A herd of Holstein cows was airlifted to Qatar in an effort to increase local dairy supplies as the Saudi-led boycott of the emirate continues.
The cows were flown in Tuesday from Budapest in a Qatar Airways cargo plane.
It was the first of 60 flights that will bring more than 4,000 cows to the country. They are being imported by Mountaz Al Khayyat, chairman of Power International Holding. The Doha businessman, whose main field is construction, saw an opening in the dairy industry as several Arab states closed the only land border to Qatar five weeks ago, severing the supply of fresh milk.
The bovines were promptly transported to a massive new dairy operation 50 miles north of Doha.
"We brought 165 Holsteins, all highly bred Holsteins, especially for dairy," said John Dore, a senior manager at the farm.
"This is the time to work for Qatar," Al Khayyat told Bloomberg News, echoing a common pride in the new cows. Their arrival is seen by many as an act of defiance in the face of a Gulf crisis that sees no sign of ending.
Five weeks ago, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar, accusing the emirate of funding extremism. Qatar has denied the allegations.
Prior to the embargo, the arid emirate imported much of its food, including milk, from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In recent weeks, Turkey and Iran both have come to their ally's aid, airlifting fruit, vegetables and dairy goods into Doha.
"At the moment the gap is being filled by Turkish imports, which are welcome for the present but the quality won't compare with local produce," said Dore.
The new cows are part of a wider attempt by Qatar to become more food secure for the future. "Vision 2030" calls for the economy to shift from oil production toward sectors like agriculture. When the full 4,000-head herd is assembled, about a third of Qatar's dairy demand will be met.