Heraclius del Castillo Perez has for twenty years cattle ranching largest in Tenerife, specifically in the municipality of Fasnia, with more than 600 heads, although it also has another 400 distributed throughout La Laguna, Arafo and Garachico. It employs six people, “because we are well mechanized” and is “from sun to moon” looking after its Friesian, Bombalier, Norman and Limousine cows, which it has brought from France and Spain, breeds that give it milk and meat to distribute to an Italian company to make mozarella and cheese factories like Benijos and butcher shops all over the Island.
Heraclius is outraged by the controversy caused by the words of the Minister of Consumer Affairs, Alberto Garzon, about “the worst quality of meat from macro-farms”. “He is a fool, you cannot play with the economy of a lot of people. Where are the animals going to be, in the countryside, when they are much better off on farms with their tabulates, with good stables, paddocks, food, when those who graze in the fields, the cows are hungrier than hell. To talk about this you have to know it and suck it since you were a child, but a fool who has never seen this what is he going to think ”.
He also denies that animal abuse exists among ranchers: “Forget about it, the rancher, for more reason, wants the cattle to be comfortable so that they gain kilos. I myself have a feedlot, where I put them as long as possible so that they eat, drink water and get sun, because they are open paddocks. You have to have the perfect animals and this is demonstrated by the inspections that they do almost daily and that bore you with so many papers, asking you for the same thing three or four times”.
Heraclio del Castillo is 44 years old and acknowledges that “generational change is proving to be difficult and cattle ranching in Tenerife’s days are numbered”, although he admits that “since I was ten years old I had my first cow, although my mother, when I was born, promised that I was not going to be with the 20 cows that my father had, I wanted him to be an official and I had to pay attention to it”. Heraclio, when he finished the agricultural foreman course in Tacoronte, decided to set up a ranch, first in 2000 in Las Mercedes, where today he keeps about 100 cows and shortly after the one he has today in Fasnia. “Today there are barely two or three ranchers left, now older, and a few more with very small farms,” he comments pessimistically.
For him, the difference that Gran Canaria has twice as many cattle as Tenerife is due to the fact that “livestock is industrial there and the Cabildo supports it much more than here”, in addition to recalling that dairy companies, such as Danone, Celgán or Teisol, they have gone backwards or have disappeared. To give an example, in March of last year, of the 243,098 kilos of beef, only 75,378 were in Tenerife, which contrasts with pork: 306,108 kilos in Tenerife out of the 508,341 in the entire Canary Islands.
With 200 Friesian cows for milk production and 400 fattening calves, his farm in Fasnia is the largest in Tenerife. But the figures he handles today have nothing to do with the 1,200 animals he had just a few years ago. A reflection of what has happened in a sector, in which Del Castillo assures that many “have thrown in the towel”, since “it is not worth the investment and the work you have to do for the reward. I like ranching, but I should have given up fifteen years ago”, he points out, although he would not mind if his 12-year-old son followed in his footsteps, for a reason he named the company Del Castillo e Hijo SL
According to Del Castillo, the main one is the impossibility of increasing the number of heads of fattening calves beyond 400. “If that figure is exceeded, they no longer give you the same aid and it is no longer profitable”, which is confirmed by Sori, one of his employees, who recalls that “the calves have to be taken to the slaughterhouse before they are nine months old, because otherwise Otherwise, you lose the subsidy.
As for milk, it is the most tedious work, because although milking is mechanized, it has to be done twice a day, at four in the morning and at one-thirty in the afternoon, each time 15 cows pass through the electric milker. Every day they produce about 1,600 liters of milk.
It is rare that there is not a day that a truck is not seen at the Fasnia farm collecting manure, much appreciated in banana trees, thus keeping the facilities in a good sanitary state. The lagoon rancher Micky Woolmington, in this case pig, recognizes, in his case, that the slurry “ends up in the subsoil” and therefore insists on the need for “the Cabildo to execute the biomanager in the Arico Environmental Complex, as and as they have been announcing for some time, to make compost and take advantage of the methane”, he explained.
Santiago Cacho: “The minister is right”
Not everyone is against Minister Garzón, at least in Tenerife, Santiago Cacho, president of the Cattle Drag Federation and former manager of Teisol, agrees: “I have seen with my own eyes those macro-farms in Spain, where they do not know where to put the slurry liquid, with real lakes, affecting the groundwater level of the field, with the contamination that this entails. It is one thing to raise a Galician blonde in the field than to raise a pressure steer on a farm. The same thing happens with chickens, which take them to the slaughterhouse after 40 days, making it reach four kilos based on artificial light so that it does not stop eating, when for a chicken, in the field, to reach that weight it would take a year and a half”. “These macro-farms do not create jobs, because everything is robotized”, while recalling that “of the five thousand heads of cattle that are in Tenerife, a thousand belong to the Basta breed, native to the Island, of great value due to its triple condition : meat, milk and work, and that survive thanks to the drag”.
Woolmington: “There are only micro-farms here”
“Here there are no macro farms, compared to the Peninsula we are amateurs; extensive livestock farming, especially pigs, in Tenerife is impossible”, he comments mickey woolmington, which runs, according to him, a medium-sized farm (1,600 heads, with 160 mothers) of white pigs in La Laguna.
“In order to have the pigs in the field, we would need to have a very large piece of land, with the possibility of rotating, because the ascaris, the intestinal worm, remains in the ground for seven years and if you take them out of there, they autoinfect themselves. For example, in England I worked on a farm with 3,600 mothers and they had 70,000 hectares of farm to rotate to feed, with barley, corn and sweet potatoes”.
He anticipates that the Frimancha company wants to build a macro-farm in Arico, with 5,000 mothers, but he is not sure that he will be able to obtain the permits from the Cabildo because “there is no sewage treatment plant that can withstand that amount of slurry and a huge area of land would be needed, more than 100,000 square meters, given that each animal has to have a two-square-meter habitat”.