Last year, more than 270,000 head of cattle leapt into the water of the dipping vats at Santa Teresa, NM, and swam their way to health and prosperity in the U.S.

Before crossing the line, however, the cattle had to climb from the vat, stand and drip-dry, then wait for U.S. Customs officials to open the gates leading north. Spanning a 90-ft., no man's land, the gates link holding pens on the Mexican side of the border with pens in the U.S. at this modern cattle-handling complex located just west of El Paso, TX.

While far more cattle move north than south at Santa Teresa (see table), the pens are important to the international marketing infrastructure for both U.S. and Mexican cattle producers.

Built to handle about 10,000 head at a time, the pens are owned and maintained by the Union Ganadera Regional (UGR) de Chihuahua, a Mexican cattlemen's marketing cooperative. Arturo Garcia, administrator of the facility, and Jaime Escobar, president of the UGR, team up to manage the facilities and the flow of cattle.

On the Mexican side, cattle are funneled into an inspection facility where U.S. veterinarians inspect each animal. They look for lesions and external parasites and verify the sexual status of the animal.

From the inspection chute, the cattle plunge into a vat, swim 60 ft. through water treated with an external parasiticide and climb into holding pens. By mid-afternoon, most of the calves will have crossed the border and be well on their way to U.S. feedyards or pastures.

Notable is the fact that as Mexican ranchers anticipate continued trade opportunities and salivate over U.S. cattle markets, they are considering construction of a live cattle auction market facility adjacent to the Santa Teresa pens.