Tougher Cattle Threaten Argentine Beef Exports

BUENOS AIRES - Agricultural economics may be spoiling a good steak.
calendar icon 31 August 2007
clock icon 2 minute read

Tough meat.

The comedown is unfolding in Argentina, where ranchers are driving their world-famous cattle herds to the swamps and scrubland of the country's north as they turn the grassy plains of the central Pampas over to soybeans and corn, which are more profitable.

To help the herds withstand the heat and poorer pastures of their new homes, the ranchers are cross-breeding Aberdeen Angus and Hereford cattle, which have produced the country's renowned beef, with Brahman strains from India and Brazil.

"Before, Argentina was recognized as having the best beef in the world," said Julio Mouremble, a rancher in Buenos Aires Province and vice president of the Argentine Shorthorn Association. "Now, we're losing quality."

In the north, cattle contend with drought, swamps, poisonous snakes and even vampire bats, said Alejandro Garcia, who promotes the expansion of livestock for the provincial government of Formosa.

This year, piranhas have added to their woes. As many as 40,000 cattle whose regular pastures were flooded have died, either through starvation or because of infected wounds from piranha bites, according to Victor Hugo Ruiz, who represents ranchers in Bañado La Estrella, a swampy area near Formosa's border with Paraguay.

The herds' forced migration north has enabled Argentina's grain and oilseed industry to grow almost 50 percent in the past four years as rising demand for soybeans and corn from China drove up world prices.

Source: HeraldTribune
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