Cattlemen continue operations despite pandemic

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Stockyards still active despite market shifts, crowd limits

While the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has impacted even agriculture markets, cattlemen have been impacted in other ways, but not through the closing of the livestock yards.

Eldon Cole, livestock specialist for the University of Missouri Extension, said the Joplin Livestock Yard was open for business on March 25. The Springfield Stockyard was also open, but with the restrictions on gatherings of 10 people or less, conditions were more difficult.

“They're not discouraging people from bringing in cattle, but discouraging spectators,” Cole said. “They're limiting attendance to people who are only interested in buying. Even if the seller comes, he's not encouraged to stay.”

Sales have also been continuing at the Four States Stockyards in Exeter on Tuesdays.

The pandemic continues to impact cattle operations. Cole said on March 23, a bull sale was held in Springfield. The Extension ordered its staff to stay away, another practically unprecedented move, not wanting its people exposed to a large audience.

Cole noted recent wet weather had made it difficult for cattlemen to even move livestock out of muddy fields. Much more significant, however, was a dive in market prices before the pandemic took hold. The drop was so significant, he noted, that some packers may be offering reimbursement to people who marketed at that time, an almost unprecedented occurrence.

“Right now, if you talk with University Extension people in Columbia, the market is pretty darn good,” Cole said. “It's bounced back. Ground beef is flying off the shelves. Columbia people said there's a likelihood of some government assistance for feedlot operators and beef cow operators. We don't know details yet. We think it's likely to be some financial incentive to those hard hit.”

The Extension sponsored two bull breeding soundness clinics, on March 19 and on March 23 in Aurora. Cattlemen came as usual to have their animals checked, keeping numbers down to four to five people there at any one time, which is considered an acceptable gathering. He said the clinics proceeded as expected, despite a few “mud incidents” that challenged transportation, requiring a trip at another time.

“Vets were doing their regular business,” Cole said. “[The pandemic response] is something we all talk about.”

Cole was working from home last week, but still taking calls from cattlemen. Extension staff continue to make individual farm visits.

“Everybody was glad to see the sun [last week],” Cole added. “Life goes on. People have to feed their cattle and see their vets.”

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