The Russian government has authorized $5 billion in funding to improve the country's agriculture industry, according to a report prepared by the US embassy in Moscow, and most of the money has been earmarked to revitalize that nation's livestock sector. As a result, Russian imports of live US beef cattle skyrocketed from $49 million in 2011 to $173 million in 2012. And according to US Census Bureau figures, Idaho live-cattle exports have also jumped -- from near zero in 2010 to $13 million in 2011 and to $17 million in 2012.
Idaho State Department of Agriculture officials said those numbers, which were not broken down by dairy or beef, only reflect live animals exported directly from Idaho and don't include Idaho cattle sent to other states to meet quarantine standards before being exported.
In 2010, Montana exported its first beef cattle to Russia and shipped $22 million worth of them to Russia in 2012.
Russia, which currently has only about 1 million head of beef, has set a goal of increasing its beef herd to 10 million by 2020. This spells opportunity for the US beef industry.
The Russian influence has been seen in bull sales in Idaho this year, said Wyatt Prescott, Idaho Cattle Association executive vice president. Stating this is an exciting opportunity, he added, "It's like finding a whole new frontier."
"We're shipping a ton of dairy heifers to Russia also," she said.
Russian buyers are paying premiums of as much as $500 per head for US cattle and Black Angus and Herefords are the preferred breeds -- but interest isn't limited to those breeds, one industry source reveals.
The US beef industry isn’t the only industry in the world benefitting from Russia’s beef needs. Russia is also appropriating a lot of cattle from Australia and it recently began buying some Canadian cattle, as well.