On Sunday, Nov 16 on a very warm afternoon (high 80's and humid), the tour group went to a dairy farm near Londrina. The host was Vilson Mouro of the Monte Alegre Farm. Dairy farming in the area consists for herds from 40 cows to 400 cows. There are 3 organic herds in the area.
Mr. Mouro also is a veterinarian and owns a number of veterinary supply stores in the area. The dairy consists of 80 crossbred cows. The breeds he uses includes Holstein, Gir, Girolonda. The Gir and Girolonda breeds are used for the tropical climate and are better for long distance grazing. The Holstein is included for milk production. Holsteins are milked for 7-8 months and the other breeds for 5 months. The farm is located in an area that has long, steep slopes and terraces. The pasture grass is a Brazilian specie that works very well for livestock production. He harvests corn silage twice per year on 40 hectares. The harvest is in January and June. The silage is stored in a concrete bunker (4.5 meters wide x 50 meters long x 3 meters high). Corn silage yield is 45metric tons per hectare. The harvester is a Pecus 9004 model single row, harvesting 2 hectares per day. However, he has made the decision this takes too loing and next year will be hiring a custom operator. When we looked at the silage in storage we found it very well packed and fermented. Of interest was the fact they move the silage by hand from the bunker to the barn to feed the herd during milking using 80 kilogram tubs.
Feeding -- Along with the silage and pasture, they use a custom mix delivered to the farm consisting of ground corn, ground wheat and macro and micro elements (VTM). Soybean meal is top dressed a 1/2 kilogram/cow/day. The mix is fed at 3 kilogram/head/day. The silage is fed at 17 kilograms/head/day in tiled mangers. One observation was how clean the mangers were with no evidence of any residue or buildup. The feed is placed in the manger just before the cows enter the barn for milking.
Milking -- The milking facility is a barn that resembles a double 40 flat barn parlor with pipe line using 4 units. The barn had open sides all around. It takes rougly 1 hr 40 minutes to milk with 3-4 people. They milk at 4am and 2 pm which was indicated as being very typical for dairy producers in the area. The calves were in a separate pen in the same barn. There was no bedding on the cement floor. Production was 1500 litres/day (about 20 liters/cow) from the herd plus what was fed to the calves. The regulations for keeping the milking facility clean is becoming more strict. Therefore, he plans to build a double 8 milking parlor next year. The present barn will be used as a feeding area. He plans to pay for the parlor by increasing production to 2000 litres/day without adding cows and by reducting labor by 2 FTEs. In watching the milking process, the milkers tie the the back legs with nylon rope. Prep for milking consists of wiping the teats with a dry paper towel massaging the teat for milk letdown. Some crossbred cows do not allow milk letdown easily so a calf is lead in to the side of the cow to allow it to suck the teats for a few seconds to stimulate letdown. The state milk inspector visits the farm once per month.
Milk Pick Up -- every other day. The bulk tank was deLaval. Milk goes to a milk plant cooperative where it is processed for fluid milk. (comment: in visiting a nearby supermarket we found most fluid milk was packaged as UHT). The price he receives for his milk is $0.27/litre ($12.00 cwt in U.S).
Breeding -- 80% of the herd is AI bred. Heifers calve a 24 months. All animals calve near the barn in a calving paddock. He does his own breeding.
Health care -- Because he is a veterinarian he provides 99% of the health care for the herd. As best we understand, he treats mastitis very little. Every load of milk is sampled and tested for SCC. He does get a premium for quality milk. We were unable to determine his exact SCC count. He said, "less is best and it is higher in the summer rainy season."
We asked him how he learns about new techniques, practices and technologies. He indicated he attends many meetings sponsored by agri-business. He gets together with other dairy producers and travel within Brazil to gain knowledge. He also acknowledged he gets a lot of information from the University.
The Family -- He lives in town and the home on the farm is a weekend home. We had the opportunity to meet his mother and father, twin sisters and two sons. They provided some wonderful refreshments for us on this hot afternoon. We took a group photo which we felt they greatly appreciated. We will send them a copy. They were very gracious hosts. Our tour guide interpreted all conversations as they were not versed in English and we in Portugese.
Vilson invited us to come back to attend the largest farm show in South America, held in Londrina April 1-14, 2009. Equipment manufacturers from all around exhibits, there will be 164 breeds of cattle. They expect 1 million people to attend. Vilson is planning to come to the U.S., possibly MN, in Feb or March, 2009.