississippi River to a port.”
Even the Iowa Farm Bureau tour bus had a difficult time on the sandy roads. This makes you wonder how the outdated infrastructure can support large trucks and equipment on the farmer-maintained roads.
Less than 10% of exports are transported via rail due to a comparable cost to ship products by truck. Timperley said railroad stops, like the one at the left, were frequently covered with grass and rundown.
The first Zebu cattle from Africa were brought to Brazil in 1933. Three years later the Nelore breed was introduced to the country. The Nelore breed is favored for their heat and parasite resistance, although the carcass quality isn’t ideal for foreign markets. However, Brazil is a price sensitive market so most farmers still favor the lower cost production of this breed.
Difficulties with Angus
There are some producers who are incorporating Angus to produce higher quality meat. However, they are having issues with parasites. Researchers are working on incorporating the Nelore genes that repel parasites into the higher quality breeds. Ranchers cannot use Ivermectin with more than 1% concentration.
Fertility is also an issue with Angus cattle in Brazil. On average, cattle can only breed for two years due to heat stress and insect problems. The majority of Angus cattle are in the southern states of Brazil where the climate is cooler. The ranchers truck the mature Angus to Minas Gerais to finish at feedlots. During this 55-hour journey cattle can lose up to 100 pounds. It is more economical for the producers to truck the cattle to the feedlots rather than ship feed to the cattle.
Calving season generally takes place in the winter months from July to September. The pregnancy rate is 70% and 95% give birth to live calves. The calves are weaned somewhere between eight to 10 months. On average, a rancher uses one hectare (2.5 acres) per pair of cow/calf.
With advancements in technology, producers have successfully cloned their prize heifers and bulls to pass on genetics. Cloning and AI research is competitive and vital to understand how to get the best characteristics for what the market demands. Brazil is aggressively working on getting the marbled meat found in higher quality breeds into the local breeds that can handle Brazil’s climate.
Take a look at the state of agriculture in Brazil.