You may never have that issue, but Larry Baker has. He’s the livestock coordinator for TLT Silver Tiger Logistics, part of an international service provider based in Frankfurt, Germany. He was in charge of getting the goats to their new home in Kuwait and chose to fly them out of Rickenbacker International Airport, 10 miles outside of Columbus. Rickenbacker is the latest airport to join a select group in the country approved by the United States Department of Agriculture for international livestock transport.
According to Bryan Schreiber, who works for the Columbus Regional Airport Authority, there are only about 20 airports in the continental U.S., Hawaii and Puerto Rico where livestock can be flown out of the country. Considering there are nearly 550 commercial service airports in the country, your options can be fairly limited for getting livestock out of the U.S.
One of a shipment of pregnant cows awaits transport to Thailand.
Schreiber, the manager for business development and air cargo, says it was a one-and-a-half-year process to get approval. It involved coordinating with several federal agencies, and satisfying a number of criteria, from having certified inspection and quarantine stations nearby (the airport has two within an hour’s drive) to proving they had the facilities to safely handle the animals at the airport.
“We reactivated the water, heat and fire alarm systems in a large hangar that had previously been vacant,” Schreiber tells Modern Farmer in an email. “Other than that, we already had the appropriate equipment, scales and staffing in place to do the job very efficiently.”
The airport received approval Dec. 31 and has had two shipments so far. The first was in March and involved 176 pregnant cows that were sent to Thailand. The latest, in June, involved the pregnant pygmy goats. Both shipments of animals arrived safely and without incident. More shipments are in the works, according to Schreiber.
Baker says they chose to work with Rickenbacker for several reasons, including convenience, and, most importantly, because as a smaller, cargo-dedicated airport, it’s relatively quiet and stress-free compared with larger airports.
Workers at Rickenbacker International Airport prepare for a transport of livestock.
“Our main goal is to get away from the large hubs, such as Chicago and JFK (in New York City), because it increases the stress on the animals and we want to eliminate as much stress as we can,” he says in a phone interview. “They’re loaded on and it’s a minimal amount of confusion. With Chicago, or JFK, you haven’t seen confusion like the confusion there.”
Considering the logistical issues involved in transporting live animals to other countries, such as U.S. and international regulations and health protocols, the less confusion, the better.
“Everyone you deal with will be different. Before you start, you have to know what the rules are or you can’t play the game. It’s really complicated,” says Baker. “I’ve been in this business for 25 years and I’ve never had a shipment go without a problem. But there’s never been anything that couldn’t be worked through by communication and cooperation.”
Baker, who is in Greenville, Ohio, about one-and-a-half hours from Rickenbacker Airport, usually deals with clients outside the United States looking to improve their livestock’s genetics by importing American animals – mostly cattle, pigs and goats, as well as horses, but sometimes the cargo is a bit more exotic.
“We’ve transported snakes, frogs, lizards, rabbits, and of course the deer – that was a little bit on the different side,” he says.
The deer he is speaking of were white-tailed deer that were shipped to Russia. He was told they were going to a game farm.
He says he is hoping Rickenbacker becomes “the place to ship livestock out in the Midwest and even Canada. It’s just as close and a lot less hassle to come to Rickenbacker,” he says.