After ten days home I am back on the cattle handling trail. I just finished two days of work in Mexicali, Baja California for Zoetis Mexico at Bona Prime feedyard and slaughter facility.
It was “muy caliente” so we started at 4 in the morning and were pretty well done by noon because of the heat. I learned lots about Mexican culture and was able to share lots of ideas on improved cattle handling and animal husbandry. I enjoy Mexico and the great people I get to be around in the cattle feeding business.
Communication is so important. Zoetis hires Lulu, an interpreter and she has head sets for everyone and as I speak she translates. We spoke about it and she said it is a skill she has that is very difficult for many people as it takes to long to change in the mind for most people, but she can just hear it in English and say it in Spanish, so the timing and flow is right. It really makes the communication effective. When I present and the translator has to speak and I have to wait, it really messes up the flow and it becomes a very ineffective presentation. It is the same as communication with animals, the flow and pressure has to be right.
The cattle are so fun to work. Most had quite a bit of ear on them (Brahman) and are very gentle. They had a Bud Box at processing on the receiving side of the lot, and it worked very well (it was a little deep for my liking)to process the new arrivals, and they were very effective at around 100/hour and doing a good job. In Mexico the big advantage they have is cheap labor so they have more people available to keep the flow of cattle coming.
On the other side of the feedyard they have a tub system. They were re-implanting, so it was going very fast. These cattle had 90 days more or less and worked differently than the fresh cattle. It ended up being a real good spot to show how the proper pressure can change an animals state of mind.
They had two bulls that kept refusing and jumped out and were kind of on the fight. I asked if I could work them. I got in the alley with them and about five other bulls and would pressure them to turn around. As soon as they would start one fella would start making noise and moving and they would turn back and come to me. I had to get him to stop, and then I got them to go and they went into the snake with the tub gate being open. It was a real good example for everyone to see that letting the animal move away from pressure without increasing it could really change the way an animal reacts.
This is the big thing that I think we all need to understand, and especially the people in Mexico. They work very hard and the climate and lifestyle is very harsh so they have a hard time taking the pressure of sometimes.
The last animals we went to was the Holsteins, or as they call them “Pintos”.
They were steers, and it was hot by this time and they were all in the shade.
They said they were going to challenge me to get them out of the pen. They also said they were very aggressive to people going in the pen.
I have been around quite a few Holsteins in the past few years and feel I understand how to present my self to them. If you walk in the pen and draw them to you they will take advantage of that and take control of you. If you step in with lots of “presence” you will create a whole different working situation. So I walked in and got the cattle up and looking at me. Then I simply opened the gate and some had watched me. They went right to the gate and I went to the middle of the pen and sent cattle to the movement going out the pen, and they pretty much pulled themselves.
Well, I think they thought I got lucky so they asked for another pen, and they went easier than the first because they had more alley space. It was great because now they got to see what I was trying to explain.
It is so rewarding when the people and the cattle are so receptive to new ideas.
I got to help move cattle from the pens to the slaughter house. “Victor” manages the horses and taking the cattle to the slaughter pens. It was a very enjoyable time as he didn’t speak English and I had to communicate in Spanish and did ok. He and the fella helping him were very good handlers and horseman. I commented on a nice bit that had the shape of a heart on the shanks. When I was getting ready to leave he sent the bit over and gave it to me. I’ll treasure it and the kindness he and all the Mexican people showed me.
Some interesting things I learned and saw.
They feed all bulls except the Holsteins. They Mexican consumer doesn’t like fat, so they feed bulls for the Mexican market. They feed heifers a different ration and target the export market with them with more of a finish and fat cover like US fed beef.
At the slaughter house holding pens they had three lead steers. They used them to take cattle up to they abattoir. They would step in behind the tub gate, then turn around and do it again. They were very valuable to the operation and they were all very proud of them.
After conversations with the owner and managers, it seems the cattle feeding system in Mexico is very solid and a good business model. I don’t think they have the futures market use like we do, so they buy cattle to make a profit on the true market, and they don’t overpay for feeder cattle like I see see happen in the US and Canada.
They spend money on things that make money. The feed trucks were good and they had lots of them. Getting feed to the cattle when they can eat is real important and the cattle eat at night because of the heat.
They had shade in all the pens made out of a local tree with leaves and branches weaved on top of wire. When you went under it it was much cooler than when it was tin. It allows the air to flow up and creates shade without the heat coming from the tin.
The cattle coming in were real green and had a lot of chance for compensatory gain. They took real care at getting them on feed and fed real hi quality feed.
I think we sometimes think of Mexico as being very poor and primitive in the way they do things. I don’t think that way after being there some. They do things right in the cattle feeding sector and are making money doing it.
I felt very welcome and comfortable with Carlos the owner and all the managers and workers. The cattle manager, Antonio was so gracious and helpful and really was interested in what we had to offer. I feel like we will be amigos in the future want to continue the friendship.
Check out the website and you will see what I mean.
A big thank you to Priscila Castro for all her work and driving me to and from airport and her fun humor. Zoetis has a good one with her. We had lots of fun trying to learn to speak English and Spanish on the way to the airport.
The Zoetis Mexico group was great to work with and we had lots of fun and did lots of work. Very good people that work hard for the company.
I met lots of good people and learned lots of good things, and hopefully I helped them with some ideas and techniques to improve what they do.
Now I am in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada for the next week and a half to work for Zoetis Canada. I’ll let you know if I learn of any of interest.