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Paynesville Press - November 08, 2006

Minnesota dairy cows
on route to Saudi Arabia

By Michael Jacobson

Seven hundred cows - raised in central Minnesota - are on their way, by boat, to Saudi Arabia.

Jack Hennen, who farms in the Paynesville area as well as buying and selling livestock, raised many of the cows. Ninety percent of them were 18 to 20 months in age, he said.

cows They were tested at his farm east of Paynesville in October, shipped to Pennsylvania by truck, quarantined, and then loaded on a ship to go to Saudi Arabia, part of a shipment of 1,800 cows.

These cows, raised by Jack Hennen in the Paynesville area, are currently enroute to Saudi Arabia via ship. Hennen sold 700 cows, part of an 1,800-cow shipment, to Al Marai, the largest dairy company in Saudi Arabia.

The cows were purchased for Al Marai, the largest dairy company in Saudi Arabia, according to Bernard Nolan, who was raised on an Irish dairy farm and has worked in Saudi Arabia for 20 years. The company has 40,000 cows on five farms and employs 6,500 people.

They supply 40 percent of the milk in the Middle East - to Dubai, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, and to the U.S. military, as well as to Saudi Arabia - Nolan said.

They milk the cows in Saudi Arabia four times per day, said Nolan, and also feed them four times per day. Their cow feed is 50 percent alfalfa as well as corn, beet pulp, and cotton seeds. The company has 10,000 hectares of alfalfa in irrigated fields. They cut alfalfa ten times per year, said Nolan, and get 2,400 tons of alfalfa per hectare.

cows again In Saudi Arabia, they have to cool the cows from the intense heat.

These dairy cows will trade the Minnesota seasons - including this October snowstorm - for the desert heat of Saudi Arabia.

They sell the milk -they make yogurt and some flavored milk but mostly sell fresh milk - for 75 per liter, close to $3 per gallon.

Al Marai, said Nolan, rears 30,000 cows each year to replenish its cow herd. To meet market demands, expanding the herd requires going abroad and buying dairy cows. The company imported 900 cows earlier this year.

The company used to fly the cows to Saudi Arabia in 747 freighters. By plane, 175 cows (in boxes of four) can make the trip in 16-17 hours.

The 700 cows Al Marai purchased in Paynesville were going by ship from Philadelphia to Jetta, Saudi Arabia, a trip taking 17 days.

Hennen said that he has sold dairy cows to Saudi Arabia before but these were the first since Mad Cow restrictions on the United States were lifted.

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