Farm & Ranch April 2020




APRIL 2020

COVID-19 presenting new challenge for producers

‘A new normal’ for beef operations as cattle prices drop amid pandemic

There’s no need to negotiate purchases on those weeks, he said. Contract prices on the Chicago Board of Trade have been volatile, but down a lot overall, said Kirk Olson, who with his wife, Tracy, owns Olson Feedlot between North Platte and Hershey. Prior to COVID-19, cattle typ- ically sold in the range of

tween feeders and packers. That tends to suppress beef producers’ income. Depending on the locali- ty and the week, around 80% of cattle are sold on a formula generated by negotiated sales of the other 20%. Now, due to reduced capac- ity, on some weeks packers may have all the formula cattle they can process, al- ready scheduled for delivery.

The disparity between prices for cattle on the hoof and cattle in the box is influ- enced by temporary closures of some meat packing plants, due to COVID-19. It also re- sults from a drawback in the way cattle are marketed, said Mike Henry, a North Platte cow/calf producer and feedlot operator. Only a small per- centage of fat cattle are sold through cash negotiations be-

Prices they are getting for their cattle have deteriorated. At the same time, consumers are paying more and packers are profiting from high retail demand, leading some people to allege market manipula- tion.

By GEORGE HAWS For The North Platte Telegraph A year ago, area cattle pro- ducers were dealing with the aftermath of a hard win- ter, March flooding and mud. Now they are facing challeng- es related to COVID-19.

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