By Douglas Mac Donald, special for

Photos by Romina Gómez

The ovine production represents an important role inside the Argentine agriculture system. By the end of XIX century, Argentina had 74 million ovines, but that number went down over the years. The reason for this reduction has multiple factors, but the most important during this last years is the increase of the guanaco (similar to a lama) and the increase of wild dogs at the Argentine Patagonian.

But even though the adversities some people still bet on the rising of ovine. Juan José Maglié is part of a 3rd generation family that raises ovine at Estancia Los Petisos, located in the area of Pampa Alta, in the province of Santa Cruz. The Maglié family rises ovine since 1928. Right now they have around 3 thousand heads of Merino breed, and some of the Corriedale breed, having in account that the ovine Argentine production is the type that has a double purpose: meat & wool, based on both breed of ovine. “The ideal is to have a big Merino, and add a 10% Corriedale to increase the size¨ Juan José explains, in dialogue with

At the farms located in the center of the area called “Pampa Patagonica”, depending on how dry it is the matter per hectares, the average is 20 thousand hectares the productive unit. If the index of dry matter it´s high then you should raise Corriedale. But if the index is low then you should raise Merino since it requires less amount of space because of the size of the breed.

At Los Petisos farm, during summer, the cattle stay at the higher fields where there is a bigger amount of dry matter. And during winter these fields are covered by snow, and for that reason, they have to move the cattle to a please where they can protect themselves from the snow, with less dry matter, where the fields are not completely covered with snow so the cattle can feed themselves during winter.

¨It´s important to have a good infrastructure and to respect the time for every job with the cattle so you can have a better breeding, and the less amount of losses possible. Health, water, staff and administration, they are all key to be an efficient administration¨ says Maglié, and adds that the 4 legs predators (cougar, fox & guanaco) and the lack of trained staff are still problems that affect this activity. And finally, Juan José points out that the ovine producer is long-term, since he´ll always have rentability because he makes a bet into the future.

The ovine production in Argentina

The lamb production in the country it´s almost entirely for the internal market for almost 4 years now. The reason for this is the drop in international prices and the type of Argentine change. The ovine meat production is less important than the wool, and the primary consumers are the families that live at the farm. In Argentina, 80 thousand producers have around 15 million ovines. The 85% of those producers have less than 100 animals on mix production systems or they are just part of the small family agriculture. However, in the patagonic steepe, where they raise 2 thirds of the country ovine on a monocultural extensive way, more than a third of the producers have more than a 1000 ovine.

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Sheep shearing at Los Petisos station, in the Patagonia