Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/857

This page has been validated.
837
CATTLE-RAISING IN SOUTH AMERICA.

hams) have been imported at great expense. An owner desiring to improve the stock of an estancia containing twenty thousand head, will procure three or four Durham bulls, and then will be astonished that the desired effect is not more rapidly produced. He ought not to forget that cross-breeding can not succeed between races so different except upon the condition that the new blood is continually renewed. To transplant the most artificial breed, and the one most difficult to maintain, into a dried-up southern campo, is one of the aberrations which a complete ignorance of European breeding and the taste for imitation alone can explain. It is also surprising that hardly anything has been done, in a region where everything is so favorable, to improve from themselves the races which have already become adapted to the medium and been molded by it. Cross-breeding, although it is highly esteemed, has been tried only in a limited number of estancias, and the selection of the best native stock has not been seriously attempted on any of the estates that I have observed. Although backward in respect to selection, the intervention of man has brought about an improvement in a no less important point of view, in the shape of measures to secure a more regular supply of food. In Parana the grass of the campos is burned at the dry season, in September and October of each year, certain parts, bounded by streams or ditches, being reserved to be burned later, so as to secure a succession of pasturage. In this state, as farther south, another equally simple means of preserving the natural food has been much employed. The most moist, least exposed, or best parts of the campo are inclosed, forming hivernadas if the tract is large, potreiros, if it is small, for the cattle which are to be fattened. No inclosures large enough for all the stock have been made yet. These means, however, do not create new food, but only utilize that which already exists, and are of no use when a reserve of food is most necessary—that is, after frosty weather, and at the end of long droughts.

Two other measures might be adopted to assure a regular supply of pasturage, but they have hardly been tried. The easier course would be to install regular irrigation. In Parana the country is hilly, and the water-courses are everywhere maintained through the hot seasons. Farther south, it might be possible to irrigate large tracts through the whole year, Estanciers who, like M. Carlos Reyles at Durasno, have instituted irrigation on a considerable scale, have realized increased profits from it. Nevertheless, it is easy to count the breeders who have tried irrigation. There is probably not one in Parana, where, if you suggest it, the breeder will answer that an excess of water will promote the growth of worthless plants. The condition of the cattle might be improved, and the return from them increased, by dividing the enormous droves, which may now count from four to thirty thousand head, into herds of from five hundred to a thousand head. Now, all the half-wild cattle—bravos, as they