Livestock exporters Hubert and Micheál Maxwell have been given the green light to export pedigree beef heifers over land from Ireland to Kazakhstan, travelling through Russia.
Despite fears that the export route through Russia could be shut down amid Russian concerns about the spread of the Schmallenberg virus, the Department of Agriculture and Russian authorities have agreed an exemption for the Irish cattle. Buyers from Kazakhstan visited the Roscommon-based exporter's premises on Friday to inspect and approve the pedigree Angus and Hereford heifers available for sale.
It is understood that up to 2,000 pedigree beef heifers could be sent to Kazakhstan this year. The first batch of 700 Angus and Hereford heifers is due to leave Ireland on April 15.
The Kazakhstan buyers have added pedigree Charolais and Limousin heifers to their shopping list for this year, with the first of those due to be quarantined in late April.
"Pedigree beef stocks in Kazakhstan are very depleted and our Irish heifers are exactly what they want to upgrade their herds," said the shipper. "The buyers are looking for the best Irish genetics they can buy within their budget."
Happily for Irish pedigree breeders, this is creating a market for what would be considered second-tier animals here at home.
Interestingly, the Irish heifers stood up to a major challenge from Canadian pedigree animals late last year.
"We had a very close call," said Mr Maxwell. "The Canadians were trying very hard to get into that market.
"But the first few shipments of Irish heifers went down very well in Kazakhstan.
"They adjusted very well to the climate and the farmers there are very happy with the calves on the ground."