Casey Bradshaw, president and general manager of Consolidated Beef Producers (CBP), Amarillo, told AgDay anchor Clinton Griffiths on Facebook Live the marketing cooperative has been working to identify cattle that are in danger of becoming over-finished and sending them to slaughter.
“Packers have been good so far to work with us to try to keep those cattle marketed, but it is a struggle with no more than they need,” Bradshaw said. “They’re having to pick just a few cattle out of each yard, and we’ve just been trying to manage that and keep people’s attitudes as positive as possible. We’re trying to work on ways to figure out how to determine price, which is pretty hard right now.”
Bradshaw said the industry was current in marketing cattle through the end of March, but, “now we’re at least 200,000 head to 250,000 head behind where we should be, and we expect that number to grow significantly over the next 60 days.”
The actual number over the next few weeks will be determined by how quickly packing plants get back to running full speed. Bradshaw believes the number of backlogged cattle could reach half-a-million or more. Price discovery has become almost non-existent for fed cattle in many ways, with packer line-speeds slowed and their demand for cattle is greatly reduced.
“Packers have tried to help hold (the market) up to a certain level,” Bradshaw said. “It’s tough because everybody needs (those cattle) gone but there really isn’t much of a cash market. It’s really whatever the packer kind of determines he wants to pay.”
That’s a harsh reality because, as Bradshaw notes, there’s “really no discovery right now because there’s just so few cattle that can get through the system.” An example has played out this week as Bradshaw says CBP sold some cattle at $100 per cwt., and then another string at $95. “Typically, that would be a big price break, but right now it’s just trying to get a home for those cattle.”
Coverage of packing plant closures from this week:
The coronavirus crisis has been especially devastating to livestock producers, and many cattlemen are calling for changes to the current marketing system. Bradshaw says he thinks everybody realizes the systems needs a fix.
“We need negotiating guys weekly, from north to south,” he says of the cash fed cattle trade. “We would all like to fix it ourselves instead of having regulations or mandates that come down on us.
Bradshaw says multiple cattle groups have multiple ideas of changes they would like to see, but CBP negotiates cattle prices every week for its members.
“Our goal and mission is to create price discovery. We post our cattle trades on Twitter and do as much as we can to help reporting of prices,” he said.
If the coronavirus continues to impact packing companies through June, Bradshaw believes the crisis could back cattle placements into feedyards by one million head or more. He noted that cattle are backing up through the system now with cattle outside the feedyards being held on grass longer than normal.