06 April 2010

Dairy Farms in Argentina

As content as a cow.

During my time in Argentina, I have visited three or four dairy farms. This is not a large group to make any wide conclusions, but I can make a few observations on what I have seen to date.

1. The dairies I visited all graze alfalfa by rotating cows between paddocks. They supplement the grazing with silage (corn and alfalfa silage) and some grain (corn or grain sorghum).

2. The alflalfa is grown in rotation with corn, soybeans and wheat. An alfalfa field will last about 4 to 5 years. They rotate into row crops for about 4 years.

3. Most of the cows are Holsteins. Some are Jersey.

4. Artificial insemination is the method for breeding.

5. Alflalfa in this region could be cut up to 9 times if adequate water is available in a year.

One of the farms I visited was Alfalfarce which is about 60 km west of Venado Tuerto. Alfalfarce has about 3,100 hectares (7,860 acres). It is managed by a group, Morgan Stein, who manages a total of 20,000 hectares (50,800 acres). Alfalfarce has about 300 hectares (762 acres) of alfalfa and about 1100 cows. The farm has two mobile milking parlors and one stationary. Each cow is milked twice a day. The milking parlor moves from field to field to milk the cows. Each mobile milking parlor milks 36 cows at a time. The milk is chilled to 8 degrees C (45 degrees F) and stored in a 2000-liter mobile tank. Trucks take milk from the farm each day.

On this farm, the 1st cutting of alfalfa is made into silage. Cows rotationally-graze the alfalfa after that.

The dairy part of the operation is in a CREA group for dairy production. The manager of the field crops, Gaston Glarace, is also a CREA advisor for a grain crops group in another region of the country.

With only 300 hectares in alfalfa, most of the other fields are in row crops. As with most places this year, row crops look great. Soybeans are yielding about 4.1 to 4.5 tons/ha (roughly 60 to 67 bu/acre). Corn yielded about 11 tons/ha or 175 bu/acre.

Another farm I visited was El Pimpollo, which has 5,200 hectares (almost 12,900 acres) in one tract. El Pimpollo has a dairy with about 600 to 650 cows, a feedlot and 3,200 hectares (7,900 acres) in crops. They use about 480 hectares for the dairy cows and about 800 hectares for the feedlots. Another 400 hectares is used for breeding. They supply all of their own silage and grain for feed. Alfalfa for the dairy cows is grazed in rotation. Alfalfa is grown in rotation with corn and soybeans.

About 8 people are employed full time on the dairy and another 3 full time on the crops. The farm uses a contractor for who has been planting for this farm for 40 years.

El Pimpollo grows a lot of Pannar corn hybrids for silage production. I visited this farm with a group of South African farmers here on a tour with Pannar. The owner of the farm, Santiago Sastre, gave a PowerPoint presentation with google earth images of his farms and with an economic breakdown of what his goals are per hectare for the dairy and the feedlot. I'm not sure if Santiago is a member of a CREA group, but his presentation was very similar to what I have seen from CREA members.

Portable milking parlor.

Milk tank.