BLACKFOOT, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Coronavirus has impacted the supply chain for much of the food industry and the local cattle market is feeling the effects.
Fridays are sale days at the Blackfoot Livestock Auction and are generally quite busy. While the parking lot was full, Bill Turpin, a regular visitor, said attendance looked lighter than normal
"Usually, this time of day, the trucks and trailers waiting to unload are backed all the way up, down here, along this side of the road, clear to the railroad tracks."
Now, people like Turpin are just showing up to see where the market stands.
"I need to sell some steers. I'm not gonna sell unless that market comes up, or else I’m just gonna pan 'em up, fatten 'em up and butcher 'em," he explained.
USDA numbers estimate that beef production is down nearly 130 million pounds from last year. With beef prices rising and steer prices falling, sellers say the cattle demand seems to be lower than ever.
In a given week before the pandemic, suppliers had purchased more than 100 cattle. Wade Goff, who supplies cattle to three feedlots, said he's now lucky if he buys 30.
The closure of meatpacking facilities has cut the demand and Goff said the feedlots he generally sells to aren’t buying.
One of his clients is already estimating major loses.
"He figures that it cost him, in the first two weeks, three-quarters of a million dollars," Goff said.
The price of feeder cattle remains high, while the market for large cattle has taken a dive. Now, lots that are buying steer want the cheaper option.
"I usually buy four, five and six weights," Goff said. "Right now, I’m buying seven, eight and nine weights."
If things don’t change, Goff worries that many lots will go out of business, cutting the beef supply even further.
The only solution he sees is people buying more beef.
"We need to get these restaurants back in business and rolling," he said.