Sant’Ana do Livramento is one of the most traditional cities of the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. In the city, which is on the border with Uruguay, the residents are always drinking their favorite herb brew, chimarrão.
And you can occasionally meet someone wearing what was the traditional attire of the south, bombacha (loose pants tied at the ankle) and a hat.
The city also has as its main source of income one of the most ancient productive activities in the state: livestock farming.
Different from chimarrão, however, whose preparation also follows the rules of ancient Rio Grande do Sul tradition, cattle farming is progressing fast in the city.
The farmers of Sant’Ana do Livramento have made the city into one of the most important centers for the breeding of European cattle breeds in the country, especially British breeds. This success was reached due to investment in genetic improvement.
According to the agronomic engineer at the Agriculture Secretariat of the City of Sant’Ana do Livramento, Alex Fabiano Fernandes Gomes, it is the farmers who take care of the improvement of breeds in their herds.
In the city of just 96,000 inhabitants there are 30 farmers specialized in selling females for reproduction. The herd in the area is of 650,000 animals. That means that in the city there are over six heads of cattle per inhabitant.
Sant’Ana do Livramento is famous in the state for its Hereford, Polled Hereford, Red Angus and Aberdeen Angus cattle, pure British breeds, and for the Braford and Brangus, hybrid animals.
"We have pure Hereford, Angus, Short Horn, Devon and Charolais animals," stated the president of the Rural Association and Rural Union of Sant’Ana do Livramento, César Maciel.
Short Horn and Devon are also breeds originally from Europe. They are all turned to beef, an activity that is very large in the city.
In the farms surrounding the city there are animals like bull PPC 16, a Polled Hereford aged 24 months and weighing 905 kilograms, recently sold by Agropecuária Reculuta Agropastoril to a local farmer for approximately US$ 3,500.
There are also in Sant’Ana do Livramento initiatives like that of Agropecuária Caty, one of the breeders participating in a private program of breed improvement, the Delta G Connection.
The program, which currently includes 33 farms from Rio Grande do Sul, Paraná, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goiás and Bahia, makes it possible for the animals to have their genetic performance improved through the use of mathematical models.
The program accompanies, for example, the speed of growth of the animals, the composition of their carcasses, through visual analysis and ultrasound, tick resistance and weight produced by females (the weigh of all the female’s calves added together).
The animals that do not match the standards of the breeds – the program includes Hereford, Braford and Nelore – are discarded and slaughtered.
The Delta G Connection has a data bank with 490,000 animals evaluated, according to one of the owners of Agropecuária Caty, Bernardo Petter, and is one of the few programs in Brazil that has a Special Identification and Production Certificate issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply. The certificate guarantees that the animals are genetically improved.
The system started being developed back in the 1970’s by Petter’s grandfather and one of his cousins. Agropecuária Caty is currently the only one in the state participating in the program.
According to Petter, Caty currently has 1,300 heads of cattle for reproduction and produces 110 heads for reproduction a year. Bernardo Petter’s relatives also have farms, where they breed 3,500 heads of Hereford and Braford.
Investment in improvement of cattle breeds began early in Sant’Ana do Livramento. "Farmers in Sant’Ana do Livramento have been working on cattle genetics for over 60 yeas," stated the city’s agronomical engineer.
Farms with large areas of land, a characteristic of the region, are those that normally work on cattle breed improvement. Among the farms of the city, 70% have areas of up to 200 hectares. "Those that work in genetics are the largest ones, ranging from 700 to 1,000 hectares," stated Gomes.
According to the president of the Rural Union, the city has a system for cattle breeding that is similar to that of the neighboring Uruguay.
"Uruguay has always worked on genetic improvement of its herds," stated César Maciel.
The city breeds its animals on natural or cultivated grassland, unconfined, making the meat better quality.
"The cattle has less stress," explained Gomes. British breeds adapt well to the region, according to the agronomic engineer, due to its cool climate. The southern region is the coldest in Brazil.
Livestock breeding began in the region at a time in which the territory was disputed by the Spanish and Portuguese, during the 17th Century.
Jesuit priests who worked on educating Indians in communities in the Northwest of the state of Rio Grande do Sul travelled with the Indians, so as to herd the cattle in the lands of Sant’Ana do Livramento, due to the natural vegetation that is appropriate for feeding the cattle.
Currently, beef cattle generates annual revenues of around US$ 23.4 million to the city. Sant’Ana do Livramento is also a reference in the breeding of sheep, especially those of the Texel breed, turned to meat.
The sheep herd in the region is of around 400,000 heads, of which between 50,000 and 60,000, according to the Rural Union, are Texel.
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