Cows to Kazakhstan

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LISA MULLINS: For today's Geo Quiz, we're tracking 163 flying cows. Sounds strange but it's true. The cattle boarded a jumbo jet yesterday out of Fargo, North Dakota on a 22 hour flight. You can only imagine the scene when the captain turned off the seatbelt light. The shipment is part of an agricultural deal to send a total of a couple thousand hearty North Dakotan cows to Kazakhstan. The Central Asian country is trying to rebuild its agriculture industry which has fallen into decline in recent years. So the question for you is where are these travelling cows going to land? The capital city would be a good bet with its surrounding flatlands and steppes, but it's pretty chilly there. Or maybe Kazakhstan's largest city with its new international airport? That will tell you the answer when cows fly. But wait a second, like we said, they're flying already so we're going straight to the answer now. Bill Price is president of North Dakota based Global Beef Consultants. Earlier he told us how he managed to get his herd of cows onto a flight out of Fargo.

BILL PRICE: We loaded around 163 head onto a 747, about 5 head to a crate and put them into the aircraft and then flew them over to Astana, Kazakhstan.

MULLINS: To Astana, Kazakhstan, which happens to be in fact, Bill, the answer to our Geo Quiz today, Astana is. Now why are these North Dakotan cows suddenly going to be Kazak cows?

PRICE: We did a partnership between [INDISCERNIBLE], which is part of the Kazakhstani government and Global Beef did a partnership with them. They have kind of the same climate. They're in the same climate area as we are. It gets very cold, just like we do here, so it's a good fit.

MULLINS: So how cold does it get in North Dakota for these cows?

PRICE: They would get -40, -30 below.

MULLINS: And they have that kind of weather in Kazakhstan?

PRICE: Yes.

MULLINS: Okay. Now, Kazakhstan, which used to have a herd of about 35 million animals is down to about 2 million today because there were so many cattle that were sold or slaughtered after the Soviet Union collapsed back in 1991. What kind of hardship is that causing the Kazaks now?

PRICE: You know the quality of meat over there, they just don't have enough and being neighbors to Russia and China opens up a new market for them also. They have great range land that they can produce beef. So it's a very good fit for the US producer and for their side in Kazakhstan.

MULLINS: What is the deal worth?

PRICE: The deal is worth around 50 million dollars right now as it stands. The government does want to spend quite a little money on the livestock industry over there with their private sector, so they really are excited about building their livestock industry in Kazakhstan.

MULLINS: And who's the money going to on this end?

PRICE: The money on this end goes to the American rancher, goes to the livestock producers that we purchased cattle from. So these cattle are all purebred, registered cattle that are going over. We want to make sure they're getting a [INDISCERNIBLE]. It's kind of like the Rolls Royce. They're getting a good Angus, purebred Angus, and they're getting a purebred Herefords.

MULLINS: How long a flight was it for these cattle?

PRICE: They arrived at about eight o'clock this morning, so they're unloading as we speak right now. It was raining there a little bit this morning, but the cows went in in great shape and it was about a 20 hour flight.

MULLINS: A 20 hour flight?

PRICE: Yes.

MULLINS: Do you know what it's like to be pregnant and travel on a 20-hour flight? I guess you wouldn't.

PRICE: Yes, they're a little over 90 days pregnant. They were rested 5 hours before they left the flight. They have to be put in an inspection site for 5 hours prior to them leaving with ample feed and water and rest. And then so once we load them in the aircraft, we put them in wood chips, they're crates, very nice crates. They actually ride in a nicer aircraft than you fly commercially probably. We did have a veterinarian and a cowboy on staff and then, of course, the airlines send their crew with us also. It's a lot safer than, we feel, than going by ship. They do thousands of head everyday in the United States that leave our country by ship. And that's a 28 day journey.

MULLINS: And I guess you have to count on a soft landing for them?

PRICE: Yes, and they do, they came in very, very good. For the dollars that are being spent on these livestock you want to take very good care on these animals.

MULLINS: And when does the next jumbo jet take off?

PRICE: Tuesday again.

MULLINS: On Tuesday? Is that the one that you're going to be hopping on board?

PRICE: Yes.

MULLINS: Well, smooth flying with how many hundred cows?

PRICE: About 163 cows per plane.

MULLINS: Alright. Hope you get the food service first.

PRICE: Yes.

MULLINS: Nice to talk to you, Bill Price, president of the North Dakota-based Global Beef Consultants. Thanks again.

PRICE: Yes, nice talking to you.