"It's like an instant ranch," said Kate Loose, a representative of one of the Montana ranchers involved in the deal.
Most of the cattle were shipped by air, and the last delivery arrived in Moscow on Dec. 16 before heading to Russia's Voronezh region. The remainder — 545 cattle, five quarter-horses — plus a veterinarian from Choteau went by boat to Stevenson Sputnik Ranch, a partnership between rancher Darrell Stevenson and Russian investors. That livestock also was due to land Dec. 16.
The shipment represents the state's largest overseas export of live cattle to date, Montana agriculture officials said. Work on the export agreement began two years ago during a trade mission to Russia that included Montana Agriculture Director Ron de Yong, Stevenson and Jack Holden, of Holden Herefords.
Although Russia has only about a half-million beef cattle, it wants to sharply increase that figure in the next decade. Its government also has made cattle import deals with European countries, Canada and Australia, but de Yong said the how-to-ranch services provided by Stevenson could give Montana producers a future advantage.
A rotation of Montana ranchers, working cowboys and veterinarians will teach Russian herdsmen how to care for the livestock in what Sara Stevenson called "cowboy training."