After great anticipation I finally had a chance to live my out Gaucho dreams at the Panagea Estancia. Panagea is located in rural Uruguay near the town of Tacuarembo, 4 hours north of Montevideo.
The Estancia is a working ranch and backpackers hostel run by owners Juan and Susann. Juan is the head gaucho and a licensed veterinarian. The estancia has been in his family for generations. Juan is a well traveled backpacker and an all-around awesome guy. Susann is Juans wife and she is a fantastic cook and mother. Throughout the 4 days at Panagea, Susann made sure that we were well fed and totally taken care of.
At the estancia there are nearly 100 horses and 1000 cattle.
I spent the morning of the first day getting a crash course on how to properly saddle and ride a horse.
After some brief instructions we set off to round up some cattle so we could tag their ears and brand them.
After finishing the round up it was Alexi, David, and Dan´s job to push the cattle from the "egg" to the pen where the cattle would be branded.
Juan applying the scalding brand to the flank. After applying the brand we pushed the cattle back out into the field to graze and fatten up. Panagea raises cattle until they reach 250kg (about 2 years of age) and then sells them to other ranches where they double in size before going to slaighter.
On our second day we had to check the older female cows for pregancies. These cows were between 8-10 years old and some were done producing offspring. Unfortunately for them this means being sent to the slaughterhouse as low quality meat (good meat comes from younger cattle). But the pregnant cows would need to stay at Panagea to give birth and nurse their young.
Feeling around the cows uterus for a calf developing.
After lunch we headed out with Bilingua, an expert gaucho that works at Panagea, to round up and shear over 200 sheep. We only had to shear around the eyes so the fast growing wool doesn´t block the sheeps vision. This shearing needs to happen two times a year.
On the third day we went out in the morning with Bilingua again to shear some more sheep. This time we worked a bit more efficiently after having mastered the art of sheep wrestling and shearing techniques the day before.
In the afternoon were had a walk to the stream and a leisurely ride out to a hill that overlooked the entire Panagea estate.