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Published November 12, 2012, 10:23 AM

ND-Kazakhstan connection growing

What has been a great story — North Dakota selling cattle to Kazakhstan — continues.

By: Bismarck (N.D.) Tribune , Agweek

BISMARCK, N.D. — What has been a great story — North Dakota selling cattle to Kazakhstan — continues.

Already more than 5,000 head of Angus and Hereford cattle have been flown from Fargo, N.D., to the former Soviet republic. A deal on another 3,000 head is in the works.

And now, a dozen Kazakh cowboys will be coming to North Dakota ranches to take an intensive, two-week crash course in tending cattle.

Starting over

While it seems a little bit peculiar, flying cows to pastures 6,000 miles away makes perfect sense, given the circumstances. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the cattle herds of Kazakhstan were slaughtered, and now the oil rich country wants to rebuild its cattle inventories. Given the tough Kazakhstan winters, North Dakota-bred livestock fits the bill by being able to withstand the cold and still produce quality beef. (One of those rare times when the North Dakota winter is an asset.)

The cattle industry today isn’t just about putting livestock on the prairie. It’s much more sophisticated than those “Lonesome Dove” days. In that regard, livestock workers from Kazakhstan will be learning from ranchers in North Dakota how to get the most out of their grass and cows.

Fitting in

One concern has been that the transplanted livestock doesn’t gain as much weight. It’s attributed to the quality of feed. It’s a reminder that ranchers don’t just raise animals, they raise grass, hay and other livestock feeds, as well. Nutrition is the issue. Kazakhstan needs to not only rebuild its herds, it also needs to apply modern agriculture science to its pastures and fields, and needs to train its livestock producers in all-around best practices.

The cattle travel to Kazakhstan in crates, three per crate, arranged in rows on two floors of a three-level jumbo jet. About 200 animals can be transported on each plane. Usually, two handlers travel with the animals. The flights, so far, have been out of Fargo.

On the North Dakota end of this cattle exchange are Dan and Bill Price of Global Beef Consultants, a Bismarck, N.D.-based company. The Prices have a ranch north of Mandan, N.D. The cattle to fill the Kazakhstan order come from North Dakota and the surrounding states.

The story of shipping North Dakota beef to Kazakhstan, perhaps more than any other trade deal, illustrates the changing global economy and how North Dakota can fit into international markets.

Where’s the beef? It’s in North Dakota and in Kazakhstan.

Editor’s Note: This editorial originally appeared in the Bismarck (N.D.) Tribune.

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