OLYMPIA — Some 1,400 dairy cows from Washington and Idaho farms are scheduled to leave the Port of Olympia in November for Vietnam, possibly reviving a trade connection conceived but never completed 20 years ago.
The cows, exported by Missouri-based Clayton Agri-Marketing, will board the Falconia, a livestock-transport ship operated by Denmark-based Corral Line.
Vietnam has been building its dairy industry for several years with imported cattle, mostly from Australia. U.S. breeding cattle have been allowed into Vietnam since 2011.
The cows exported in November be the first sent to Vietnam from Olympia, port spokeswoman Kathleen White said. The Washington Department of Agriculture, which must inspect brands, has no record of cows being shipped from anywhere in the state to Vietnam.
Before leaving the country, the cows will be briefly held and examined by U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarians at Schorno Agri-Business in Yelm, about 20 miles from the port.
Schorno’s president, Glenn Schorno, said his father, Larry, built the quarantine facility 25 years ago, mostly for livestock to be flown overseas via Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Larry Schorno in 1995 hoped to ship a thousand pregnant Holsteins from Olympia to Vietnam, just a year after President Bill Clinton lifted a trade embargo. The groundbreaking deal came after then-Gov. Mike Lowry traveled to Vietnam on a trade mission. Lowry said then that he expected Vietnam to take as many as 4,000 more cows.
Glenn Schorno said Friday that the cows were never shipped.
“They (Vietnamese dairies) weren’t set up to handle them. They still needed to make some progress in feeding animals,” he said. “Now, they’re ready.”
Schorno said he’s hopeful the quarantine facility will see more cows bound for Vietnam.
“We are excited whenever there’s a new market, and it’s in Asia,” he said. “From where we are, we have a strategic advantage.”
The export business has been “hit and miss,” Schorno said, particularly after a cow in 2003 in Central Washington was diagnosed with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, mad cow disease.
The quarantine facility in Yelm was last used in 2012, when 1,200 Holsteins were examined before being exported to Russia, Schorno said.
Efforts to reach Clayton Agri-Marketing owner Tony Clayton were unsuccessful. The company helps importers obtain livestock to improve their herds’ genetics, according to the company’s website.
The cows are scheduled to be loaded over two days beginning Nov. 16. The crossing is expected to take two weeks, according to the port.
The port said in a press release its managers hope other companies moving cattle to Asia will consider Olympia.
Further information about the cows’ destination was unavailable.
The U.S. exported a record $2.2 billion worth of food and agricultural products to Vietnam in 2015, according to the USDA. Vietnam is the 11th largest U.S. export market.
Vietnam’s largest dairy company, Vinamilk, is partly state-owned. According to the company, it is the second largest company listed on the Vietnamese stock market.