Our Views Columns

Our Views Columns

Date: 10/18/2012

Title: Livestock Express: Coming Soon to a Ranch Near You

By Tony Clayton, President of Clayton Agri-Marketing, Inc.

As the world’s population continues to grow toward 10 billion people by the year 2050 and if expanding economies that are providing better living conditions are factored in, it equals an unprecedented world-wide demand for animal protein and dairy products.

Breeders, farmers and ranchers from across the United States have been exporting live cattle in record numbers over the past few years, and the exporting of live cattle has turned from a hobby industry when someone might have talked about sending a few bulls to Mexico at the local coffee shop a few years ago, to a billion-dollar industry due to markets that have opened in Egypt, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Russia and other countries. Many countries like Kazakhstan and Russia are giving subsidies to their farmers and encourage the importation of live cattle to build their national herds and the opportunity exists for the United States to export several thousands of cattle over the next few years.

As the live cattle export industry has recovered from the first detection of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in 2003, we have certainly had to fight our way back into the marketplace to regain lost market share to Australia, New Zealand and Uruguay. There are still tremendous untapped markets from other countries that have not reopened their borders to U.S. cattle—China, Colombia, Ecuador, Pakistan, Peru, South Korea and Taiwan—because they have spent the last nine years at the negotiation table with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to work around past BSE issues. As these countries continue to negotiate, ships from the east coast and large cargo planes are departing on a regular basis from Chicago and New York with thousands of cattle bound for Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkey. As the world has seen dramatic increases of feed prices, cattlemen from around the world certainly view genetics in this country as the top shelf product that gives them efficiency and predictability thanks to the development of genetic programs by breed associations, along with years of research to maximize the genetic potential of today’s modern beef and dairy animal.

With increasing international demand, producers from across the United States may have the opportunity to participate in the export market for the first time for not only breeding cattle, but feeder cattle as well. The export of live cattle is not for every cattleman, and it is a specialized field that requires dedication to the export process. Newcomers to the export process need to consider the type and quality of genetics to be exported; if the operation meets the health requirements of the importing country; if there are any other health issues in the state that would keep us from exporting; and having a dedicated staff and facilities that can be used for quarantine and the testing process.

I urge producers to research the regulations on exporting before starting the process. Farmers and ranchers who have questions on exporting regulations can discuss issues with their veterinarian and their local United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) veterinary services office. With the increasing interest in exporting livestock, foreign export companies have opened offices in the United States, with some conducting business by questionable methods and exporting cattle that may not represent the best quality or interests of the U.S. cattle industry. There are many questions to be asked before the process is started.

  • What is their experience?
  • What is expected of the producer?
  • What is the schedule of the shipment?
  • What type of documentation of registry is required? Countries such as Russia and Kazakhstan require registration papers to be supplied for each animal for the buyer to receive their financing subsides or support. 
  • How and when will a producer be paid for the cattle?

There are many well known export companies in the United States that can assist producers. The Livestock Exporters Association of the United States is one option to make contact with professionals that know the export process. To learn more, visit www.livestockexporters-usa.com. The export process can be complicated, but it is also rewarding knowing that U.S. cattle genetics are providing both meat and milk for people around the world. At the end of the day, that is the one thing we have in common; we all have to eat.

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Mark Spurgin
Nebraska Rancher