N.D. brothers join cattle on international tripBISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Given the chance to go on a 6,000-mile, 21st century, aerial cattle drive, what would be the natural response? “We said, ‘Yeah, what the hell?’” said Donny Wald, who along with his brother, Tom Wald, recently accompanied 170 cows in a 747-200 cargo jet from Fargo to the Central Asian city of Astana, Kazakhstan.
By: By Christopher Bjorke, The Bismarck Tribune, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Given the chance to go on a 6,000-mile, 21st century, aerial cattle drive, what would be the natural response?
“We said, ‘Yeah, what the hell?’” said Donny Wald, who along with his brother, Tom Wald, recently accompanied 170 cows in a 747-200 cargo jet from Fargo to the Central Asian city of Astana, Kazakhstan.
The Bismarck brothers are friends with the owners of Global Beef, a local cattle exporting firm that is fulfilling a contract to send 2,000 cows to a breeding operation in Kazakhstan.
Departing from Fargo, the cattle traveled in crates, about three per crate, arranged in rows in two floors of the three-level jet. The plane has a flight crew and a load master, but the trip also required a couple of people to look after the animals, Tom Wald said.
“We’re both old farm boys. We grew up around cattle,” he said. Tom Wald sells machinery and Donny Wald sells livestock vaccines, but they both know their way around a herd.
The cows made little fuss, the brothers said. Aside from loading and unloading, the black heifers hardly made much noise. The cargo areas were kept dark and cool, and the cows mostly lazed during the trip, stirring only when someone came to check on them.
“They were mellow as can be,” Donny Wald said.
The animals required little attention from the Walds, but attendants need to be available if there is a delay, which happened during a different flight when the shipment had a long stopover in Europe because of a mechanical problem.
Kazakhstan is a huge but sparsely populated country that became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991. Bordering Russia to the north and west and China to the east, the world’s ninth-largest country is literally half a world away from North Dakota. The shipment took off from Fargo’s Hector International Airport and had stopovers in Newfoundland, Canada; and Belgium. Because flights between the United States and Kazakhstan are infrequent, the Walds returned after spending only a night in Astana, the capital.
The transport company has a reputation for handling any type of cargo including livestock, racehorses and zoo creatures, Tom Wald said. The plane was scrubbed from end to end after unloading, but even during the flight there were few reminders the cows were there — even down to the smell.
“I noticed it a little bit when we got there,” Tom Wald said. “It was not nearly, nearly as bad as I thought it’d be.”