Argentine cattle move from Pampas to feedlots

Wed Dec 17, 2008 7:18pm EST
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By Nicolas Misculin

SANTA LUCIA, Argentina (Reuters Life!) - Cows grazing freely on the vast Pampas have long been part of Argentine tradition. Now that view is changing as ranchers herd their cattle into feedlots.

Breaking with a history of cattle roaming the plains, feeding on grass and herded by gauchos, many farmers are looking to increase efficiency and free up land for the profits of grains.

"The feedlot system is here to stay, there is no turning back," said Ignacio Rivarola, president of Proteco S.A., a cattle feedlot operator.

Historically one of the world's leading beef producers and an agricultural powerhouse, Argentina has ridden a boom in soybean prices in recent years to become a top global soy exporter.

Soybean prices have plummeted in recent months, but in their long, climb, farmers moved their free-range cattle off Argentina's most fertile lands and into corrals.

Today, nearly 40 percent of Argentina's cattle -- some 12 million to 13 million head -- have been driven into feedlots, nearly three times the number in 2001.

Feedlots, the holding pens where cattle are fattened before being slaughtered, are widely used in the United States and Europe, but have been slow to catch on among Argentine farmers.

And, unlike in other countries where cattle are essentially raised in feedlots, in Argentina they spend only up to four months in corrals.   Continued...

<p>A cow sticks its tongue out while being fed at a feedlot in Santa Lucia, some 200 km (125 miles) northeast of Buenos Aires, in this picture taken on November 13, 2008. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci</p>