EASTPORT, Maine — The third shipment of American-bred pregnant cows leaving Eastport this week to head for Turkey provides a lesson in both geography and global economy.
The company that owns and provides the cows — Sexing Technologies — is based in Texas. The cows are shipped to Maine from breeding farms in Pennsylvania, Vermont, Ohio and Michigan. They board a Danish freighter and will arrive in Turkey in about two weeks.
Skip Rogers, the general manager for Federal Marine Terminals Inc., which operates the port, said the facility is already one of Washington County’s success stories.
Massive amounts of pulp are shipped from the port to Asia by Woodland Pulp LLC, formerly Domtar. An $8 million port expansion project is under way which includes a massive conveyor system that will allow for efficient loading of cargo.
Now, with the ability to ship livestock anywhere in the world, new opportunities have opened up. Word has spread throughout the agriculture community of the success of the first two shipments of cows to Turkey, and calls for freighter space have been coming in to the port.
Sexing expects to ship at least 8,000 cows from Eastport within the next year, and there is the possibility of sheep shipments as well.
“This is very exciting,” Maine’s U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe said in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon from Washington, D.C.
Snowe had intended to be on hand for the “rodeo” in person, but thick fog prevented her from flying in to Maine.
Snowe and other members of Maine’s congressional delegation were instrumental earlier this summer in obtaining temporary livestock exportation certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Snowe said she continues to work on permanent certification and added, “I cannot imagine Eastport not receiving this designation.”
Snowe said the port is an “indescribable resource” for Washington County, and said the livestock exportation is a “win, win, win — for the company, for Eastport and for America. It shows that Eastport and Washington County are really on the move.”
Snowe said the county is investing in energy, the port and other projects that are sustainable — projects that will provide a major economic boost.
With Eastport’s Moose Island shrouded in heavy fog, the livestock trucks rolled in Thursday and unloaded their cargo. Two hundred Holsteins arrived Thursday and were expected to be followed by 100 Black Angus on Friday.
The cows Thursday left the truck reluctantly, putting their heads low to the ground and appearing to check out their new location.
Once in the shipping containers, they pushed their noses out the windows, as if sniffing the salt air.
A Texas cowboy, James Maddox, 24, wearing a black Stetson and a traditionally huge belt buckle, oversaw the unloading and separation of the cows into individual transport containers for their trip across the Atlantic.
Each container has windows along both sides and fans at both ends to maintain consistent temperatures.
Maddox and his brother Bennett Maddox work for Sexing Technologies, and they will care for the 500 cows throughout the trip. Turkish farmers and breeders are eagerly awaiting the stock, he said, because Turkey’s dairy cows are suffering.
“There are a lot of birth defects and problems with milk quality due to inbreeding,” Bennett Maddox said. “American stock is of very high quality and these cows will help thicken the blood lines and make them stronger.”
Sexing Technologies uses technology to create sexed semen, which provides 90 percent accuracy that a calf will be either male or female, depending on what the farmer wants. Dairy farms are seeking female offspring, while beef farmers want males because they grow faster in a shorter amount of time.
James Maddox said the first two Atlantic crossings went well, with five cows unexpectedly giving birth at sea.
Dan Carroll, Sexing’s dairy program manager, was on hand Thursday for the loading.
“I would describe Sexing’s relationship with the port of Eastport as absolutely awesome,” he said. “It’s a great mix of people working together to find new solutions for this new shipping venture. This has never been done before in this area and we couldn’t be happier with both the port and the community.”