Port of Olympia prepares 1,400 dairy cows for trip to Vietnam

Operations continue Nov. 17th at the Port of Olympia as 1,400 dairy cows destined for Vietnam are loaded onto the cargo ship Falconia.
Operations continue Nov. 17th at the Port of Olympia as 1,400 dairy cows destined for Vietnam are loaded onto the cargo ship Falconia. Staff photographer

Fourteen-hundred dairy cows were trucked to the Port of Olympia on Tuesday and loaded onto a livestock carrier called the Falconia — all in the middle of a storm that blew rain and wind across the marine terminal as truck after truck backed up to the ship.

The Falconia, which measures about 300 feet, was expected to set sail for Vietnam on Tuesday night. The ship, which was originally thought to be sailing north to cross the Pacific, now will turn south in search of calmer seas, said Len Faucher, the port’s marine terminal director. That will increase the overall voyage to three weeks, he said.

Tuesday’s work was a first for the port, and the hope is that it continues, Faucher said, allowing the port to diversify its cargoes. Marine terminal revenue has fallen sharply at the port this year because of the drop in oil prices, which in turn has slowed the need for fracking sand imports.

Only one fracking sand ship has called on the port this year.

“There is good access to farms around here,” Faucher said about the potential for more livestock business.

The ship was inspected by officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Sunday. On Monday, the port’s new crane finally was put to work loading the Falconia with feed and wood chips for bedding.

The trucks, 20 in all, began rolling onto the marine terminal about 8:15 a.m. Tuesday and that work continued the rest of the day.

The trucks backed up to a gangway and the cows were offloaded there and onto the ship, filling four decks inside.

The ship, equipped with a desalination machine, produces its own water for cows and crew, shipping line owner Bjoern Clausen said Tuesday. The Denmark-based Corral Line, which owns the Falconia, has been shipping livestock since 1896, he said.

The ship also is equipped with powerful ventilators that recirculate the air every hour. The cows are held in pens on each deck of the ship and have been provided the space required by the USDA.

The port is shipping the livestock on behalf of two customers: Clayton Agri-Marketing of Missouri and an Australian company called Austrex, said Tony Clayton, president of the Missouri-based company.

His company ships all kinds of livestock: beef cattle, dairy cows, swine, goats, horses and sheep. Clayton described it as a $1 billion industry, in which the U.S. — although known for the quality of its dairy cows — is not the biggest player, he said.

That falls to Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Brazil, with the U.S. somewhere in the top 10 of livestock-exporting countries, he said.

Cattle, for example, are used in developing countries for milk, protein and breeding.

Tuesday’s dairy cows were from California, and are better acclimated to warmer weather, Clayton said.

Before being brought to the port, they were held at the Schorno Agri-business in Yelm. That’s where the cows were inspected, he said. Any cow that was sick or injured was left behind, Clayton said.

A small group with the Animal Liberation Collective at The Evergreen State College gathered Tuesday afternoon at the Port Plaza to protest the shipment, displaying signs posted against the marine terminal fence. One of them read, “Animals feel and love. Animals experience. Animals want to live.”

“If it was me in the truck and my female body was being exploited, I would want somebody to say something and do something to stop it,” said Jazzmin Celeste, a member of the pro-vegan group.