The farmer who changed her cattle farm for sustainable production


Selma Percy Sanches is a dentist and rural producer. Born in the São Paulo state, in southeastern Brazil, she moved to Mato Grosso do Sul, in the country mid-west, to continue her late father’s vocation: livestock farming.

When her time came to lead the business, she changed the way she worked to follow the same path as thousands of Brazilian farmers. Selma changed the business towards more sustainable production.

Selma took part in training sessions offered by SENAR, with technical assistance focused on sustainability in beef cattle farming. With a technician supporting her, it was possible to recuperate the farm’s soil, ensuring protein pastures and food for the animals even in the driest seasons.

“We already had the ambition to do it differently. To improve production while maintaining a balance in the cattle’s nutritional quality and, consequently, in the final product,” she says proudly.

She learned in training necessary guidelines to preserve the environment while improving production. “We have received several instructions regarding preservation and planting trees by the pasture, and this has brought a significant well-being to the cattle,” says the rural producer.

Brazilian beef cattle farming

Brazil is one of the world’s largest beef producers and exporters. According to our last trade balance bulletin, in May 2023 alone, beef exports reached US$ 859.2 million, with 169 thousand tons sent abroad. This volume places beef among the most exported products of Brazilian agribusiness, together with soybean, soybean bran, raw sugar cane, and fresh chicken meat.

Due to its focus on innovation and efficiency, Brazil has been able to expand beef production massively, while actually reducing the area of land used for pasture cattle. That efficiency has not been achieved at the cost of implementing intensive indoor farming practices—Brazilian cattle typically pasture outdoors year-round until a few months before slaughter, and almost 90% of all Brazilian beef is grass-fed.

Notably, the extension of integrated crop-livestock-forestry (ICLF) systems, where livestock is raised in harmony with forests, and pasturing alternates with crop-growing, has been a key driver in more efficient land use. By 2030, Brazil will extend the ICLF system to a total of 16.5m ha of farmland.