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Cattle industry begins to see effects of COVID-19

Posted at 5:48 PM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 21:20:10-04

BRAZOS COUNTY — As the coronavirus continues to affect industry after industry, cattle prices will possibly be the next victim of COVID-19.

Cattle prices have been substantially lower this year compared to last year.

Grocery stores are working endlessly to stock shelves and coolers and freezers, but ranchers are seeing the impact of how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting their wallets at auctions.

“This is probably the time of the most turmoil we’ve seen in open markets in a long time in terms of cattle markets," explains Dr. David Anderson, a livestock economist From Texas A&M University. "So, we’ve got a whole sale beef market that is skyrocketing because grocery stores have had to jump in the market to buy beef to stock the shelves, i think everybody has seen empty shelves lately.”

But cattle prices are not reflecting the cash market due to the unknowns within the economy.

“The markets expectations of prices for cattle out there for beef prices by late summer and fall reflect a lot of fears of rising unemployment, falling incomes, falling GDP, even recession kicking off now in the 2nd quarter," say Dr. Anderson.

With anticipation that the market will get better in the near future, some ranchers are not bringing their cattle to market, according to Pete Scarmardo, Rancher and Owner of Brazos Valley Livestock Cattle Auction.

“Right now we are in an area here where we have adequate grass for our cattle and if people don’t have to sell cattle today than they aren’t selling," explains Scarmardo.

With constant changes within the cattle market, Scarmardo says he is seeing that ranchers are doing what is best for them to limit their losses as a result of COVID-19.

“Sometimes when we are struggling like we are now to just try and break even or limit our losses, we wish we had a way to get more for our product today," says Scarmardo.

According to experts there is no official timeline as to when we could see the affects of low cattle prices hit consumers at the grocery store.

Dr Anderson says it could be weeks or even months.