Changing a culture of fraud and absenteeism
Published 12/08/2015 | 02:30
Leitissimo now own 5,500ha, but locals took a long time to get used to the concept that the farm owners wanted to be involved in the day-to-day work as well.
"Brazil is a top-down culture. Most land-owners rarely set foot on their farms. But from day one we were digging trenches by hand for power lines, mixing concrete. The staff thought we were crazy, but they've bought into that culture now," said Mr Lyndsay.
The output from the Leitissimo farms is in stark contrast with the levels on surrounding farms. While Mr Lyndsay's cows are averaging 4,550 litres, with a cumulative output per hectare of 27,640 litres, the corresponding figures for the region are closer to 1,900 litres per cow and 1,500 litres per hectare.
The farms pump out nearly 10 times the amount of milk per labour unit compared to regional averages. This allows them to pay nearly five times the going rate to staff. At this level of productivity, Mr Lyndsay is keen to keep developing farms as quickly as his closed herd of cows will allow him, with a seventh 600 cow herd planned to begin calving later this year.
"Not only are we benefitting from the massive production capacity of the region, we are also able to sell milk at R$1.10/l (32c/l). This price is 25pc higher than international levels due to a combination of factors. The first is the fact Brazil is not self sufficient with a rapidly increasing population and levels of milk production that are falling behind demand growth.
"In addition, Brazil imposes high import tariffs, designed to protect the majority of farmers that remain unprofitable due to the low productivity and scale of operations," he says. This is hardly surprising when you consider that only a quarter of dairy farmers have milking parlours, half are producing less than 10 litres per day, and most of the milk has bacterial levels that are approximately 200 times higher than the average Irish producer.
"Milk fraud is quite common in Brazil, with everything from sugar to urea added to milk to bulk it out," said Mr Lyndsay, with Leitissimo processing its own milk.
"It's a bit like that rugby match between Ireland and the All Blacks last year. You guys were ahead at 80 minutes, but running out of steam in extra time cost you the match.