Investing in Happy, Healthy Dairy Cows in Brazil
This week I had some dairying lessons from the farmers at Leitíssimo, an up-and-coming milk operation in the North East of Brazil. The farm has 5900 Friesian-cross-Jersey cows and a unique position in the country’s ‘drinkable’ UHT market, with Leitíssimo bottles found on supermarket shelves all the way to Rio de Janeiro and beyond. The Leitíssimo concept was born principally of a team of innovative New Zealand family farmers, passionate about dairying and drawn to the state of Bahia for its favourable climate. Importantly for their herd, the farm reflects the dairy production model that their own country, New Zealand, is world-famous for: efficiency, sustainability and high quality grass that enables the cows to be out on pasture 365 days per year.
I spoke to the farmers in January 2015 after a 28-day period with no rain, which focussed conversations sharply on sustainability and natural resource use. ‘Islands of production in a sea of conservation’ is one of the phrases used by the Leitíssimo farmers to describe their approach, and toucans, armadillos, boar and deer are just some of the wildlife that can be spotted on their land.
Leitíssimo is an exemplary place to see farmers embracing the ‘social’ debates that I participate in at the UN Committee on World Food Security in Rome, such as ‘how to motivate and retain hard-working staff in one of the world’s toughest jobs, farming?’. Investment here has been targeted not only into food and job production, but also into education for employees’ families, opportunities for all levels of staff to brainstorm on the farm’s operational improvement, and transforming the local community by building new roads and infrastructure.