Ohio’s strong livestock genetics shine through Israel trade mission

The American livestock industry is looked at worldwide for its vigor, experience, and genetic command. Such expertise is valued internationally, as demonstrated by a recent trade mission to Israel by representatives of the Ohio Livestock and Genetic Export Council.

Darke County’s Larry Baker, director of the Ohio Livestock and Genetic Export Council (OLGEC), recently helped lead a goodwill trade mission to Israel in November to observe livestock agriculture and help improve genetic practices of the desert country. He accompanied embryologist Dr. Emily “Em” Mowrer, DVM, as the two followed a batch of Ohio embryos headed for use in the country.

The embryos were some of the first U.S. genetic material in the country since new health protocols had been established — a goal for Baker over a decade in the making. He first made a trade trip to Israel 13 years ago alongside Fred Dailey, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture at the time. That helped to open the doors for further talks about the need for genetic improvement.

“Finally, 13 years later, we have a health protocol for semen, embryos, breeding and slaughter cattle, so that just shows us that sometimes it doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years to see a return on the investment,” Baker said.

Israel boasts a nationwide dairy herd of 100,000 cows and 50,000 head beef. The country currently imports a heavy amount of feeder cattle due to their populations not being self-sustaining. Baker hopes to change that and, as a result, increase genetic business between Israel and Ohio — an international powerhouse in livestock breeding.

“People in our state have no idea for the most part that Ohio is either number one or two every year in genetic exports,” Baker said, remarking how the value was clearly evident through the recent mission.

These rocky fields of Golan Heights, close to the Syrian border, can make grazing a challenge.

These rocky fields of Golan Heights, close to the Syrian border, can make grazing a challenge.

The mission was hosted by Erez and Katcha Cahaner and Thierry Moens through facilitation by the Negev Foundation. The three originally visited Ohio in May of 2016, buying a number of embryos for use in Israel.

Baker said they took a liking to a number of Ohio cattle herds, including longhorns of Dickinson Cattle Co., a decision he was curious about until visiting Israel firsthand.

“After I got there, I could see they have trouble with predators and harsh conditions. Longhorns may be able to help more in that way versus other breeds,” Baker said.

High percentage Simmental are popular in the arid region, and Baker hopes further use of genetic science can help improve their beef heeds.

“The embryos the group bought when they visited the U.S. were from the Ryan Ludvigson Red Angus Ranch in Montana plus two Ohio farms — Dickinson Longhorns and Maplecrest Farm through John Grimes,” Baker said.

The main project of the nine-day mission began when Baker and Mower took delivery of the 59 embryos that were shipped from the U.S., valued at nearly $50,000. The following days found Mower educating livestock veterinarians and technicians on the proper technique for embryo transfer as well as artificial insemination. Education in this area is lacking in Israel, something the team hopes to improve in order to bring the Israel market to a healthier place for international genetic purchasing. By the end of the mission, Mower said approximately 40 cows had been implanted.

One of the many highlights of the trip was a visit to the farm of Ariel Sharon. Sharon was best known as the Prime Minister of Israel from 2001-2006. He passed away in 2014 and his sons now run the operation.

In a release, Dickinson Cattle noted the trip as the fulfillment of a longtime dream by Sharon to introduce Texas Longhorn genetics to the arid, rocky regions of Israel. The dream wasn’t fully realized before Sharon’s stroke in 2005.

“The benefit of Texas Longhorn cattle genetics for the arid hills of Israel was first considered by the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon,” the Dickinson Cattle Co. said in a release. “Unlike the Sharon plan for importation of live cattle, the Cahaner’s plan was to import a good number of frozen Texas Longhorn embryos. The embryos would be placed in their indigenous Israeli cows and full blood Texas Longhorn calves would be the result.”

Baker and Mowrer also played host to agricultural specialists from the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv and Dr. Nadav Galon, director of veterinary services for the Israel Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Baker felt the ag leaders were impressed by their visit and would help open the door for further work.

In their visits to various farms, Baker said the group found some key differences in the Israeli cattle trade from that of stateside. Most breeding lineage is unknown and many farms are working toward better understanding of rearing practices. Baker also noted differences in the slaughter process.

“Their system of marketing beef in Israel is totally different than that of the United States,” according to the official report from the mission. “The dissecting of the carcass is completely different than that of the U.S. For the Kosher market, the animal has to be harvested under the direction of the Rabbi. They only utilize the front quarters.”

The team also found proper vaccination protocol was lacking in some herds they visited. Certain illnesses that were having a major impact on herd health could be easily contained with correct inoculations.

In addition to differences in livestock practices, the trip was unique in a number of other ways, including their accommodations. The group stayed in a kibbutz — pronounced ki-boots, they are collective communities of Israelis that live and work together. Originally, all kibbutzim were based in agriculture, though many have adopted high-tech manufacturing facilities over the years or other types of industry. Kibbutzim remain popular living-working situations in Israel and were a major part of the trade mission.

Concepts of property ownership are also different in the Holy Land than in the U.S. The government oversees the entrusting of each piece of land.

Following the trip, Baker said he believed Israel will never be a “huge market, but it will be a constant market for semen, embryos, and possibly feeder cattle in the future.”

“I’m very optimistic about this mission to Israel and what benefits it may have in the future,” he said.

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One thought on “Ohio’s strong livestock genetics shine through Israel trade mission”

  1. I wish more was said about the role of the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service played in negotiating that protocol. I spent over 2 years working on that, and I’m glad to see it come to fruition!

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