Virocay: the ranch that 70 years ago opened the cattle ranch in Corrientes and today receives bird watchers from all over the world
Heading north from Corrientes, along RN 14, Virasoro is the “national capital of the zebu”. This has a lot to do with Haynes family from Estancia Virocay. Mac, the host, is actually called Alfredo, like his father, and he is a veterinarian. “The land is red from Santo Tomé up,” he explains in relation to the road that brought us here, where in addition to raising bulls, they receive guests to go bird watching or simply rest.
With zebu stew in between, Mac recounts the history of the place: “My grandfather Haynes came from England in 1924, with a cousin, and after having served as a pilot in World War I. He was the son of an engineer who has a monument in Rhodesia, Africa, because he was killed in the jungle after a rebellion. Anyway, my grandfather toured the Chaco and later settled here, in these lands. He married my grandmother, a woman from Apóstoles, Misiones, of French origin, and my father was born in Buenos Aires,” says Mac.
“Did you see that way you guys came in? Well, it was the smuggling trail. He went from Apóstoles, the national capital of flour, to Brazil, where sugar, coffee, covers and zebu cattle came from. Because until then there were only British cattle here and they had a calf every three years… which is very little! But the fences in the 30s were very bad and the english cows were crossed with zebu”, he points out to begin to explain that livestock accident that would be the kick of a revolution in the field industry.
It continues: “The English who had cows here traveled to London and had no way to explain that their purebred Hereford, Aberdeen Angus and Shorthorn cows had become contaminated. Until they realized that the resulting breed was a superior breed, that it adapted to ticks, and that it gave more calves. meant a huge productive explosion, much more than cattle insemination!”, tells the veterinarian about that Brazilian zebu that had arrived in the neighboring country from India.
He then adds that the business that his grandfather started was followed by his father, Steve, who studied Agronomy in Iowa, and that from the United States brought in the 50’s the genetics of the Brahman (a type of zebu, which is a cow with a lot of maternal instinct) that gave the meat tenderness. “Although it is tender, it does not always mean that it is rich,” he clarifies. And as we walk through the countryside, he says that ‘cupí’ is called the hump of the male zebu – white and with a lot of jowls –, which in Brazil is an expensive cut. He adds that Braford cows are a cross between Brahman –which are white and red– with Hereford, with a white face and brown body. The Brangus are Brahman with Angus. “The bulls do not have to be fat, as they are exhibited in Palermo. That’s show”, he slides to unravel us with data on unknown terrain. And he summarizes why the cabins – producers and sellers of bulls for reproduction, not calves for eating – of Virasoro are famous: “The cows that are doing well here are doing well throughout the country.”
Although ranching is the strong point of Virocay, the ranch is also renowned because it has been receiving guests since 2009 and is home to unique birds. “My sister started and we continued, because of the contacts that were given by word of mouth,” explains Mac, who is the son of a woman from Concordia and has three other siblings. “Spotters look for quantity and “lifers” –that bird to see at least once in your life–. Here there are 60 yellow thrushes of the 600 registered in South America, censused by Argentine birds. You can also see the masked hummingbird and the large yetapá, which always walks in groups of three”, says Mac and, with binoculars, we see the latter, in the middle of the field dyed yellow by María Mola or Primavera, a Senecio (brasiliensis) that flowers between August and October. It also tells that Virocay It is a deformation of ‘Ibirocay’ which means water, tree and fire in Guarani.
He then details that the observers spend hours waiting for a bird, and that after three days they leave with a list of about 120 species. Some take photos of them, but others simply observe and write down. And still surprised recounts the day an Australian arrived in Virocay without prior reservation. He said he wanted to do a sighting and asked to pay by card. Mac explained that he didn’t have that means of payment, but invited him to stay anyway. The man settled for a few days, left more than satisfied and upon arrival in Australia he complied with the agreed transfer. It turned out to be a certain Davis, number one sighting in the world.
formed as pupil in the traditional San Jorge school, from Quilmes, Mac now enjoys teaching: he teaches veterinary classes at USAL. He is married to Bárbara Young, and they live in the city of Virasoro, but spend a lot of time in Virocay. She is a super friendly woman from Corrientes who makes a couple of guests who have been staying for more than ten days feel at home. “We offer the comforts of a simple country house,” says Bárbara, who with the vet is the mother of a fashion consultant who excelled as a professional tennis player and now lives in Dublin, and of a business administration student based in the capital. of Corrientes.
“There is too much afforestation in this province and few controls. It is an ecological disaster. One hectare of pine trees pumps about 80,000 liters of water per day. It’s too much! The native trees are broad-leaved for a reason: to control transpiration,” Mac replies when asked about the number of plantations that can be seen on the side of the road. This makes it clear that a British person can be both educated and assertive, and honor a family of visionaries who opened up cattle farming in the north of the country with the introduction of a breed of cattle that was unknown more than seventy years ago.
Virocay ranch. RP 147 Km 19. T: (3756) 61-0702. Alfredo Hayes and his wife, Bárbara, are the hosts at this 5,000-hectare cattle ranch that is famous for the zebu, but which since 2009 has also stood out for its proposal for bird watching or photography or simply resting. Between old trees, a house with high ceilings and the kindness of its owners, it has three rooms to entertain visitors and serve them four meals. From u$s 60 per person with full board.