Mato Grosso is Brazil’s largest beef producing state, with over 35 million head of cattle, and is one of the largest exporters of this commodity, but it still faces major challenges when it comes to making full use of the productive potential of the areas earmarked for livestock. One example is the number of animals per hectare, the so-called stocking rate, the state average of which is less than 1 animal per hectare, according to IMEA-MT. As a result, there is low productivity per hectare and a reduction in the farmers’ income.
In such a scenario, the path to increase profitability has been to expand the area of the pasture so as to accommodate more animals and produce more arrobas of meat. However, faced with an increasingly demanding consumer market concerned with the conservation of forest areas, balancing this equation is no longer an option, but rather a goal to be achieved.
To achieve these outcomes, improved management of the properties, including good pasture management practices, is key. However, the lack of adequate technical knowledge to apply best practices is often a major obstacle to intensifying and making better use of the available resources.
In the Juruena Valley region, in Mato Grosso, small-scale calf ranchers have adopted this model for about two years, with totally free technical assistance through the Sustainable Production of Calves Program, co-financed by IDH and the Carrefour Foundation, whose field activities are coordinated by NATCAP.
In June, the implementation of three demonstration units to improve pasture management and intensify production began. These interventions involve different production models, adapted to the local characteristics (climate and soil) and technological level of each breeder. The aim is to have more cattle in the same area, thereby increasing productivity by improving the animal vs. pasture system.
In this stage, small farms with less than 100 hectares that have been involved since the beginning of the Program were selected, and the demonstration units within these farms occupy areas ranging from 10 to 15 hectares.
But how does this happen in practice? The pasture area is divided into smaller parts, called paddocks, which are enclosed by fences. The soil is corrected and fertilized so that the pasture can grow more vigorously. With plenty of quality food, the cattle rotate, and make full use of the potential of each of the paddocks. This makes it possible to have more animals in the same area; the cattle also gain weight in a shorter time, by weaning heavier calves and the cows recovering their reproductive condition more quickly. The aim is to increase the profitability of small-scale breeders and offer a more sustainable product to the consumer.
Sustainable Production of Calves Program
Another part of the Program is developed in the Araguaia Valley region and is implemented by Acrimat. In total, the aim is to support 457 calf producers by the end of 2022. For the implementation of the activities, planned investments total EUR 3.5M from IDH, Carrefour Foundation and Carrefour Group.