Coronavirus impacting S.D. cattle industry

SPEARFISH, S.D. (KOTA TV) - As COVID-19 disrupts the cattle market, ranchers are trying to hold off selling until the prices are back up, but the longer they wait, the more expensive it is to feed the animals.

"The cattle that needed to come out of the feed lots right as COVID-19 hit, the market disruption was largely the first part of March on," said Eric Jennings, President of the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association. "So, those cattle had an immediate effect on our South Dakota producers that had fat cattle."

Jennings says the demand for beef has been high for several years, and Coronavirus has not slowed the demand. Jennings says there has been some beef shortages in local grocery stores, but that is due to panicked hoarding, rather than a lack of supply.

"Through this whole COVID-19 thing, the beef demand has stayed really good," said Jennings. "Nation-wide, we sell a lot of beef to restaurants, and obviously, they're closing down, but the consumer is picking up the supply there. They have been very good about going to the stores and buying beef. The only thing I can figure is you go through an apocalypse, you don't want to do that on a belly full of chicken, you want to go through a nice juicy steak."

Despite demand, when commodities investors pulled out, it hurt ranchers.

"It's very frustrating to us cattle producers because we have a very good demand for our beef, but through the hysteria created from the COVID-19, we started losing cash value on markets," said Jennings.

But, Jennings does not think this will be a long-term problem, so long as the national economy recovers.

"My hope is that the nation-wide economy will recover quickly," said Jennings. "And so, as long as we get people back to work and the economy flowing good to where people can afford to buy beef, I don't think that it's going to be a big concern."