by Mike Vogel
Earlier this year, rancher Renee Strickland boarded a chartered 747 loaded with 195 head of dairy cattle and flew to Oman to deliver 28 of the cows to the Sultan and 167 to a dairy next to his property. “It’s the only way to fly,” Strickland says, who enjoyed business class seating upstairs with the flight crew, a mechanic and a couple of payload masters, while the crated cows occupied the floors below. Strickland and her husband, Jim — both fourth-generation ranchers — run a ranch in Myakka City, but their work as livestock exporters has become such a part of their lives that it’s now “Strickland Ranch & Exporters.”
Renee Strickland began her livestock-exporting career delivering cattle to Guyana in 2007. As she built a business exporting others’ cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and horses, she climbed the learning curve of paperwork and logistics to ensure the livestock arrives in good health and clears Customs in various countries. She counsels that ranchers should move cautiously into exporting: The profit envisioned when the call comes from abroad easily evaporates in shipping delays, duties, storage fees, political issues and the like. “The demand is there, but the pitfalls are large. It’s a very risky business,” she says.
Most customers — such as the Sultan of Oman and the dairy next door — want U.S. animals for breeding, though some Islamic countries prefer importing cattle for slaughter. “Right now, there’s great demand internationally for cattle, dairy and beef cattle, and there’s a big demand for pigs in Asia — Vietnam, Korea and China.” In addition to dairy cows for Oman, Strickland brought along two large wheels of Florida-made cheese. The sultan, it seems, is a connoisseur of cheese.