Farmer Focus: Processor says ‘food supply chain is breaking’

Bizarre is the only way I can describe Kansas agriculture at the moment. 

Covid-19 has reached the meat packing industry and severe slaughter disruptions are starting to back animals up.

Simply put, there are no buyers at any price for finished animals.

See also: Coronavirus: Trump orders US abattoirs to stay open

The chief executive of Tyson Foods bought a full-page spread in The New York Times on 26 April.

In it he said: “In addition to meat shortages, this is a serious food waste issue. Farmers across the nation simply will not have anywhere to sell their livestock to be processed, when they could have fed the nation.

“Millions of animals – chickens, pigs, and cattle – will be depopulated because of the closure of our facilities. The food supply chain is breaking.”

There are many complicated issues regarding our supply chain and marketing, but I truly hope that our industry of 2021 looks different to the one of 2019. 

It isn’t realistic that the next generation of producers (which I think I am part of) has any future in anything that looks like this. 

We are doing what we can to weather the storm. Thank God for the rumen. 

Summer grass growth is starting, so with some changes to stocking rates we don’t have to feed or sell a single animal until October. This gives us an advantage over chicken and pork producers.

Any other options we can take to cut costs, we are implementing. We usually AI every cow but will skip 150 older cows this year.

It isn’t so much about the cost of AI (which counts) but getting them to their summer pasture that doesn’t have facilities.

Our mineral programme isn’t as “high end” as last year and I also tried a new worming protocol where you don’t automatically treat every cow but leave the heavier conditioned and older cows. It will be repeated this year.

Our cows work hard for us in normal circumstances; this year we will have to ask them to work a little harder. 

Meanwhile, there has been only one case of Covid-19 reported in our county. It was a healthy young man who has only lost his sense of smell – I’d like to find him and shake his hand.

Daniel Mushrush is a Farmer Focus writer from Kansas. Read his biography.


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