There is no trip through South America where the procedure is not repeated.
Argentina, one of the largest meat producers in the world, has an aversion to exceptions. “Buenos dias. Avanzen unpapato here, pleaser”, the duty officer tells us with an arrogance.
We enter the country of the pampas from Brazil, through the Tancredo Neves International Bridge. At the border, the authorities of SENASA (Secretaria Nacional de Sanidad Agropecuária) force them – like anyone else who enters the country – to drive their car tires over their sacred foot baths, large sponges soaked in a sterilizing liquid.
Then we still have to go out and do the same to the shoe soles.
The responsible for this increased care and for the long traffic queues that form is an infectious Aphtovirus that, despite being known for more than 2000 years, continues to spread the dreaded foot-and-mouth disease.
This disease can infect herds of whole cows in three stages. It causes huge losses in the economies of countries that did not protect themselves in time. In South America, epidemics have been recurrent. And they generate shameful political feuds whenever countries blame each other.
Argentina, in particular, has proven knowledge of the cause. Even if the name does not translate it, it was Scholein Rivenson, an Argentine veterinary doctor from Gualeguaychú, Entre Rios province, who developed the first effective vaccine against the disease.
The Colony of Pellegrini, on the banks of the vast Esteros del Iberá
In the weeks that followed, we discovered the remote scenery of northwestern Argentina, in Corrientes, the wetland of the Iberá Wetlands, a huge expanse of lakes and marshes that competes in size and ecosystem richness with the brazilian wetland.
There, along with the beauty of the landscape and the myriad of wild species – from caimans and alligators to anaconda and capybaras – we are fascinated by the visual rawness and sedated life of Colónia Pellegrini, a poor village alienated by the isolation to which it was voted in shores of Lagoa Iberá.
Colónia Pellegrini has only a few single-storey houses somewhere between the villa and the trailer. And one or two grocery stores almost without provisions. Further down, the lagoon that attracts tourists and biologists from all over the world, is surrounded by stays livestock breeders.
These farms employ hundreds of gauchos somewhat displaced from the vast expanse of Pampas that begins a few hundred kilometers to the south.
South American and Argentine Vulnerability to Foot-and-Mouth Disease
The forty million Argentines make up one of the populations that consume the most red meat on the face of the Earth. To this end, their famous barbecues, held around the clock, throughout the country.
But they are also one of the main meat exporting nations of the product. There are plenty of reasons for the cattle herds of La Quiaca (on the border with Bolivia) to Ushuaia (southern city in the world, capital of Tierra del Fuego) be subjected to preventive measures at all times.
We stayed close to Colonia Pellegrini. After repeated early forays into the flooded wilderness by boat, the owner of the Pousada de La Laguna suspects that a drastic change of plans would please us.
Ask us if we want to follow up on a cow vaccination. The experience is not at all exotic for those, like us, who had the privilege of living in the interior of Portugal.
Even so, the wild-rural atmosphere of that region removed from the Argentina, the possibility of living with a genuine group of Gauchos in the midst of fieldwork prove to be irrefutable privileges.
The Accident Vaccination of Cattle of stay Swiss Agro
We accept the challenge. The next morning, the inn's foreman takes us in a van towards the Swiss Agro Estancia, where the veterinarian is expected. We found him sooner than we thought. On the way to the farm. And in trouble.
El Doctor has not yet found an explanation for the phenomenon but it always seems to be like this: the more he tries to make time, the worse his days run. It had four visits to go until sunset when the board of one of several small bridges that had to cross gave way.
He left his van attached to the platform and his vaccines at risk of overheating.
The accident stops passersby. Despite successive solidary attempts to release the vehicle, only a rusty tractor recruited in the meantime solves the problem.
When he arrives at the ranch, late and irritated, the veterinarian finds everything ready to start the vaccination. The humor of the resident gauchos quickly brings him back to a good mood: “Calm down doctor!! So the animals get nervous!".
We are entering the peak of the southern hemisphere summer. It's over forty degrees.
As if that wasn't enough, the movements of the cattle raise clouds of dust that invade the eyes and nose and cling to the sweat.
Heat, Dust and Stubborn Cattle. The Hard Work of Gauchos
Discomfort is part of their daily lives. pampa cowboys that relieve him with the use of hats, belts and chiripas (skirts) typical of leather that go with light, light shirts and blue scarves.
Their lives are spent on horseback and under the sun and rain. Even so, they end up confessing to us that, among all the tasks, it is with the repetitive vaccinations that the most enraged.
With effort, the gauchos herd and lead the cows from the corrals to a corridor that squeezes and immobilizes them in a kind of wooden corset. There, at a mechanical pace, the veterinarian sticks the huge syringe in back after back.
Renew doses and keep an accurate count of immunized cattle. There are six hundred and twenty at Swiss Agro. The task takes two hours.
According to his estimate, one of the estancias he had scheduled for the afternoon will have to stay for the following morning.
It's nothing that doesn't happen to you very often. This time, the delay imposes an arduous punishment. Instead of returning to Posadas, you'll have to stay overnight in the isolated Pellegrini Colony.
Despite the setbacks, the task and duty are fulfilled.
The gauchos recover from the rush as the dust raised by the animals settles. One of them, the always smiling Pablo, relaxes playing with a dog at the estancia under the indifferent gaze of his companions.
El Doctor leaves the scene with pomp and circumstance, extolling the virtues of his work. "Very good. These ya querran protected.
Not if you know, solo pear in the United Kingdom, in 2001, the foot-and-mouth fiber has killed more than 6.000.000 animals. Han lost nearly 18 million dollars. Imagine and so here in Argentina... "