Farm Ireland

Sunday 17 December 2017

Brazil: the new promised land for dairy farming

Greg Lindsay of Leitissimo at the Taste of Cavan food festival. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Greg Lindsay of Leitissimo at the Taste of Cavan food festival. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

With land prices of €4,000 per hectare, the ability to produce over 37t/ha of grass drymatter, and a vast domestic market that is taking off, Brazil would appear to be the next great frontier for intrepid dairy farmers looking for stellar returns.

But as New Zealander Greg Lyndsay found out when he moved to Brazil 12 years ago to establish a series of grass-based dairy farms, patience is a virtue that cannot be under-estimated in the South American food giant. "I've a firey nature, which probably counts against me in many ways out here, because a job that should take three minutes suddenly takes four and a half hours - all because you've got the wrong size page!

"The bureaucracy is just incredible," admitted Mr Lyndsay, who was visiting Ireland last week to take part in the Taste of Cavan food festival.

Administrative hurdles and rookie errors have set back the Kiwi's original plans by at least four years, but the Leitissimo dairy company that he has established is now set for exponential growth, he claims.

The business now has 3,000 cows being milked on six neighbouring units, with another 3,000 youngstock set to come through the ranks over the coming 24 months.

Mr Lyndsay originally bought 1,000 local cows when he first set up in central Brazil, 350m northeast of Brazilia.


But he ended up culling almost half the cows within two years due to diseases such as TB and brucellosis.

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"We were promised that all the cows were 100pc, but some wouldn't even let down milk when their calf wasn't standing beside them.

"That's the thing about Brazilians - they're lovely people, but they weren't overly honest with us when we were buying the cows from them," says Mr Lyndsay. He decided to switch to a closed herd, and breed up the ideal type animal within their own farms by crossing a Kiwi Friesian with the local Zebu strain of dairy cow.

"Initially everybody told us the Jersey cross that is quite dominant in Kiwi cows wouldn't be able to cope with the heat. But we found that if we crossed her with the Zebu, we bred enough resistance to local ticks and heat into the cow. That exercise set the project back by up to five years, but it's paying off handsomely now, with the demand for the type of genetics we have creating a whole sideline dairy embryo business," he says.

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