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Genetics trade expands overseas

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Rapid City, S.D. – Livestock genetics produced in the U.S. are a commodity sought after by the world, Tony Clayton, president of Clayton Agri-Marketing, told beef cattle producers during the Range Beef Cow Symposium. 

“U.S. genetics are a value-added product,” Clayton said. 

Many people have conducted research to identify genetic lines that excel in growth, feed efficiency and performance. 

“These traits became especially important a few years ago when feed got high,” Clayton noted. 

“People in other countries want to adopt our genetic evaluation systems, including our breeding programs, breeding values and breed associations to catch up with us,” he continued. “They want to produce fast-growing, efficient animals that make money.”

Selling genetics

Clayton said many people wonder why the U.S. would sell live animals overseas when they should be selling boxed beef. 

“Regardless of what it costs and outside of national security, a lot of countries are going to raise a certain amount of product no matter what it costs,” Clayton explained. “A lot of the elderly leaders in some of these countries remember what it was like at the end of World War Two and the Korean War. They remember being hungry, and hungry people can be dangerous.”

Shipping livestock

Currently, animals are being shipped around the world about every six days, Clayton said. 

Animals can be shipped from the U.S. to other countries in a 40-foot modified shipping container that will hold 14 bred heifers. The container can be picked up and moved just like Wal-mart moves their containers, he said. 

It takes a lot of people to make these shipments happen. 

Many countries have foot and mouth disease and have to restock their herds every so often. 

“We are fortunate in the U.S. to have not had a case of foot and mouth disease since 1929,” Clayton said. “It is something we have to keep a close eye on.” 

“If it happens here, we won’t be able to export our product,” he said. “Look at the case of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy). We still have some countries who have locked us out of their markets.”

International influence

Clayton said several countries have been importing live U.S. livestock. 

Turkey has imported a tremendous amount of cattle from the U.S. in the last three to four years. 

Egypt has had to destroy their beef and dairy herds because of foot and mouth and are in the process of repopulating. 

Russia has been a big importer of dairy and beef cattle and plans to be self-sufficient within the next five years. 

Mexico has obtained some low interest loans and is in the process of rebuilding their cattle herds. 

Vietnam has set a goal of providing one cup of milk for every child each day and is in the process of importing dairy cattle to fill this need.

Libya, Jordan and the Ukraine are also importing livestock from the U.S.

U.S. endeavors

Clayton said the U.S. is also developing livestock facilities in other countries. 

In China, the U.S. has built a swine facility, where they produce U.S. swine, provide the genetics, provide the help, train the help and provide on-site housing for bio-security reasons. 

The performance data and genetics are loaded into U.S. servers to help develop pedigrees. 

“The biggest U.S. producer of Yorkshire pigs in now in China,” Clayton said. 

Continued opportunity

Clayton sees many opportunities in other countries but cautions producers to find the right partners and a deal that will work financially. 

Other countries are also very concerned about protocol and send their veterinarians and other officials here to oversee the shipments. 

“Russia sends their people here for 21 days and China for 60 days,” Clayton said. “They want to make sure protocol is being followed, and they ask lots of questions.”

Through this process, Clayton said it is important to have effective negotiators at USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) who are well-trained and understand the industry. 

Clayton sees no reason why this part of the industry won’t continue to grow.

“For every $1 billion of exports leaving the U.S., 8,400 jobs are created,” he said. 

“In 2012, we became a billion dollar industry just in animal genetics alone. That is not including valuable racehorses,” he stated. “If we take 310 million people in the U.S., that same number of people will move to middle class in China by 2020. They will need food, and we want to be who they get it from.”

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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