The regenerative livestock farming of the El Mate project in Córdoba, Argentina: A proposal for a radical change.
Bruno Vasquetto and his family have a farm in Córdoba, Argentina, where they have been practicing an alternative way of raising cows for the consumption of their meat for several years. Some call this set of new practices “agroecological meat” but he prefers to call it regenerative farming.
By Stella Alvarez
Bruno Vasquetto and his family have a farm in Córdoba, Argentina, where they have been practicing an alternative way of raising cows for the consumption of their meat for several years. Some call this set of new practices “agroecological meat” but he prefers to call it regenerative farming. To talk with Bruno is to receive a whole class on the problems derived from conventional cattle breeding, herbivores, their importance in ecosystems, in the health of the planet and of human beings and, as background, the challenges faced by medium-sized and small food producers in the countryside.
To start the conversation I asked him to explain to us what is the basis of regenerative farming. He tells us that first we must understand that meat production today faces multiple questions from society. But perhaps a mistake is made in trying to put all the problems in one bag. He tells us that, as his name indicates, he begins by recognizing that a regeneration of nature is required because considerable damage has already been done to it. “Regenerative farming is a mimicry of how herbivores behave in nature like cows and sheep. What we propose is to imitate that system, but to do it in contemporary conditions. Ruminants can be a great tool for managing ecosystems if they are raised in the right conditions.”
And it is that Bruno’s family came to this decision because they faced a cruel reality: they cultivated soybeans in a conventional way, they had an economic crisis, but they also evidenced the deterioration and degradation of their farm: it rained and the water ran off, the trees died. , there was low water infiltration in the soil. “That financial and environmental alarm made us rethink what we were doing. It is no longer enough to conserve, it is necessary to regenerate, and to the extent that the countryside is regenerated, people are regenerated”.
The conditions that herbivores had for thousands of years, Bruno summarizes as follows: “they were always in large compact groups, they were grazing in herds, for short periods. They were permanently moving to a new place due to the presence of predators. Today, we can imitate that behavior and improve the capture of CO2 and regenerate the soil and the ecosystem”. We at Mate have two basic criteria: first , animal welfare, respecting the behavior and nature of each species —he jokingly tells us: “we must respect the hen’s chicken”—, and secondly, think holistically in three components: the soil, the grass and the animal. If there is healthy soil, there is healthy grass and healthy animals and as a result, better health for humans.
Applying these principles, specifically, in Mate the animals eat only grass, they move in herds and every day they are given portions of fresh grass. Thus, the grasses can rest for periods. They do not feed the animals with cereals as in conventional industrialized farming, nor take care of the soil with chemical products as is also done today in mass production. “We have not used chemical products for 10 years and our results have been very satisfactory.”
When these changes began, El Mate was one of the few projects with this new way of raising animals. Today there are already many breeders who have undertaken the transformation. And it is that current problems such as, for example, the pandemic due to a virus that originated in animals , the costs of cereals due to the war in Europe, the prices of inputs to nourish the soil, among others, have made many they join And it is that Bruno has no doubts in believing that regenerative livestock is the alternative for the subsistence of the small and medium producer .
An alternative animal husbandry for human consumption is urgent. The environmental deterioration derived from industrialized farming and the consequences for the health of the environment and of people call for changes that cannot be postponed.
Listen to the full interview here: