Being raised in the cattle industry has had much reward but also has brought many tough days with the market fluctuating. This goes for any market that has a large risk. Being in the ag industry brings uncertainty but ranchers and farmers have a burning passion for the future of America.
During the 2020 pandemic, packing plants were forced to close their doors, leaving livestock producers in a predicament. The market came to a standstill. This took a toll on the cow/calf operations all the way to the finishing operations such as the feedlots. Cow/calf operations were having calves hit the ground, knowing that the 2020 market was crashing. Feedlots were continuing to feed cattle that were finished, leaving the feed yards full and unable to accept anymore cattle. Packing plants stopping production had quite the snowball effect on the industry. Today the cattle slaughter is around 120,000 head, but at this time last year the numbers were around 493,000 head. USDA stated that meat prices rose 4-9% throughout the 2020 year. This is not due to a shortage but due to the packing plants closing and meat not being brought to the shelves. As you can tell the 2020 market changed drastically due to the world’s pandemic. Small operations are becoming fewer and fewer especially with a year like we just experienced. The risk is too high, and many ranchers lost a large amount of their profits. A benefit to this type of crash has made several cattle ranchers come together and brainstorm some ideas that could help the market. It is obvious that the US needs more mid-scale packing plants. There are four major packing plants in America. This gives them the power over the market. Local packing plants are racing to keep up with livestock that is being brought in. Some have a waitlist all the way out to 2022. These multi-billion-dollar companies have made it nearly impossible for smaller operations to open. They have found ways to operate with lower cost and high production. If there were a smaller company that had a few centrally located plants, it would help the market for ranchers. The cost to start a packing plant is a substantial amount, which has slowed down this process.
2021 could be a year where it will, “make or break” the American rancher. With the government turning mostly Democratic means that all markets will swing one way or another. Colorado western slope ranchers predict that prices will rise and so will cattle production. This is contrary to what the world view anticipates will happen. Artificial meat is a growing industry and will cause damage for livestock producers. Meat production is predicted to drop within the next 5 year along with the livestock numbers. The market is very unpredictable right now and at this point we do not know what 2021 will hold for livestock producers. Times are tough but American farmer and ranchers are tougher.
Writer – Brooker Snyder – Rancher, Outfitter, Western Colorado Land Owner