Zoetis colleagues in Brazil are making an impact in their community by focusing on animal health and the local farmers that contribute to the food supply. Last year, Zoetis launched a social responsibility program in the country’s historic Paraíba River Valley to help rural dairy farmers improve the quality and productivity of their operations.

Improving animal health, increasing farmers’ income  

By working hand-in-hand with local veterinarians and government officials, Zoetis has helped 20 participating farms modernize their farming practices. Participants have learned how to measure costs and profits, improve feed production and advance reproductive management.

The program is focused on five major areas: reproductive management, sanitary management, productivity management, operations management, and artificial insemination. Every month the farms are visited by a veterinarian who helps them progress in these areas.

As part of the curriculum coordinated by Zoetis, a specialist in soil quality from Embrapa, a government-led research institution, recently visited the farmers to explain the characteristics of the local soil and how to preserve its nutrients. A veterinarian from Instituto Biológico, a government institute that promotes animal health, is also regularly visiting the participating farms to support them in combating common diseases such as mastitis.

Since the program’s launch last year, the following outcomes have been achieved:

  • The project completed 12 training sessions for the 20 participating farms, including four sessions that were open to the entire community.
  • Most participating farmers have improved milk quality in terms of bacteria count, which means better milk for dairy processors and more profit for the farmers.
  • All the farms have improved their cows’ pregnancy rates, some as much as six-fold, which means more milk production as well as more calves to sustain the farms in the future.

With these improvements, the farmers will be able to invest in their farms to create a better future for their families and their region.

“The knowledge I’ve received from the program has improved my herd’s potential,” said participating farmer Antonio Venture Neto.“My cows are much healthier since I have taken the program’s guidelines for feeding and medicating on board.”

Sustainable Solutions

The project is focused on helping the farmers achieve sustainable, long-term benefits through the know-how they will receive from visiting veterinarians.  The farmers are each projected to increase milk production by 20% by April 2019, which will significantly increase their income. Additional farms and regions will be considered for future iterations of the project.

“Lack of information is a serious issue for these farmers. With very simple measures, they have been able to increase milk production and quality, as well as keep their herds healthier through better reproduction management,” said João Paulo Altenfelder, technical coordinator for the project.“Some of them were ready to end their operations and move to nearby cities to look for better work conditions, but thanks to the project, they have increased their income - some of them have even been able to invest in their farms.”

Common Challenges on Paraíba River’s Farms

The historic Paraíba River Valley is a rural area located in southeast Brazil between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. It is home to many small family dairy farms that face day-to-day operational challenges that impact their profitability, such as calf mortality and clinical mastitis. Many of the challenges these farms face are preventable on larger farms with more resources and better access to information and advances in veterinary care.

Zoetis Commitment to Brazil’s Farming Communities

In Brazil, Zoetis has a strong history of community support programs that help small farmers. Past programs focused on goat, swine and poultry farming families in the states of Bahia and Piauí. When considering the current iteration of the program, our colleagues felt it was important that the farmers were focused on a key species for our Brazil business, and that our customers were intrinsically involved.

Zoetis colleagues immediately recognized an opportunity with Paraíba River Valley’s dairy farmers to implement animal health protocols for disease identification, prevention and control in the region, and a critical need for education on farm management and reproduction management techniques.

“After supporting animal health in Brazil for many years, this project is an opportunity for us to share some of the knowledge we have accumulated with the community. I am very proud of the results we have achieved so far, especially considering that they mean real benefits to more than 20 families and the local economy,” said Paco Ortiz, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Zoetis Brazil and SoLA.