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Hardy African cattle promise better beef for Mexican tables

December 12, 1997

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Casey Anderson wants to give Mexican consumers more and better beef _ by providing ranchers here with a breed of cattle that has survived thousands of years in harsh, hot African terrain.

Called Tuli, the African breed is the product of 5,000 years of adaptation and survival in rugged Zimbabwe. High-tech genetics now means the cattle that were barred by disease from leaving that continent are on their way.

Anderson, a livestock manager and consultant, also said the cattle provide a tender, tastier cut of meat than many of the herds currently in Mexico. Recently he has been crisscrossing Mexico whetting ranchers’ appetite for the new breed.

``The Tuli will do very very well in the hot, dry climate, which is the majority of Mexico. Southern Zimbabwe is very much like the highlands of Mexico,″ said Anderson, president of AgManagement Inc. of Kansas City, Mo.

Anderson is starting with embryos and semen of the Tuli cows that have been genetically cleansed of diseases to take them out of Africa.

Mexico, along with China and Russia, are three nations with the most potential to sharply improve herds and beef quality, he said.

Beef herds in Mexico have been depleted by drought and economic crisis this decade that forced many Mexican farmers to sell off cattle. But a recovery is in swing.

``If Mexico in the next few years increases its beef herd _ which it will _ but does it with quality breeds like Tuli, then Mexico will not be a beef importer but also has the potential of being a beef exporter,″ he said.

``The real winners are Mexico’s beef consumers. The average consumer will be able to buy a much better, much tastier and tender portion of meat for the same money they are buying other meats now.″

He said Mexicans long accustomed to a Brahman type of cattle originally from India will be pleased by Tuli’s tastier, tender meat.

``Tuli cattle have the attributes of the tropical and semi-tropical Brahman cattle in that they are disease, parasite and heat-resistant,″ he said. ``But the Tuli breed doesn’t have the shortcomings of the Brahman.″

Unlike Brahman, he said, the Tuli are easily handled and breed quickly.

But will Mexican cattle ranchers bite?

Everardo Gonzalez Padilla, professor of veterinarian medicine at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said Tuli introduced to semi-tropical areas could do better than European breeds.

``British breeds such as Angus are more susceptible to several tropical diseases and do not adapt as well to heat stress and humidity,″ he said. ``I would say that most tropical areas can benefit from the Tuli.″

He said beef consumption in Mexico _ now about 30 pounds a year per person _ is growing.

Anderson said Hidalgo state’s government will begin a Tuli program in January with the purchase of enough semen to produce more than 700 calves. Calls have come in from ranches all over Mexico, he said.

Embryos were first brought out of Zimbabwe via Australia. Genetically washed of any viruses or diseases, the embryos were implanted in female animals and the calves, once born, were quarantined until it was determined they were free of the plagues afflicting African herds.

From Australia, the Tuli embryos were brought to Canada and then into the United States.

Startup can be expensive.

Embryos flown in from Australia in frozen tanks _ or from the United States _ can cost up to dlrs 1,500. Anderson said he is looking for government or outside investors who can put down a minimum startup of at least dlrs 150,000 to produce a purebred Tuli herd.

In Texas, the animals seem to be doing well, according to Ray Record, president of the North American Tuli Association.

``They seem to withstand the heat and humidity we have in Texas really well,″ he said. ``The tougher the conditions they better they do. That’s because they were bred for centuries to survive in alternating droughts and floods in Africa.″

Larry North, a Lubbock, Texas, rancher working with Tuli said he has seen them thrive in the harsh Australian outback where ``the ants are as big as your fingers and the cows have to walk for miles just for a blade of grass.″

``In the harshest climate, the Tuli always outdo anything else,″ he said. ``This is the first breed in 30 years that I’ve seen that I believe will have an impact on the beef industry.″