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North Dakota Cattle Take Hold In Kazakhstan

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 12:47pm
JAMES MacPHERSON,Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Transplanted North Dakota cattle are thriving in Kazakhstan's cold climate, but many of the former Soviet republic's cowboys are still greenhorns, so it has hired Great Plains ranch hands to help out and is sending some of its own to the U.S. for training, a state trade official said.

Dean Gorder, executive director of the North Dakota Trade Office, said about a dozen Kazakh cowboys will visit North Dakota ranches next month for an intensive, two-week crash-course in tending cattle.

"There is no classroom work," Gorder said. "It's hands-on working with cows."

About 5,000 Angus and Hereford cows bred to withstand North Dakota's brutal-cold winters have been airfreighted to Kazakhstan over the past two years as part of a decade-long effort to rebuild the former Soviet republic's cattle industry.

Most of Kazakhstan's cattle were sold or slaughtered after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and its herd had been reduced from about 35 million animals in the early 1990s to about 2 million.

Gorder, who is returning from Kazakhstan this week, said the country's new cattle herd appears to be thriving thanks largely to North Dakota's cattle genetics and help from North Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas cowboys hired by the oil-rich country that stretches from Central Asia into Eastern Europe.

"The percentage of successful calving is very high and they're very happy with the cattle," Gorder said Tuesday by telephone from Bucharest, Romania.

Cattle from North Dakota typically have thicker coats, more marbling and fatty tissue, agriculture officials say.

The cattle in Kazakhstan, however, aren't fattening at the rate they would be on North Dakota ranches, he said.

"They are not gaining as much weight there but we are reminding (Kazakhstan officials) that cattle are what they eat," Gorder said. "The food that they have in Kazakhstan does not have the nutritional value a typical rancher in North Dakota will feed his cattle."

A Bismarck-based company plans to fly about 3,000 more North Dakota-bred cows to Kazakhstan this fall on jumbo jets, said Dan Price, co-owner of Global Beef Consultants LLC. Price said his brother, Bill Price, has been in Kazakhstan over the past two weeks negotiating the deal.

"They're building up their herd and they seem to be pleased with our cows," Price said.

Most of the cattle come from North Dakota ranches, but some come from surrounding states, Price said.

Kazakhstan also has been importing cattle from Canada and Australia, Price and Gorder said.

"A lot of the Canadian cattle came from North Dakota genetics," Gorder said.

Kazakhstan's cold climate mirrors North Dakota's, he said.

"That's where the U.S. and Canada cattle have an advantage over Australian genetics," Price said.

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