The Dawson County Cattlemen President recently outlined the impacts of the pandemic on the cattle industry.
Dawson County, Nebraska is situated toward the middle of the state right along the Platte River. This gives the county of 1,019 square miles a unique position in the beef industry. The county hosts all segments of the beef industry -from cow/calf, to backgrounders, finish feeders, packing or processing and retail distribution. Plus the fertile river valley helps to provide all the grain and water inputs needed to create some of the highest quality beef in the world.
According to the 2017 U.S. Census of Agriculture, Dawson County’s cattle sector was valued at $555 million, making it the 4th-most valuable beef county in Nebraska out of 93, and the 35th-most valuable beef county in the US out of 3,073 counties.
Still, the Covid-19 pandemic has hit cattle producers in Dawson County and across the country.
Quentin Dailey, president of the Dawson County Cattlemen, recently spoke about some of the impacts that the industry is experiencing along with what livestock producers are trying to do to weather the storm.
One of the major concerns is the lack of packing capacity available for finished fed cattle. Packing plants across the country have often been directly in hot spot areas of the virus. This has labor necessary to process livestock into meat very limited.
“Not only do cattle producers need the plants to stay open, but our whole economy needs them operating. The consequences would trickle down to every business,” Daley said.
President Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act to try and get packing plants back to operations but is being met with resistance from packing labor unions and even city officials. Grand Island’s mayor has called for Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to come and visit the city before trying to enforce the DPA.
Chicken and hog producers are facing similar issues. Some are even having to face the grim reality of euthanizing livestock because they can’t get them processed. Dailey relays that so far cattle feeders are not having to look at this option because they can change feed rations for heavy cattle. Ranchers can also hold lighter cattle on grass longer.
The global pandemic currently being experienced is sure to change many things we once took for granted. What is something the cattle producer can take away from the event? Dailey believes it could be risk management. In the interview below Dailey mentions several feeders that are hurting, but not as bad due to risk management strategies they had in place ahead of the pandemic.
With his closing remarks, Dailey calls for everyone to look ahead and focus on the positive.
“It’s springtime and that means getting ready to brand calves and kick cattle out to grass for ranchers, while farmers get to plant a new crop. We will get through this together,” he said.
Finally, the Dawson County Cattlemen extend a thank you to Tyson Foods – who owns and operates a large beef packing plant in Dawson County – for everything they do in the community, for the people who live there, and for their employees.
You can hear Dawson County President Quentin Dailey’s full comments here: