Russian President Vladimir Putin has an ambitious plan to cut his country's $3 billion annual import bill for beef. He even aspires to return Russia's beef industry to its prerevolutionary stature. To get there, however, he's depending on an unlikely savior: Anthony Stidham, a 48-year-old, third-generation rancher from Oklahoma.

At Russia's largest beef farm, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) southwest of Moscow, Stidham is among a tiny group of foreign cattlemen hired to school locals in livestock rearing - everything from branding cows to easing a stuck calf through the birth canal. If all goes according to plan, Russia could someday send foreign beef suppliers like Tyson Foods of Springdale, Ark., and Sao Paulo's Brasil Foods heading for customs.