The 21st International Limousin Congress took place in Argentina from November 2nd to the 9th. Over 150 delegates attended from 17 countries, Ireland was represented by 12 attendees.
The Argentine Limousin Breeders' Association was the first Limousin society founded outside of France in 1964. Since then Limousin has achieved “outstanding performance based on their extraordinary carcass yield, fertility, calving ease, high genetic performance, production longevity and most important adaptability to different weather conditions”.
Like you, the farmers we met are passionate about their Limousin cattle. Throughout the week we learned about the Limousin breed in Argentina but also about the Argentine culture, history, dance and the huge diversity that makes Argentina the country it is today.
Argentina has 400,000 farmers, 52 million stock, 2,800,000 tons of beef produced annually, 11,000,000 animals slaughtered annually, 570,000 people work in the meat chain. The majority of Argentine beef is produced on the Pampas where temperatures rise to highs of over 40 degree Celsius. Ninety-five percent of all milk produced is in an area covering just 3% of the country.
Given Argentina is over 2,200 miles long there is huge climate variation. We experienced flooding and drought on the same day. Virtually all stock are out wintered. Given the climate and ground conditions we never saw grass like we grow in Ireland.
The Argentine people are very emotional and this was very evident on our arrivals to the host farms, the whole family were out to greet us and warmly welcome us to their homes. One farmer said as he stood at his farm entrance with his family. “When I saw the busses arrive I cried like a baby, my passion is my family and my farm”.
We arrived in Buenos Aires on Sunday afternoon after a 14 hour flight from London. Very heavy rain was falling resulting in the area having the amount of rainfall in 2 days as they would normally receive in 6 weeks. The impact of this rain was very evident by the level of flooding in the fields during the early part of the week.
Driving through some of the towns in the afternoon (during siesta time) is like an episode of “The Walking Dead”, there are no people around. All shops are closed and everyone is indoors.
Argentina has annual inflation of 40% which brings its own challenges.
We were based in three main centers; Buenos Aires, Rosario and Cordoba. Cordoba is over 700km from Buenos Aires and Rosario over 300km. Argentina is a country of contrasts. Farm sizes are very different to what we are used to in Ireland. Some fields are the size of a small parish! Many children travel long distance cross country on horseback to school.
Over the seven days we travelled over 2,000 miles. We met people from Limousin herds (big and small) across the globe, all willing to share their experiences and their interest in Limousin cattle.
The Opening Ceremony took place in the French Embassy in Buenos Aries, an extremely impressive building. Irish Limousin Cattle Society President Kevin Bohan represented Irish Limousin carrying the Irish flag during the ceremony. We were all welcomed and it provided the first opportunity to mix with the other delegates.
We left the hotel at 7.30am on Monday morning. Due to the rain the first farm visit was unfortunately cancelled. This was a huge disappointment to the owner and staff given all the preparation that they had undertaken for our visit. Fortunately we had an opportunity to visit another of his farms on Friday.
The first farm we actually visited was in Castelli in the province of Buenos Aires over 3 hours drive from the city. The Schmale Luchessi family enterprise comprises of three farms. The one we visited was 850 hectares and carried feeder cattle from their other farms and Creole horses. The other farms consist of 1,100 hectares and 1,850 hectares. On the 1,100 hectares farm are 320 purebred Limousin cows as well as other livestock. The Limousin cattle would be comparable to commercial cattle back home.
One of the main attractions here proved to be the gauchos and their horses. We were all enthralled by their horsemanship. In each group one horse wears a bell around its neck and that group obediently follow its leader. The owners could have a few hundred horses (made up of different groups) together in a field. If they want to take one of the groups (around 12 horses) out they take the lead horse (wearing the bell) and the rest of the group follow. We were treated to an exhibition of great horsemanship.
In the evening we returned to Buenos Aires where we had dinner at a Tango show. Tango is a huge part of Argentine culture. Most of the farms we visited entertained us with their local dance.
On Tuesday we left the hotel at 7.00am. Our first stop was the National Livestock Market in Buenos Aires city. The mart which is the oldest in Argentina is in operation since 1901. 150,000 head of cattle are sold monthly. It covers 34 hectares and has 2,200 pens.
The contrast to our marts is huge. All cattle pens are made from timber. The drovers are all on horseback. The auctioneer is driven between the pens on a buggy with the buyers overhead. All cattle go from the mart to be slaughted. It supplies 50% of the beef eaten in Argentina.
Twenty nine procurement officers are the only purchasers present. In less than five minutes the auctioneer sold 40 pens with around 15 cattle per pen. The market trades four days per week and has the capacity to sell 30,000 cattle per day. Pens of Limousin steers selling at 18 months weighing 440kgs made from €1.20 to €1.60 per kilo.
