You know you're in for a unique evening when a real-life princess welcomes you to her Uruguayan farm. This night was truly the highlight of the 2013 IFAJ pre-Congress tour in Uruguay, where a small group of about 20 journalists from around the world gathered to experience the country's agriculture industry.
Estancia Las Rosas (Farm of the Roses) is one of the most diverse and well-known farms in Uruguay, which is owned by Belgian Princess Laetitia d'Argenberg. Crops grown on the farm are corn, soybeans and wheat, and there are robust beef, sheep and dairy operations, as well. Princess Laetitia and several of her employees gave the group a tour of this incredibly diverse farm operation with a focus on animal welfare and the highest quality genetic breeding. Take a look at our experience to get a feel for what Urguguayan agriculture is like.
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1. Meeting the owner
Estancia Las Rosas is owned by a real Belgian Princess named Laetitia d'Arenberg, (pictured on the right), who welcomed the group and introduced us to several of the 100 employees who work on the farm throughout the year. Laetitia's parents invested in the land in Uruguay when Laetitia was a child. She knew from a young age that she wanted to be involved in breeding animals. <em>Photo: Mark Moore</em>
2. Solid genetics program
Laetitia is known for her genetics program that produces some of the highest quality animals in Uruguay. This Hereford cow was one of several we saw. Uruguay has a long-standing tradition of breeding Herefords. Marcos Berruti, a veterinarian responsible for the genetics program at Estancia Las Rosas, said, "If you want a perfect bull, you have one right in front of you," as the cattle were walked in front of the group. <em>Photo: Mark Moore</em>
3. Traceability tags throughout Uruguay
Uruguay's beef production industry is known for being very technologically advanced by the use of traceability tags on every cow that's produced in the country. The tags keep track of the cow from birth all the way through processing and its final destination: consumers. This has been a radical change in Uruguay in the past 10 years since the country was affected by Foot and Mouth Disease in the early 2000's. Since then, the traceability program has been widely and aggressively adopted in Uruguay. <em>Photo: Mark Moore</em>
4. 10,000 hectares of land
Estancia Las Rosas occupies about 10,000 hectares - or 24,000 acres - of land in Uruguay. The land supports the farm's crop, cattle, dairy and sheep production. Laetitia also owns purebred horses that compete in shows around the world. <em>Photo: Mark Moore</em>
5. Fat content pays
1,800 cows are milked at Estancia Las Rosas per day, twice a day. Daniel Tenca, who is responsible for the farm's dairy operations, told the group that the dairy industry in Uruguay has moved from paying for volume to now paying based on the fat content of the milk, which goes for about $0.51/liter for the milk that the Jersey cows produce. At Las Rosas, they produce 35,000 liters of milk per day. <em>Photo: Mark Moore</em>
6. Smart dog
The group was treated to a show while walking back from seeing the dairy operations. A trainer was working with her Border Collie as she whistled commands that prompted the dog to move strategically around the sheep in the field. <em>Photo: Mark Moore</em>
7. Talking with Laetitia
Princess Laetitia opened the doors of her home on the farm to the group of journalists from around the world. She told us that growing up as a princess in pristine environments drove her to create this house where people could sit anywhere and enjoy the home. <em>Photo: Mark Moore</em>
8. Meat, the foundation of Uruguay
85% of land in Uruguay is devoted to livestock breeding. The Uruguayan people are said to eat more meat per capita than any other country in the world. And we sure got a taste of how prolific the beef industry is in the country, and how important its production is at Estancia Las Rosas. Platters upon platters of beef and lamb were served to the group. <em>Photo: Mark Moore</em>
9. Parting gift
The group received parting gifts as they left, including these Dulce de Leche caramels that are produced through Laetitia's dairy operations. The editor of this gallery did, in fact, have to tape the package back up for this photo as some of the caramels had been consumed since arriving home from Uruguay. <em>Photo: Kathy Huting</em>