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Exports of U.S. breeding cattle to Russia in recent years has exceed those to Canada and Mexico.
For veterinarians interested in the export process or seeking information because clients are interested, Dr. DeGrofft says, “The first thing is to contact USDA to get the current export regulations.” He adds that USDA is usually easy to work with. As a director for USLGE and the American Embryo Transfer Association, Dr. DeGrofft also says USDA continues to work with veterinarians in developing health regulations with the various countries.
Next, Dr. DeGrofft says he’d call the Livestock Exporters Association of the USA (LEA). “They can give you lots of information about insurance and financing to ensure that you get paid in the dollars you thought you were going to be paid in,” he says. “They can give you information about quarantine facilities and shipping. Currently, we’re being told it is taking four to eight months to get access to a ship.”
Incidentally, LEA often crops up as an expert source in these kinds of conversations. That organization also offers annual seminars where those interested can get information and begin to network.
“Rather than reinvent the wheel, contact another veterinarian with export experience and other breeders who have exported to that country and see if they’re willing to share their experiences,” Dr. DeGrofft says.
“The biggest thing is communication. Veterinarians doing this for the first time need to make sure they’re communicating with the USDA vet in charge,” Dr. McCarty says. “I make sure I call the USDA vet in charge in the state where we intend to quarantine cattle. We need to have a team relationship with USDA.
“If you’re going to do it, you really need to sit down first and have a conversation with the export company, the USDA vet and the feedlot manager.”
“Our job is to assist veterinarians in figuring out what they need to do,” Dr. Kirkham says. “I highly encourage veterinarians to become engaged with their local USDA APHIS office.” She adds that veterinarians and exporters can find a wealth of help at the APHIS export website.
Of course, there is the language and cultural barrier, too, sometimes obvious and sometimes not.
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“If the regulation specifies a territory, make sure you know how that’s defined,” Dr. DeGrofft says. Depending on the country it could mean an area as narrow as a county or as broad as an entire U.S. region.
Dr. DeGrofft was putting together an embryo export to Mexico several years ago. It never took place because of a flawed translation that mixed up “in vivo” with “in vitro”.
Speaking of export neighbors north and south of U.S. borders, Dr. DeGrofft says the regulations and process make exporting live cattle to those countries easier than exporting off-shore.
“Deb faxes export papers to the border veterinarians and makes sure they will sign off on them before we ever load the trucks,” he says.
“Any miscommunication leads to a need for flexibility,” Spare says. “Be ready to slow everything down. You’ll have to be able to make quick decisions and respond to the unexpected.”
Besides language and cultural differences, Spare says some of the stop-and-go nature of the export process stems from the unknowns surrounding the process for importers.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty on the buyer’s part,” Spare says. “They’re still often unsure about what a successful venture looks like. Their values are different. You may get rubbed the wrong way.”
Ultimately, the producer or veterinarian may encounter requirements that make them abandon the opportunity. If not, though, they may find opportunities they hadn’t counted on.
For instance, Colorado Genetics has received recent inquiries about semen, embryo and live cattle from countries including Paraguay, Kazakhstan, India and Australia.
Undoubtedly, some of those inquiries represent tire kicking. Just as surely, some are the real deal.
“The whole U.S. system is its strength,” Phillips says of international interest in U.S. beef cattle genetics.
“Cattle have always been treated well in the United States and we could see those benefits when they reached Russia,” Spare says. “I was very impressed with how the cattle could respond.
“To be a successful exporter, you can’t lower your standards. As American producers, I think the most important thing is to maintain higher standards in the cattle, how we produce them and how we manage our ranches.”
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