By Paul Queck
During a recent tour of Argentinean agriculture, Leonardo Airaldi, a cattleman in Argentina's Entre Rios Province, demonstrated swimming his cattle across a river to fresh grazing.
This is a common practice in his area.
Airaldi's farms adjoin the Parana River delta – an area laced with a web of rivers and small islands. The government allows beef producers to graze these islands.
Airaldi and his family run two large cow herds that produce 2,000 calves per year. They grow their calves out more than a year on pasture, then finish them on a corn-silage-based ration. The Airaldi family also sells some of their production as breeding stock. Most of the cattle we saw were either Hereford and Red Angus.
The day in early September when we visited Airaldi, we watched his gauchos expertly swim a herd of Hereford cows across a river to an island for grazing. They made the move look easy.
The horse-mounted gauchos started the move by putting a small remuda of horses next to the river bank. The lead gaucho led a horse by halter into the deep, 75-yard-wide river and the other riderless horses followed.
As the horses walked into the river and began swimming, following the lead gaucho, the gauchos at the back and sides of the cow herd pushed the cattle to the river's edge. With virtually no prodding the cattle waded in after the horses and swam.
Gauchos rode their swimming horses across the river at the sides and behind the herd of cows and horses– their heads bobbing in the water.
This was late winter/beginning of spring in Argentina and the river water felt cold to a bare hand but it didn't seem to bother the gauchos. For them, it appeared to be just another day at work.
Queck writes from Indianapolis, Ind.