The wet Pampas to the South West of Rosario used to be prime beef country, but when the past government placed huge taxes on exports and made beef unprofitable, much of this area was converted to soya.
As a result, land is now worth up to US$20,000/ha, compared to US$10-15,000 in the drier “wet pampas” to its south.
The Groppo family used to produce Angus genetics for the wet Pampas region, but a reduced market meant they had to change track. They decided to develop Brangus genetics instead. This Angus cross Brahman (Bos Indicus) is ideally suited to the north of the country, where many beef produces were pushed out to following the development of soya.
The Brahman genetics mean that cattle are better suited to the high temperatures of the north (45C) thanks to:
- Their skin folds which increase their surface area and make them more able to release heat
- Their ‘hump’ which means they have more fat reserves relative to an Angus so are able to cope better with draught
- Black or dark skin pigmentation which is more resistant to the sun
Their resistance to ticks is also a huge selling point in the northern region. Ticks cause blood and weight loss. However more significant are the diseases that ticks spread, which can lead to anaemia and death.
Mauricio Groppo now sells 120 Brangus bulls, 150 heifers and 750 embryos a year under the La Saltana brand. He has seen a marked increase in interest in the breed and believes the breed is taking over from the Hereford as second most prevalent in the country after Aberdeen Angus.
Herefords were predominantly found in the better grass growing areas, but as these are now taken up by cropping, the Aberdeen Angus has become more prevalent. Producers believe Angus are better at making the most of the more hostile territories that beef has been pushed out to.
The development of the Brangus is just another example of the resilience of Argentine farmers and the fact they have had to be willing to adapt to challenging conditions created by politicians.