Livestock reconversion: “Those who do not look for alternatives will not have a successful future”, warns Chubut goat producer and herdsman Nicolás Aylin.

08 May 2023

In five years, the Media Luna ranch and cattle ranch will reach a century of existence in the Sarmiento Valley, in the south of the province of Chubut. The agronomist and cattle producer Nicolas Ayling, current director of this company, has witnessed most of the activity that has been carried out there during these almost one hundred years, which has been reconverted on more than one occasion in order to stay afloat.

“My grandfather bought the ranch in 1928. When I finished my degree, my parents offered me to settle in the area in 1973, where at that time they had a Corriedale enterprise with a very good demand. That wool then lost its value and between 1982 and 1984 we made a transfer to Poll Merino. In 1999, together with my wife, we started growing cherries and two years ago, in 2021, we started a vineyard”, Aylin told Bichos de Campo.

To these activities we have to add the production of Hereford breeding stock and the creation of a herd dedicated to it, which was one of the driving forces behind the improvement of cattle herds in the Sarmiento area.

-What made you leave the sheep business to join other activities?

-I think that everything happened because we were restless. There was a tendency to put our eggs in different baskets and a message that we had to diversify. If we keep waiting for the State to come and solve the economic situation, we can keep on waiting. So one tries to have a certain standard of living, a certain welfare. That leads us to venture into tasks such as vineyards, for example.

-Many producers report problems to maintain their fields and you see more and more empty extensions of land in the province. How do you perceive it?

-It is like that and it is a combination of things: lack of sheep policies, lack of incentives for production. I am very concerned about the depopulation that has been generated over the years. The other issue is that our wool in Patagonia is mainly exported to Europe, that is to say that we are not Chinese-dependent. What happens if we add a standard of sustainability to that wool, whether it is good animal treatment, good pasture management? What happens if we add that wool and meat can be organic? When you add it up, it really has very different values from the rest.

Then, Aylin added: “There is also a serious issue and that is that 50% of sheep farms have extra farm income. This means that people are working outside to support the farm, which is not logical either. There is a lack of sheep policy, of changes in sheep policy, there are export retentions. Until this is not reversed, unfortunately the fields will continue to be depopulated. And there is a reality: farm owners are getting older and young people are looking for other alternatives. They are trained and they will not go back to something that is not profitable. So the fields are becoming depopulated, generating an increase in predatory species, cattle rustling, etc.”.

-You have cattle, Is that a slightly more profitable way out in this context?

-It is putting your eggs in different baskets. You have sheep, you add cattle and other activities. There are areas where directly, due to the number of predatory species, they cannot have more sheep. Between cattle grazing and the predatory species, they cannot have any more. And look at the guanaco issue in Santa Cruz. They have practically dominated the whole of Patagonia.

Then he pointed out: “There are fields that are unviable for cattle. Once we did an important work in INTA, which was to see how Patagonia was populated with sheep and it always started from the coast and the pre-mountain range towards the center. Nowadays, the depopulation is taking place from the center towards the mountain range and the coast. That is where the lack of policy, poor management and lack of incentives for good management come in. Many times money is given for credits and sometimes it is misdirected. There is no follow-up of the investments.

-In your opinion, the sheep frontier has shifted, but not to the detriment of cattle.

-Sheep are still there, but at a low level, but they are still there. Cattle are gaining ground but not that much.

-What do you foresee five years from now when the herd reaches the century mark?

-I think we will continue looking for alternatives. Those who do not reconvert or who do not look for alternatives, unfortunately will not have a successful future.

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Source: Bichos de Campo