Brazil unveiled a super cow worth $4 million, twice as much meat as any other cow of its breed

Brazil has hundreds of millions of cows, but one in particular is considered unusual.

Viatina-19 FIV Mara Movéis is worth $4 million The most expensive cow ever sold at auction, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. That’s three times the price of the last record holder. And – at 1,100 kilograms (more than 2,400 pounds) – they are twice as heavy as the average adult of their breed.

Along the highway through the heart of Brazil, the owners of Viatina-19 have placed two billboards praising its greatness and inviting people to make pilgrimages to see the super cow.

Climate scientists agree that people need to consume Less beef, the largest agricultural source of greenhouse gases and a driver of Amazon deforestation. But the livestock industry is a major source of Brazilian economic development, and the government is striving to open new export markets. The world’s largest beef exporter wants everyone everywhere to eat the beef it produces.

The embodiment of Brazil’s cattle ambitions is Viatina-19, the product of years of efforts to breed beefier cows. Prize winners are sold at high-stakes auctions – so much so that wealthy ranchers share ownership. They extract eggs and semen from champion animals, create embryos and implant them into surrogate cows that they hope will produce the next great specimens.

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“We don’t slaughter elite cattle. We raise them. And at the end of the line, we will feed the whole world,” said Ni Pereira, one of its owners, after arriving by helicopter to his farm in Minas Gerais state. state. “I think Viatina will provide that.”

Lorani Martinez, a veterinarian who is Pereira’s daughter and mother, said the astonishing price of the white cow stems from how quickly it gains huge amounts of muscle, from its fertility and, most importantly, from how often it passes these characteristics on to its offspring. right hand. Breeders also value posture, hoof solidity, obedience, maternal ability, and beauty. Those eager to raise the genetic level of their livestock pay about $250,000 for the opportunity to collect Viatina-19 egg cells.

“It is the closest to perfection that has been achieved so far,” Martins said. “She is a complete cow, and has all the characteristics that all owners are looking for.”

In Brazil, 80% of cows are zebus, a subspecies that originated in India and is characterized by a distinctive hump and rump, or folds of drooping neck skin. Viatina-19 belongs to the Nellore breed, which is raised for meat, not milk, and makes up most of the Brazilian stock.

The city of Uberaba, where Viatina-19 lives, holds an annual gathering called ExpoZebu which bills itself as the world’s largest Zebu exhibition. This tournament, held several weeks ago, was a far cry from the Brazil imagined abroad. The dress code was shoes, baseball caps and blue jeans. The evening concerts attracted 10,000 spectators belting out their favorite country songs. But the main attraction was the daily livestock shows where cows compete for prizes that increase the animal’s price at auction.

The most famous auction is called Elo de Raça, which was held on April 28th. When the first cow entered the ring, the loudspeakers blared the Queen’s song “We Are the Champions.” But that cow was just an appetizer before this year’s star, Donna, and three of her clones; The final sale price set its total value at 15.5 million riyals ($3 million).

The commodity boom of the 2000s stimulated Brazilian agriculture, especially as China bought up soybeans and beef. Today, agriculture’s influence extends to the Brazilian Congress and the national consciousness. Brazil, along with the United States, is at the forefront of livestock genetics.

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Show animals like Donna and Viatina-19 are rare in Brazil, which has more than 230 million cows, according to the USDA. It’s the largest population of cows in the world, so that’s a problem; Vast swaths of the Amazon rainforest have been cut down to create grasslands, releasing carbon stored in the trees. Cows burp methane, which is much worse for the climate.

Genetic improvements that reduce the slaughter age of cows are useful but limited ways to reduce global warming. Simpler and more effective measures include planting better grasses for grazing and moving livestock regularly from pasture to pasture, said Beto Verissimo, an agronomist and co-founder of an environmental nonprofit called Imazone.

On the other hand, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was working to open new markets. Last month, he met with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan, home of premium marbled Wagyu beef; He urged his counterpart to taste Brazilian meat and become a believer.

Addressing his deputy at the event, he said: “Please take Prime Minister Fumio out for steaks at the best restaurant in São Paulo, so that the following week he can start importing our beef.”

Clones coming soon

Down the highway from the Elo de Raça auction is the Geneal Animal Genetics and Biotechnology laboratory. In a small pen behind him, a cloned calf was recently lying in the sunlight, still too unsure of its newborn legs to stand. Another baby, born by C-section 20 minutes earlier, was pressed back against the back wall of the booth, disturbed by this strange new world. Genel’s commercial director, Paolo Cerantola, said the cloning of Viatina-19 is scheduled to be completed within a few months.

Some ranchers don’t want a large herd of their clones. said P.J. Budler, international business director for Trans Ova Genetics, an Iowa-based company focused on improving the bovine gene pool.

“For the environment and resources it would take to raise a cow like Viatina-19, it fits the mold perfectly, but it’s not the answer for all cattle everywhere,” Budler said.

Pereira, Viatina-19’s owner, said she gets special treatment to boost egg cell production, but will thrive if placed on pasture, where nearly all of his elite cattle feed.

Meanwhile, Viatina-19 is pregnant for the first time, and Pereira is looking to expand; She has sold her egg cells to Bolivian buyers and wants to export them to the UAE, India and the United States

His veterinarian daughter, Martins, looks forward to even further.

“I hope it will be the foundation for a better animal in the future, decades from now,” she said.

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