In 2018, Caio Penido inherited Fazenda Agua Viva & Fazenda Lago Azul. Together, the two farms cover 5,070 hectares (12,523 acres), with 62% of the land in agricultural production and the remaining 38% retained as a protected reserve. Caio’s focus is on ensuring the farm thrives alongside native flora, fauna and forests, while maximizing the well-being of employees and the welfare of cattle.
Caio purchases Angus X Nelore heifers at 6 months of age, weighing approximately 200kg (440lb.). The heifers are rotationally grazed until they are 15 months old, then artificially inseminated with Brangus semen (Brahman x Angus). Maintaining a 50% Bos Indicus genetic mix in the calves ensures they are adapted to thrive in the local environment. The heifers calve at 25 months, are grazed for an additional 2–3 months, then sent to slaughter at 550kg (1,200lb.).
Caio Penido has been a valuable and influential McDonald’s Flagship Farmer and was a beef provider into our supply chain until early 2021. Although a change in our supplier infrastructure means he is not currently providing beef to McDonald’s, Caio continues to incorporate industry leading sustainability practices and principles on his farm. We are currently identifying a new beef producer to represent Brazil in the Flagship Farmers program.
“We will continue to invest in the farm, in our employees and in sustainable regional development. We believe that by generating income and creating jobs through sustainable farming, we can protect our business, our community and the environment, now and in the future.”
The farm has partnered with The Nature Conservancy to develop a forest recovery plan. Through the plan, they have identified and preserved approximately 26 hectares (64 acres) of forest. The farm has also been certified as being deforestation-free. Caio is now working to reforest key areas of the farm.
Caio is an active member of the Liga do Araguaia, a group of 63 farms dedicated to promoting sustainable production in line with the Forest Code and carbon emissions monitoring. As part of this group, the farm supports the Produce, Conserve, Include (PCI) strategy. Among other goals, the PCI works to reduce deforestation of the Amazon and the Cerrado woodland by 90% and 95% respectively by reqrowing 2.7 million hectares (6.7 million acres) of natural forest and ending illegal deforestation.
The farm has invested heavily in cattle drinking facilities to ensure stock have easy access to clean drinking water, a critical element of effective management and successful rotational grazing.
A bore hole was drilled on the farm, allowing water to be pumped to a large header tank. From the tank, water is fed into several 8,000-liter, (1,760-gallon) circular concrete troughs around the farm. The provision of water troughs means cattle do not need to access natural water sources, avoiding any subsequent contamination of waterways, or damage to banks and the surrounding vegetation.
The farm’s rotational grazing policy is based on moving cattle around the farm’s 30-hectare (74-acre) grazing plots. The cattle spend 6 to 7 days grazing each plot, with the plots then being rested for 25 to 28 days before cattle are reintroduced. Undertaking short duration grazing spells allows more time for grass to recover and regrow.
Weed control is also an important factor in the farm’s pasture management. Rotational grazing provides the opportunity for beneficial grasses to recover and grow, allowing them to out-compete weeds.
Soil pH management is also critical, and local dolomite lime is used to maintain a pH level of 5.0–6.5. Targeted fertilizer applications are used to ensure soil nutrients are balanced for optimum grass growth.
Caio has allocated 500 hectares of Agua Viva to the Carbono Araguaia Project. Together with 24 other farms, the project covers a total area of 82,000 hectares(202,626 acres). It was designed to make the 2016 Brazilian Olympic Games carbon-neutral by 2020 through on-farm carbon sequestration and improvements through sustainable farming practices.
The farm has also included a further 500 hectares (1,235 acres) of land in an intensification project, together with another 50 farms, and covers 130,000 hectares (321,100 acres). The project has identified 125 sustainability best practices to share with peers.
Regulations in the state of Mato Grosso require landowners to maintain 25% of farm area as reserves for native vegetation. Caio has surpassed this requirement, preserving 38% (1,720 hectares / 3,138 acres) of farmland. These areas provide valuable habitats and are extremely rich in biodiversity.
Agua Viva hires 12 full-time employees. Each employee is provided with accommodation on the farm. Staff and their families also have access to a health clinic, a small market, cafeteria and sports facilities. The health clinic has a nurse and a doctor, providing first aid and any required vaccinations (in line with regional or national health campaigns).
The farm has adopted, and trained staff on, the latest low-stress handling systems and techniques, which has helped protect the welfare of animals and employees.
Caio partners with local farmers, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the Brazilian Roundtable on Sustainable Livestock (GTPS) to progress beef sustainability. His work with the initiative Liga do Araguaia is also important in helping to communicate new ideas as well as collaborating on initiatives to support sustainable livestock projects.
The farm hosts several field days in collaboration with “Liga do Araguaia”. They cover practices that the farm has incorporated into its production system, with the aim of sharing learnings with other farmers in the region.
Caio is working in partnership with Agroceres, to develop an animal welfare training course for livestock owners and staff. He is also working with a Brazilian television station and film producer to create a series of TV shows that present examples of sustainable livestock production from the region.
The health clinic that provides staff and their families with access to medical services is also available to the whole of the local community.
In agreement with the local mayor, a municipal and state school has been established on the land. This provides all local children with access to education within the rural community. A bus service is available to transport children to and from school.
The farm inseminates heifers with Brangus (Brahman x Angus) semen to maintain 50% Bos Indicus genetics in calves. This ensures cattle are adapted to thrive in the local environment and also display increased growth rates and productivity through hybrid vigor.
The farm is audited by JBS through a socio-environmental monitoring tool. JBS uses the results of these audits to verify the farm’s public commitments related to the purchase of cattle. This system aims to verify that cattle are not being obtained directly from farms that produce cattle illegally in protected or deforested areas.
The farm is also working with an initiative called Araguaia Guarantee Protocol, which is applied together with the Sustainable Livestock Indicator Guide (produced by the GTPS). This project was created through a partnership established with the Institute of Forestry and Agricultural Management and Certification (Imaflora). The aim of this partnership is to develop a tool for the management of good practices.
The farm is Rain Forest Alliance Certified, which guarantees the adoption of good sustainable practices, and has been recognized for the jaguar conservation through the Onça-Pintada Certificate.
Learn more about Caio Penido’s story at Agua Viva & Lago Azul
Explore the case study, where you’ll find additional details on how Agua Viva & Lago Azul have aligned with the Flagship Farmers Program’s key areas of sustainable practices, what external research reveals about the producer’s actions and how improved sustainability is benefiting them.
“I feel how we manage the farm surpasses the expectations of consumers in relation to animal care, labor conditions and respect to the environment. We take our responsibilities seriously and are active participants in our local community.”