Beef prices started to make a comeback and the demand picked up last week, but then prices dropped again as producers fear the current COVID-19 pandemic is a bad time to sell cattle.
Prices for beef overall, have plummeted recently due to the pandemic, local producers report.
OKC West Livestock Market, 7200 E State Highway 66 in El Reno is open, but the arena has been closed to the public and extra precautions are being taken.
The pandemic has affected prices and exports.
OKC West general manager Bill Barnhart reported there were 3,100 head sold the week of March 23. He said Monday the uncertainty with the market continues.
“The market made a nice rebound last week on another light run,” Barnhart reported.
Precautions, meanwhile, are being taken with the pandemic.
The sale arena is limited to buyers and employees only.
Producers recently have been holding onto livestock until prices recover, said Yukon’s Jim Dewberry, Canadian County Cattleman’s Association President.
By mid-March, when the COVID-19 pandemic news began to rock the economy and cattle market, prices dropped 10% to 20%, Dewberry said.
“It (COVID-19) certainly hurt the cattle market,” Dewberry said. “We took a pretty big hit, 10-20% is a pretty big deal.”
He said the prices for fat cattle and feeder cattle started to improve, “But it is not as good as it was, primarily because people don’t know what is going to happen, and if they buy cattle they may not know what they are going to get for it.
Feeder cattle and livestock prices on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange dropped, he said. So local producers hold onto their livestock, hoping for better prices later.
Ranchers can do that as long as they have food.
But for example, Dewberry said, the numbers went from about 10,000 head to 1300 at the Oklahoma City Stockyards in recent days as people don’t want to sell their cattle., as beef is expected to make a comeback once the pandemic is over.
OKC West Livestock Market will return to the regular sale schedule with cows Monday, stockers Tuesday, and feeders Wednesday.
Barnhart reported, “We are taking several precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID 19 and are asking consignors to limit their time at the market. We are limiting the arena to buyers and employees only at this time.”
Last week, all classes sold $10-$20 higher per hundredweight, responding to sharp increases in futures prices and a much higher fat cattle trade.
The demand has increased, even if prices have not.
“When all the beef started flying off the shelves the packers had to ramp up production to stock up the shelves,” Barnhart said.
He said the market is volatile right now and has lost ground again.
“Some fat cattle sold for 120 with many cattle feeders holding out for more,” Barnhart reported.
“Record kills are estimated for this week as packers scramble to fill orders. Whether this demand surge is sustainable remains to be seen. The higher feeder prices will likely bring more to town as many producers have held onto their early wheat cattle,” Barnhart reported.
Meanwhile, people are urged to continue to take precautions.
“Sorry for the inconvenience and thank you for your cooperation. Wash your hands and have a great week,” Barnhart said. “We will do what we can do to keep it as safe as we can for everybody. Right now we are just letting the buyers come into our arena.”