Cattle farmers in Nova Scotia have noticed an unusual export market opening up in Russia and Kazakhstan, years after mad cow disease devastated the beef industry in Canada.

Both countries want up to 100 Herefords a year from the Maritimes, a demand local breeders struggle to match.

Larry and Pat Ward have a Hereford farm in Middle Musquodoboit. They said years ago they got a call from Russians and Kazakhs who were willing to pay $1,200 for each Maritime calf. It was a premium at a very bad time for beef farmers.

“I think I jumped for joy,” said Larry Ward. “Any heifer calf that meets a certain criteria, they'll take.”

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The demand for Maritime Hereford cows is so high, local breeders say they can't keep up. (CBC)

The Hereford cows is a hardy animal that does well in tough climates, which is a big selling point for both Russia and Kazakhstan.

When a call comes in from Canadian-based exporters working with either country, things move fast. A week later calves are trucked out.

The calves are shipped to Ontario where they are quarantined. Then they’re flown or shipped overseas.

It’s part of a growing trade between Canada and both countries. In 2012, Kazakhstan was Canada's top market for purebred cattle, but it remains a small market worth under $8 million.

This year local breeders aren't certain the Russian calls will come, given the political tension over Ukraine.

Larry Ward said that may not be such a bad thing.

“You have to be careful not so to sell all your cattle to Russia. You've got to keep some back or you'll be short of cattle,” he said.