From July 24th to August 2nd, the three most recent Canadian Junior Angus Ambassadors, Chad Lorenz, Matt Bates and Patrick Holland travelled to Buenos Aires, Argentina to experience La Exposicion Rural 2015 in Palermo. We all met up at Toronto Pearson Airport and flew together on a direct flight to Buenos Aires.
We arrived in Buenos Aires in the afternoon on Saturday July 25th, after a short stop in Santiago, Chile. To our surprise on arrival we found out that our bags were taken off the plane earlier in Chile, so it would be another full day before we received our belongings in Argentina. Mariano Etcheverry picked us up from the airport, and toured us around for the entire trip. Mariano has worked in the beef industry for most of his life, at one time working for Alta genetics. During his employment with Alta, he made several trips to Canada to take in shows such as Canadian Western Agribition, and during this time he met many Canadian breeders and became fluent in English. Mariano was critical to the success of our trip since the three of us were not fluent in Spanish, and many of the breeders we visited with were not able to speak English.
On Saturday afternoon, we had a brief driving tour of the city, and then had an excellent Pizza supper followed by a quick tour down at the exhibition grounds. We were lucky that our hotel was within walking distance of the grounds, so we weren’t relying on Mariano to drive us to and from the grounds each day. There were just shy of 1,000 head of cattle on the exhibition grounds for the show this year. We were told this was slightly down in numbers from other years, mainly influenced by the lack of support for agriculture form their government.
On Sunday morning we drove out of the city to Casamu Angus, home of the Sackmann family. Carlos and Juan toured us through their many pastures which were home to over 1,000 registered Angus cows. They took a lot of pride in the care of their animals and had very detailed breeding records. Most of their breeding decisions were made based on the Expected Breeding Value’s (EBV’s) for each animal with some emphasis on phenotype as well. Since it was wintertime in Argentina, their pastures were not overly lush; however, the cattle still seemed to be doing very well. The majority of their cows would begin calving within the next few weeks for spring calving, with another portion of their herd on a Fall calving program. After we went through the cows, we had a tour of their very large group of heifers as well as their pen of around 120 bulls that would sell at their sale in a month’s time. This is one of 3 sales they have on the farm each year. We were amazed by the amount of mass and substance that their bulls had on a very moderate frame. After the tour, we were treated to an excellent lunch and met the rest of the Sackmann family.
Most of our Monday was spent at the exhibition grounds with the Junior Angus Judging Competition being the main event for the day. Luckily the competition was based on placing’s only, with no oral reasons necessary, so our inability to speak Spanish didn’t stop us from participating. There were 4 classes of Angus cattle to judge ranging from calves to mature cattle, both bulls and heifers. We very much enjoyed the chance to analyze these Argentina show cattle that were nicely presented in the sunny show ring. We were invited to the awards banquet in the evening where we found out that Chad placed 1st overall in our age division, with Patrick close behind in 3rd. Both were given very nice trophies for their accomplishment.
On Tuesday morning, the three of us hopped on a bus that took us out of the city to meet Mariano. We then drove about another hour to the Centre de Reproduccion Bovina, an AI stud that was currently home to around 70 bulls. We were given a very thorough tour of the daily operations at the facility including their different methods of collection which were quite similar to back home. We saw many impressive bulls, some of which were previous champions at Palermo. On our way back to the city, we stopped in a small town for a nice lunch and a quick tour. That evening we watched the Invitational Angus Sale that was held at the exhibition grounds. Although it was difficult to follow the Spanish auctioneers, with some help, we were able to get an idea of what the cattle were selling for. Their auction style is quite different from back home as the auctioneers seemed to lack a rhythmic chant as we are accustomed to. The hospitality at the sale was fantastic, with waiters bringing around drinks, appetizers and Chile throughout the duration of the sale. The high selling animal in the sale sold for about the equivalent of $9,000 USD.
Wednesday was the calf show at Palermo. We watched the entire female calf show in the morning, and then went for a city tour of the historic downtown Buenos Aires. We took an underground subway from the show grounds to the downtown area. There we saw the beautiful Cathedral as well as the Cabildo, the former government headquarters. We also saw the national bank and several other historic buildings which had been well kept. We then returned to the grounds via the subway to watch the end of the bull calf show. That evening we went for a steak supper featuring excellent Argentina grass-fed beef, possibly one of the best steak suppers any of us had eaten.
The next two days we spent the majority of our time watching the Angus Female show (Thursday) and Bull show (Friday). We were very impressed with the number of quality cattle that went through the ring in these two days. A massive crowd turned out to watch around 250 impressive females parade in front of the Scottish judge, culminating with a 2 year-old female being slapped Grand Champion. On Friday we had to get a seat an hour and a half before the start of the show to make sure we had a good view of the ring. It poured rain throughout the duration of the show, but the presence of rubber boots and umbrellas meant that the show went on. When it was all said and done around 5000 people had their attention turned to the Angus ring to watch another 2 year-old get slapped Grand Champion Male. We were following along in our show programs and were amazed at how much North American influence there was in the pedigrees on these cattle. Bulls like Density, Brilliance, Net Worth, Final Answer, and Heavy Hitter were very common as either the sire or maternal grand sire of these animals. Throughout the duration of the Angus show, the Hereford show was also happening in the adjacent ring and we were able to watch that show simultaneously. To us, the Herefords and the Angus were the most impressive breed shows in Palermo.
On Friday evening there was an off-site Angus banquet to celebrate the end of the show. International guests were given free admission to the banquet which ordinarily cost about the equivalent of $60 USD. The evening was kicked off with a marching band, and then a fantastic beef supper was served with wine and champagne, followed by an awards ceremony. Each operation that exhibited a champion at the show was called up to receive their award and recognition. The awards were followed by a dance to finish the evening.
On Saturday morning we went to the exhibition grounds one last time to see the Parade of Champions, or as they called it, ‘The Official Opening.’ By the time it began, there was nothing left but standing room, and each of the breed champions was walked out into the ring one last time to receive recognition in front of the massive crowd. A few of the dignitaries spoke and then each of the animals left the ring. Shortly after, we left for the airport to catch our mid afternoon flight.
These 8 days in Argentina gave us an excellent chance to experience the Argentina culture, as well as to get a glimpse of their very moderate framed cattle that boast an abundance of substance and style. The breeders were pleasant and passionate, and the hospitality was excellent. A huge thank you goes to Mariano Etcheverry for making it the trip that it was, and looking out for us during our stay.
A special note of thanks to the Canadian Angus Foundation for sending 3 Ambassadors on the trip of a lifetime. The Canadian Junior Angus Ambassador program is certainly the epitome of experiences for Angus youth in Canada.