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Strong International Sales at the Rodeo

The 2011 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is entering its final week. While most attendees are focusing on competitions and concerts, some of the highest stakes action has been taking place behind the scenes. Andrew Schneider looks at the rodeo as a hub of the international cattle trade.


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For ten days in March, ranchers from all over the world converge on the second floor of Reliant Center. Their arrival means big business for breeders. How big? Ask Rodeo vice president David Boothe.

“The Texas Department of Agriculture gave a gentleman from Monterrey, Mexico an award earlier for the fact that he had purchased over $2.2 million worth of cattle while he was here at the Houston show.”

That’s just one customer, practically from Houston’s backyard. Potential buyers come from as far afield as China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

The buyers aren’t just here for cattle. They’re looking for equipment, too. And some just want to look more like cowboys.

“They’ll go over to Cavender’s and they may buy, instead of going in and getting a pair of blue jeans, our international guests will go over there and buy thirty pair, because that’s something they can’t get back home.”

That’s not always as easy as a simple shopping trip. Take Milton Bracho, a rancher from Venezuela. He’s looking to buy Red Brahmans, a sturdy breed that can handle the extremes of Venezuela’s temperature and weather. He’d also like to buy heavy equipment he can’t get back home.

But there’s a problem, one that translator Richard Puig of the Rodeo’s international committee would rather not go into too deeply.

“His situation right now is a little more difficult, just because of the political situation in Venezuela. He can’t take back as much as he’d like. I think he would like to say that. You know, he wishes he could take back more from the States. Right now, the president in power does not look favorably upon imports from the United States. And we can just leave it at that.”

That would be Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s self-styled Bolivarian socialist president. Chávez can’t stop selling oil to the U.S — there simply aren’t enough other markets for his country’s heavy crude. But he can and does restrict American imports. That means no tractors, no generators and no bulls.

So, Bracho goes for the next best thing.

“Semen from a champion bull, a Brahman bull, 933. So he can take that back to his country and use it to breed down there.”

It also has the advantages of being lighter and cheaper. Bracho can carry the bull semen back home in a straw.

Back on the floor, David Boothe has reason to be pleased.

“Last night, we’d already registered 30 more people than we did last year, and we still had two days to go. It looks like it’s going to be a tremendous show this year.”

And the trading doesn’t end when the Rodeo does. The contacts foreign buyers make here could easily lead to sales for American ranchers for months to come.

From the KUHF Business Desk, I’m Andrew Schneider.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media's business reporter, covering the oil...

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