NEW WINDSOR — Heifer Project International, an international non-profit organization based in Carroll County which provides animals to needy families in 30 countries, shipped 88 heifers and six bulls to Cairo, Egypt, from the Harrisburg (Pa.) Airport last Wednesday.
This shipment is the third in a series that has spanned more than a decade of cooperation between the Evangelical Coptic Church of Egypt and churches in the United States through HPI.
All the animals were either donated or purchased with money givento HPI by churches that regularly support the program, said John Dieterly, director of the regional office here.
The cattle will spendabout 30 days' quarantine time in Cairo, and then be moved to a farmoperated by the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services near Minia in the center of the country.
From there, heifers will be distributed to farmers who have been trained in the care of dairy cattle and who have prepared facilities for the animals.
Pure-bredbulls produced in the project will be further distributed to rural communities to be used for cross-breeding with local cattle in order to improve milk production those communities.
"The animals are distributed to a family who is poor as defined in local terms," Dieterly said. "Second, it has to be a family that is interested in working with the animal. They have to be able and willing to provide facilitiesand feed for the animal."
Dieterly said families are often so eager to receive an animal that they build an additional room on their homes for the cow.
"Cows are very valued possessions in Africa," hesaid. "One cow can provide the same income as a teacher's salary, soin a sense, one cow is an entire commercial dairy farm."
Milk products are an important component of the Egyptian diet, especially forchildren. However, production is not keeping pace with the rapidly growing population and demand for dairy products.
Since Egypt has avery small band of arable land -- only 5 percent of the total land area of the country is suitable for crop production -- the most effective way to increase the availability of milk and milk products is to increase the productivity of the dairy cattle.
Crossbred dairy cattle have done very well under small farm conditions, producing three to five times the amount of milk as local cattle, while consuming only 20 percent to 30 percent more feed.
The program of CEOSS will not only provide improved cattle as a result of the shipment, but CEOSSstaff will train recipients in the care and feeding of the cattle and will provide follow-up contact with participating farmers.
All programs supported by Heifer Project International adhere to the principle of "Passing on the Gift." When a family receives an animal, theyagree to pass on the first offspring of the same sex to another needy family.
In this way, the gift is multiplied and the project continues to grow with each passing year.
"After we've stopped actively funding a project, the recipients are required to continue to report to us for at least two years about how passing on the gift is working," said Dieterly, adding that about 20 countries are in this stage of the program.
"Some keep reporting after that point because theyare so proud of what they are able to do," he said.
HPI was founded in Carroll County in 1944, when the first shipment of cattle was sent to Puerto Rico. Many boatloads of cattle were sent to Europe as part of the war reconstruction effort.
Eventually, the main headquarters were moved to Little Rock, Ark., and a regional office was opened in New Windsor in 1979, Dieterly said.
"Heifer Project was started here as a non-profit organization, registered in the Carroll County courthouse," he said.
By 1950, the program had expanded to include all food, fiber and traction animals such as goats, chickens, sheep, bees and oxen. Large shipments, such as the one sent last week, usually only happen once a year, Dieterly said.
In many cases, HPI is able to purchase animals within the project area and often uses indigenous animals -- such as water buffalo, yaks and alpaca.
"It's less expensive that way because you don't have cost and stress to theanimals of shipment," Dieterly said. "Also, we can use animals that are appropriate to the area and don't have to adapt to the climate."
The goal of the project is to assist people who want to produce their own food, using livestock that are appropriate to the situation.