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Halifax student travels to Argentina where cows live large

Cows grazing in a pasture in Halifax County will never look the same to rising Chatham Hall junior Walker Abbott of Halifax.

Abbott who recently returned from nearly a two-week venture in Argentina on a Hallam Hurt Foreign Travel Award has experienced life first hand with the gauchos (farm-hands).

“One of the most touching aspects of the trip was the gauchos. They were all extremely kind and honest and simply happy and appreciative to be working,” said Abbott.

The young traveler found it really refreshing to see how healthy and natural the cows in Argentina were compared to typical American feedlot cows, that are mostly covered in mud, manure and a poor coat. 

“These cows that have been living on large, grassy spaces simply look better and more alive,” said Abbott.

Traveling with her father, Bill, and Chatham Hall’s Chief Financial Officer Ron Merricks, the trio left the states on June 13 and returned June 24. Merricks served as Abbott’s faculty sponsor.

“My dad doesn’t travel very much, and I wanted to see how different cattle were raised in a different country, and I thought it was the perfect trip for my dad and I to take together,” said Abbott.

Once arriving in Buenos Aries, the three ventured to leather shops for shopping and ate at a nice restaurant before leaving for La Paz. The morning the group traveled to La Paz, a five-hour drive, they followed J. P. Thieriot, the owner and founder of Estancia Beef. Thieriot lives between Argentina and California.

“We reached 105 mph once. The road was extremely bumpy with large holes, and we were in a tiny car,” recalled Abbott of her adventure.

When the group arrived at their destination, the San Silverstre, the main ranch of the Argentine operations, they had a welcomed lunch including salad and lamb that was raised on the ranch. 

According to Walker, the ranch house was “absolutely beautiful.” It overlooked the Parana River, which is about the size of the Mississippi River.

“We had to take a boat to see the cows,” said Abbott.

Anytime the cows are taken to be sold, they have to be taken on what Abbott described as a “cattle barge.”

The trio traveled with the manager of Estancia’s Beef’s Argentine Operations, Fabiola Loza. 

“While we were there we did everything with Fabiola,” Abbott said, explaining she often assisted Fabiola with herding or sorting the cattle. 

Some of her other experiences included helping the gauchos corralling, deworming and removing shoes for about 30 horses.

It wasn’t all hard work, though. Abbott and her father played a game of polo and even went dove hunting.

While Abbott was in Argentina she also took part in trying a different culture’s cuisine. However, she said she didn’t really eat anything out of the ordinary.

“The steak was amazing,” Abbott said.

Her dad chose to try goat meat.

She also tried a few sweet treats including something similar to a moon pie, and a candy bar called an “alfajores.”

Abbott said nearly 6 million candy bars are sold daily in Argentina. But her favorite treat, and something that they got almost everywhere, were different flavors of ice cream.

“They are delicious,” she added.

 The group traveled to Argentina during the winter months with temperatures ranging around 40-degrees. Abbott, her father and Merricks were often seen sporting sweaters throughout the day. 

“It was cold, rainy and overcast,” she added.

In retrospect, Abbott said the trip to Argentina gave her an important grasp on the natural aspect of how the cows there lived and how “gross” the feedlot cows are in the United States compared to the healthy cows living in Argentina.

“It was refreshing,” she added.

Before heading back to the United States, the group had expected to attend the Liniers cattle auction where Estancia’s cattle had been sent. However, an unexpected trucker strike and a gas crisis nixed the auction.

“Nobody could get gas. Estancia ended up not sending the second half of those cattle we had sorted…instead, we shopped and went sightseeing,” added Abbott.

“Luckily one of the gauchos had five gallons of gas stored just for those situations, and we were able to make it the airport,” she added.

Incidentally, the trucker strike ended the day after the group departed.

According to Abbott, it is still early in her college planning, and she is not sure yet, but she believes agriculture will be a part of her future. 

The Abbott family brought back what they learned from the trip and “reinforced” some of the things on their farm, although most of the things were already being done, said Abbott.

“I wouldn’t say I’m going to go into the business, but I’ll raise some cattle,” she said.

The young traveler is unsure where her next trip will take her, but she said Chatham Hall offers students many travel opportunities, and she believes the next trip offered could be to Cuba.