By SEAN ELLIS
McCALL, Idaho -- Russia is gobbling up live cattle from U.S. producers at a rapid rate and paying top dollar in many cases.
"There is amazing opportunity over there," Marty Earnheart, meats and livestock marketing manager for the Montana Department of Agriculture, told Idaho Cattle Association members June 27 during their annual summer roundup.
The number of Montana beef cattle exported to Russia has skyrocketed since 2010 but that country is seeking a lot more cattle than Montana can provide, she added.
"It's way, way too big for any one state to handle," Earnheart said. "It is a huge opportunity."
U.S. beef cattle exports to Russia exploded from $49 million in 2011 to $173 million in 2012 and Earnheart doesn't see the pace backing off any time soon because the Russian government has committed $5 billion in subsidies to grow that nation's beef herd.
Earnheart fielded a lot of questions from ICA members following her presentation, including, "How do you get paid and when?" "What breed are they looking for?" and, "Is there any kind of premium?"
Earnheart said Russian buyers are paying premiums of as much as $500 a head for Montana cattle and Black Angus and Herefords are the preferred breeds.