Though the recent surge of interest in U.S. cattle has created lots of chatter, understand that this nation has a long history of exporting live breeding cattle and especially semen and embryos around the world.

“The U.S. is recognized as the world leader in genetic development,” Phillips says. “Performance-based genetics have the U.S. at the top.” If not looking to import live cattle, he explains international customers often look to buy semen first in order to improve the genetics they already have. Next, some look to embryos.

As alluded to by Dr. Kirkham earlier, Canada and Mexico have historically been the primary destination for U.S. breeding cattle exports. But frozen U.S. genetics have been moving around the world for decades.

That’s were Dr. DeGrofft has focused much of his international effort for the past three decades.

“Sending frozen genetics is usually simpler,” Dr. DeGrofft says. Though regulations for some countries like Russia can be complex, he explains that in addition to complying with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) requirements the regulation for Brazil and Canada are basically that a certified veterinarian do the embryo collection using CSS-approved semen and that the genetics come from herds accredited free of bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis.

Shipping frozen genetics is lots cheaper, too.

 

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Dr. DeGrofft shares a comparison of relative freight cost. “In 1992, we flew a load of heifers from Denver to Europe that cost $2,000 per head for freight. A boat ride from the East Coast at that time cost $200-$400 per head. We shipped 2,000 frozen embryos for less than $10 each.”

The world is interested in U.S. non-breeding cattle, too. Countries as far-flung as Egypt, India and Iraq have either imported U.S. feeder cattle in recent years or are making efforts in that direction.

Phillips explains one reason for interest in U.S. feeder cattle is that drought and other limiters have diminished what had been traditional sources of supply for some countries.

Still, this author could find no definitive reason for why these countries would rather import feeder cattle than beef.

Service and Expertise are Needed as Much as Genetics

As much as genetics, the folks interviewed for this article say that many countries importing U.S. genetics also need training in basic cattle management, along with instruction in technical areas such as embryo transfer and artificial insemination.

“A lot of these countries want to leap ahead to the reproductive and genetic efficiency of the U.S. in 2013 without taking the necessary steps to get from where the U.S. was 50 years ago,” Dr. DeGrofft says. “They truly need veterinary services and consultation for basic beef cattle management including health care, nutrition and reproduction.”

The past says some of these countries will make the management transition. Some of the countries where Dr. DeGrofft taught embryo transfer techniques a couple of decades ago still import embryos but they have become technically self-sufficient.