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An American Cowboy Aims to Help Russia's Beef Herd

Darrell Stevenson, left, is an American cowboy and cattle rancher
Darrell Stevenson, left, is an American cowboy and cattle rancher

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.


Twenty years ago, when the Soviet Union collapsed, so did beef production in Russia. Breeding and management programs for beef cattle fell apart. Today, Russia imports much of its beef. Cattle are raised mostly for dairy.

Instead of beef, Russians have expanded poultry and pork operations. These are faster and less costly to start. But there is some new investment in beef production. And one of those involved is an American rancher and cowboy named Darrell Stevenson.

He sees plenty of room for growth -- Russia's beef herd is less than one percent the size of the American herd.

DARRELL STEVENSON: "Tremendous opportunity in this country in terms of the vast resources. Tremendous amount of available ground, whether it is tilled or not.”

In late two thousand ten, Darrell Stevenson began sending cows, bulls, horses and equipment to Russia. He sent more than fourteen hundred animals. About a third of them traveled by ship. The others came by plane.

Mr. Stevenson has two Russian partners in what they call the Stevenson-Sputnik Ranch. The ranch is located on almost six thousand hectares of land in Voronezh in the black earth area of southern Russia.

The Angus and Hereford cattle came from ranches in his home state of Montana. The imported cows have given birth to their first calves.

DARRELL STEVENSON: “We are helping establish a local beef herd, a regional beef herd, and eventually a national beef herd.”

Ekaterina Zimina grew up in St. Petersburg and trained as a veterinarian. She worked last year on Darrell Stevenson's ranch in Montana to learn American methods. She says Russians have a lot of experience with dairy cows in barns, but not with beef cattle on open rangeland.

EKATERINA ZIMINA: "Because it is really, really hard to find good enough people in Russia that can work with beef cattle, because Russia is world-known as dairy country. We have lots of dairy herds, dairy cows. But managing dairy and beef cows is a totally different thing.”

Darrell Stevenson is not the only American involved in projects to build a high-quality beef herd in Russia. Reaching that goal will take time -- and a lot more cows. But Ms. Zimina says the ranch in Voronezh can help show Russians about life on the range.

EKATERINA ZIMINA: "We together can show these people that this is not something from the movie, that cowboys really exist, and it is a really hard job and that is possible to do this even in Russia.”


And that’s the VOA Special English Agriculture Report. I’m Jim Tedder.


Contributing: James Brooke and Jerilyn Watson

Watch a video about the Stevenson-Sputnik Ranch