In the afternoon we visited two more farms. The first is a dairy farm in Lujan owed by the Chiaravalle family. They have five dairy farms in different parts of the province. The farm we visited consisted of 100 hectares owned and 70 rented. They milk 170 Argentine Holsteins cows and have 20 purebred Limousin cows. The Grand Champion female at Palermo show was bred here. They have also had success crossing Limousin with the Brahman breed.
After another fantastic lunch we visited the Lattanti family farm “La Cotidiana”, located 60 miles from Buenos Aires. This farm is 100 hectares focusing on Limousin. Sires from this farm are now resident in insemination stations. Heifers are calved down at 24 months. Their ultimate aim is to breed “moderate, medium sized and deep limousin breeding stock, hardy with satisfactory body cover, strong bones and satisfactory conformation, adapted to efficiently produce beef in their region”.
That evening we were treated to Carnival Argentine dancers, one of the entertainment highlights of the trip!
Our route onto Rosario had to be changed due to flooding. We started our 4.5 hour journey and got to our hotel after 2.00am.
Wednesday was the technical day. Attendees could attend the presentation or go on a tour of Rosario. Presenters presented on different elements of cattle breeding and research programs both in Argentina and globally.
The International Limousin Council held their AGM. The UK's Aled Edwards was re-elected as president with our Breed Secretary - Paul Sykes co-opted to Council.
On Thursday morning we left the hotel at 5.45am. Our first stop after a three hour journey was the Dietert family farm “Los Ombues” in the province of Sante Fe. This was the first intensive farm we visited. Strip grazing was being used with the fence being moved four times a day. (Later in the week this herd had many winners at the show). The cattle on this farm and the one we visited later in the afternoon were similar in type to some of the Limousin cattle back home in Ireland.
Females in Los Ombues are calved in two groups, Mar-Apr and May-June. The purebred establishment consists of 60 cows, some of the cows are flushed. All feeding for the animals is grown on the farm.
They also purchase cattle at 6 months old to finish. Animals are put into a small paddock at night and fed corn. The average live weight gain is 1.4kg per day. They also winter 450 steers per year. Steers are killed at around 420kg with 61% carcass yeild. Los Ombues produces alfalfa and soy round bales, cracked corn silage, corn grain. Grazing includes legume hay, alfalfa and grasses.
In the afternoon we visited “La Esmeralda” owned by Dalmiro Martinez. The farm consists of 1400 hectares. After another exceptional lunch we walked around the high quality stock, this farm also produces maize, soya and wheat which is fed to the livestock in the extensive feedlot. The feedlot is outdoors on the soil, no sheds. The only investment to set up a feedlot is the cost of the wire and the concrete blocks for the feeding area. The feed-lot holds 2,000 head. Given the meals we had each day it felt like the delegates were the ones in the feedlot! Each farm was extremely hospitable with food and beverages laid on for us. Lunch was always beef cooked outdoors on large metal frames. Very large portions were the norm; many of the attendees are no doubt by now on diets.
In all the areas we were the cattle are out wintered.
On Friday morning we left Rosario and headed for Cordoba, the second largest city in Argentina. We visited the Argentine National Institute of Agricultural Technology Experimental Station. The work carried out here allows the country to enhance itβs potential and opportunities to reach regional and international markets with high value added products and services.
On Saturday we attended the show and sale in Jesus Marie 30 miles north of Cordoba city. Top genetics from the major breeders participate at this show. The sales ring was a similar size to the showing area in Roscrea. The show took place in the Sales ring in the morning. The younger animals were unhaltered. The sale took place in the afternoon. The top price was €3,400. Most stock made from €1,800 to €2,200.
That evening the show winners were presented with their awards and then the dancing began. The Argentines like to dance! Within 30 seconds the floor was full.
On Sunday we had our final farm visit (two hours from Cordoba) in Avellaneda, “Tronco Viejo”, owned by the Romanutti family. It covers 1,000 hectares. The Romanutti have a second farm which is 900 hectares and dedicated to crops.
The closing dinner took place on Sunday evening. The video clip promoting the Irish congress was played to a very positive response. We said our goodbyes early as most of the Europeans had a 5.00am start to start our long trip home.
What a fantastic week. Being the first time I attended a congress I had no idea what to expect. The week flew by. I met many fantastic people. For many people the Congress is their holiday. One of the objectives of the congress is to “foster friendship between Limousin breeders throughout the world”. While the cattle are important the congress is about much more; seeing a country, learning about its culture, making new friends. We learned a huge amount about what is involved in running a congress and more importantly what the attendees are looking for.
Ireland 2016 (August 20th - 28th), I can’t wait! What an opportunity to showcase our Limousin, but just as importantly to showcase our beautiful country, culture and many, many attractions.
Finally I would like to congratulate our Argentinian hosts of a fantastic congress.
Pictures and video clips to follow.