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From Cherokee to Russia: The beginnings of a brand new beef herd

Friday, June 11, 2010

LARRABEE, Iowa- When Danil Gubanov first visited Tim and Mary Bierman of Larrabee in 1995, the thought of bringing 500 head of Iowa beef back to Russia to begin his own beef herd had never even crossed his mind.

Now 15 years later, the idea is not only running through his head, it is slowing becoming a reality.

Left to Right: Mary Bierman, Vasily Anchukor, Danil Gubanov, Irina Gubanova and Tim Bierman. Photo by Katie Carnes
Gubanov, his wife Irina Gubanova, and his business partner Vasily Anchukor, all of Vologda, Russia, arrived Friday, June 4 at the Bierman's farm north of Larrabee to begin their weeklong exploration of beef feedlots and farms in the area.

Although this is a first time visit for Gubanova and Anchukor, this trip is Gubanov's third visit to the area.

He first contacted the Biermans after he saw their names in the Iowa Pork Producer's Magazine he had seen as a veterinary student in Russia.

"No one has any idea how the magazine made it all the way to Russia," said Mary Bierman, "But Danil soon contacted us, and in 1995, he came to stay with us for a three month visit."

In 2002, Gubanov found himself back in the United States as part of a community connections program run by the U.S. Department of State.

"After completing the program in Alabama, I flew back to New York, switched my ticket, and came back to Iowa for another two-week visit," said Gubanov.

Now, during his third visit to the area, he, Gubanova and Anchukor have come with specific purpose in mind.

"In Russia, about 80 percent of our diet is meat, and 90 percent of that meat is beef, yet we have no beef herds in the country, only dairy," said Gubanov. "So much of our meat is imported, so we want to look at the possibility of starting our own beef herd in Russia."

The trio is focusing their cattle search on purebred Black Angus, a breed that will be able to thrive in the harsh Russian climate.

"Also, it is actually cheaper to ship purebred cattle," explains Gubanov. "The Russian government places a tariff on any imported cattle that is of a crossed or mixed breed, increasing the cost by approximately 25 percent."

The first places the trio explored were the farms of Jack Montgomery, Mark Carlson, and Dave Nichols, as well as Paulson Angus of Sutherland and two feedlots located in Sioux Center, Iowa.

The group also visited Trans Ova Genetic Advancement Center in Sioux Center, where Gubanov, Gubanova, and Anchukor had the opportunity to speak with the facilities director about the possibility of shipping embryos back to Russia.

"A portion of the first 500 cattle will have to be shipped over to Russia live, because they are starting their herd from nothing," explained Mary, "but we are exploring the technology that would allow them to implant Black Angus embryos into dairy cows and create their own reproductive center in Russia."

Using embryos, it would only take nine months before the first calves would be born to the herd. On the other hand, it takes two months to ship the live cattle, plus the additional time it would take for the cows to settle into their new environment before they would be ready to have their first calves.

"We are not looking to buy the cattle on this trip," said Gubanov. "We are simply looking at all of our options and observing the different possibilities we have in beginning our herd."

While exploring their options, the group will also have the opportunity to visit several area attractions.

"We are going to the Grotto, Lake Okoboji, and the World Pork Expo as well," said Mary.

But through all the visits and attraction, the group still agreed that the favorite place they had been on their trip was the Bierman's home.

"It is a very beautiful home," said Gubanov.

After seeing the sights of Northwest Iowa, the group to Los Angeles and New York before flying home to Russia.

"Hollywood and the New York Stock Exchange as both must-sees while we are in the United States," said Gubanov. "We want to see as much of the country as we can during this visit."

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