COVID-19, cattle markets, and what we know on the ground

Recent Weather:  Our Easter storm is finally clearing up, with just a few patches of snow left here and there.  The temperature is gradually warming, too; we’re looking at a high of 49 today.  The wind, though — bless it for drying out the mud and blowing in warmer weather — was a little excessive yesterday in my opinion.


What’s Up On The Ranch:  Beau and crew have been sorting through the yearling feedlot steers for size.  After a winter on feed some have naturally outpaced others.  The bigger steers are averaging 875, the middle 780, and the littles 730.  The crew has made an effort to grow the calves a little leaner this year than last, assuming we were still working toward the annual goal of shipping them to grass in Wyoming come spring, and that last year’s calves were a little on the fat side when they left here, and of course in hopes of cutting feed costs.

Then the Coronavirus happened, and isn’t it amazing how it’s infiltrated almost every aspect of American life?  As anybody in agriculture knows, markets have been extremely volatile because of the worldwide crisis, and the future is unsure for everyone.  Though we feel pretty secure in our job here at the PV because we work for a big outfit and assume we’ll get a paycheck as long as the world needs beef, I was humbled last week when I said exactly that to our banker and he replied, “No, as long as the world can afford beef.”

The general manger and owner of this place, of course, operate less in the present and more with their eyes on the future.  Kroenke Ranches didn’t get to be this size reacting to trends in the market, but rather making moves ahead of the trends.  All that to say, I have a very limited grasp on markets and futures and whatnot.  Beau, like my dad before him, understands it’s not his job to make these big decisions but to follow through on directives as soon as they come through.  We can only guess at why some of the decisions that affect our daily work are made.  I know only how COVID-19 is influencing ranch work right now:

– every able-bodied yearling PV heifer will be kept this year, here on grass, and bred to calve next spring (perhaps they’re assuming the world will need replacement heifers after the virus blows by?).

– it doesn’t look as though the yearling steers will go to grass in Wyoming, after leaving the feedlot here, as they always have.  Instead, the steers are for sale (maybe they’re assuming it’ll be good to get out from under them if a buyer can be procured right away?  or maybe that these steers should finish faster than they usually do to meet a future demand in the beef supply chain?)

Like I said… from this end we can only guess and follow orders.


© Tami Blake

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