Purebred cattle are beginning to be shipped to Russia in an effort to build up its beef industry - a win-win situation for both the U.S. and Russia.

“This is really a win-win for both Russia and the U.S.,” said Marty Earnheart, meats and livestock marketing officer at Mon-tana's Department of Agriculture. “The Russian producers are gaining some excellent U.S. beef genetics and the U.S. livestock producers are finding new markets for their genetics.”

A Nebraska ranch shipped the first registered Angus heifers to Russia last fall, and now, Montana ranchers may be the next to send purebred beef genetics into the distant country.

Four Russians visited Montana genetics businesses last week and are looking into a marketing venture.

“The Montana livestock producers are really excited about the potential of the program and the Russians were very impressed with the Montana breeders and their cattle,” Earnheart said.

She accompanied Sergey Goncharov, a cattle breeder in Russia, and Aleksander Trafimov, the director of livestock farm in Russia, along with a Russian reporter and Russian interpreter to several Montana purebred operations last week.

They stopped to view cattle and genetics at Sitz Angus Ranch in Harrison, Mont., Stevenson Genetics at Hobson, Mont., Holden Herefords at Valier, Mont., and Cooper Herefords in Willow Creek, Mont.

The Montana Department of Agriculture hosted the delegation through the U.S. Livestock Genetics Export, Inc. (USLGE) program. Earnheart said that is a nationwide livestock-specific, not-for-profit, trade association representing the international market development interests of the U.S. dairy, beef, sheep, swine and horse breeding industries.

When the Russian visitors finished looking at the cattle, they said they were interested in purchasing genetics from Mon-tana, including semen, embryos and live animals.

However, the Russian producers are still questioning whether if live cattle were chosen, would the cattle be shipped by air as the Nebraska cattle had been or would they be shipped by boat?

It is expensive to send a lot of heifers on an airplane, but shipping by boat takes a long time and it is important the live animals not be overly stressed.

Before the Russians arrived in Montana, they attended the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Earnheart said.

Russia has not allowed the import of U.S. breeding cattle for several years, according to the USDA.

In spring 2008, Russia decided to open its doors to U.S. breeding cattle born on or after the implementation of the U.S. 1998 ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban.

At that time, Russia also agreed to allow in U.S. bovine embryos, breeding, fattening and slaughter swine and sport horses.

“The Russians have not been big beef eaters in the past,” Earnheart said, adding most of the cattle in Russia are dairy cattle with only a small number of beef cattle. “Russia wants to build up its cattle herd with quality genetics from the U.S., and then increase the interest of Russians in eating good beef.”

Last fall, a Russian rancher purchased 250 U.S. Registered Angus bred heifers from Whitestone Krebs Angus of Gordon, Neb., through help from the University of Minnesota Beef Team. The heifers were flown in two jets in September 2008, and immediately began grazing when they reached their new home in Russia.

The original owners of the heifers, Louisa and Eldon Krebs of Gordon, Neb., flew to Russia to help the new breeders with getting the operation started.

Earnheart said she hopes to see more of these kind of trade exchanges go on in the future between U.S. and Russia.