U.S. cattle ranching has evolved over time to bring together the cultural traditions of the West with new technology to produce quality U.S. livestock products. But did you ever think that these ways of the west could benefit a new frontier halfway around the world?
In 2007, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) worked with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to negotiate health certificates for the export of U.S. livestock and genetic material to Russia. The protocol was signed in 2008, allowing first-time U.S. exports of live cattle, semen, embryos, horses and swine. U.S exports of cattle, bull semen and cattle embryos to Russia were valued at nearly $12 million in 2010. From January to May 2011, trade increased nearly fivefold compared to the same period last year.
Around the same time, Montana ranchers used USDA’s Market Access Program (MAP) funds provided by the U.S. Livestock Genetics, Inc. (USLGE), to explore market opportunities in Russia. USDA administers MAP to share costs of overseas marketing and promotional activities. The program provides assistance to nonprofit U.S. trade organizations and small-sized entities to help create, expand and maintain foreign markets for U.S. agricultural commodities and products. USLGE brought two teams of Russian specialists to the United States to study cattle production management, including health, nutrition and genetics. At first, the Russians were not convinced that U.S. cattle could survive their cold weather, but after a visit to Wyoming, Colorado and Montana in December 2009, it became evident that U.S. cattle could thrive in that environment.
The collaboration between FAS and USLGE laid the groundwork for Montana rancher Darrell Stevenson, a leading Black Angus cattle breeder, to benefit from the market opening after participating in relationship-building activities with Russian cattlemen. USDA funds originally sent one of Stevenson’s current Russian partners to the National Western Stock Show in Denver in January 2006 where he met Mr. Stevenson. After the 2009 trip to the West, one of the Russia team members convinced his Governor (a former Russian Minister of Agriculture) to petition Mr. Stevenson to locate a joint-venture in Voronezh. In the fall of 2010, Darrell Stevenson closed a $7 million deal to start a cattle ranch on 13,000 acres in the Voronezh province in Russia. This ambitious endeavor included taking over half of his herd— nearly 1,500 cattle—to Russia, 550 head of cattle and horses by cargo ship with the rest flying over on 747 cargo airplanes. The deal included five Quarter Horses to work the herd and a team to train the villagers to become cattle hands. To learn more about Darrell Stevenson and the Stevenson Sputnik Ranch, read the three-part series of articles in Western Horseman magazine titled, “Comrade Cowboy,” by Ryan T. Bell.
Through education, relationship-building and access to high quality U.S. genetic materials, a successful cattle ranch was born in Russia. To learn more about the benefits of USDA market development programs, visit www.fas.usda.gov.