Montana beef makes a global statement |

Montana beef makes a global statement

Beef producers in Montana are on a roll, making sure that not only the U.S., but also a number of other countries are getting the message that the beef genetics in the state are top of the line. Montana genetics are heading south, to Central America, in March.

Montana has long been known as the seedstock capitol of the world and some high quality Charolais and Red Angus genetics are shipping to Nicaragua thanks to a couple of "missions" put together by the Montana Department of Agriculture. Nicaragua is the biggest beef producer in Central America, with 5.4 million head of cows, and the country is ready to improve the end product.

"We went on an 'exploratory mission,' I guess you could say," said Treston Vermandel, with the Montana Department of Agriculture's, Marketing and Business Development team. The trip, funded by the USLGE (U.S. Livestock Genetics Export), was made to determine if Nicaragua would be a good fit for Montana genetics.

Vermandel, along with Bob Redland, with Redland Red Angus, and Chase Brevig, with Brevig Charolais, toured Nicaragua farms in March 2017. The trip included visits with feedlot owners, slaughterhouse operators, and ranchers, who discussed the need for higher quality meat and faster processing times. Then, in October 2017, MDA hosted Nicaraguan cattlemen for visits to several Montana ranches and a stop at the NILE livestock show, where they viewed the high-quality genetics first-hand.

The visits were a success, according to Vermandel. "We were pleasantly surprised at the opportunities there," he said. The first shipment of 3,500 straws of Montana beef cattle semen will be shipped to Nicaragua in March.

While the actual financial benefit to producers is still in the works, Vermandel estimates the value at roughly $70,000. And he sees it as an ongoing relationship, with more opportunities for producers to come. Red Angus and Charolais cattle have been chosen for the first run, because of the light hides, and their ability to withstand the heat, along with the quality cross created with Nicaraguan Brahman cattle, but Vermandel said some of the Nicaragua producers are interested in other breeds, including black Angus.

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Brahman cattle can take anywhere from 30 to 36 months until they are ready to be processed; but crossing them with Red Angus or Charolais can shorten that growth time to under 22 months, according to Vermandel.

Shipping semen doesn't happen overnight though. It's at least a 12-week process for Montana producers to get bulls qualified to ship semen to Central America, Vermandel said.

"They have to go through a series of testing, including trich tests and tb testing," he said.

The Nicaragua mission was funded by USDA, and there are more plans in the future to spread the genetic wealth, from Montana, including a trip to Australia in May.

MDA was recently awarded $52,158 from USDA's Quality Samples Program (QSP) to further develop the market for U.S. beef genetics in Nicaragua. Through January 2020, MDA will use the funds to send semen and embryos from Montana ranches to Nicaragua. The cost alone of the first tank shipping is roughly $3,500.

"This is great news for Montana seedstock producers," said MDA Director Ben Thomas. "Our beef genetics are known worldwide for their high quality, and with Nicaragua being the largest cattle producing country in Central America, we feel this will become an important and fruitful relationship for Montana."

The QSP enables potential customers around the world to discover the quality and benefits of U.S. agricultural products. For more information on the program, go to

The Montana Department of Agriculture's mission is to protect producers and consumers, and to enhance and develop agriculture and allied industries. For more information on the Montana Department of Agriculture, visit