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Sale Barns, Processors Trying to Adjust to Changing Times
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 04/16/2020

The leader of Wisconsin's largest livestock sales association says they are doing their best to accommodate the ever changing trends brought on by COVID-19. During the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin's Dairy Signal webcast on Wednesday, Equity Cooperative CEO Curt Larson said his company is trying to keep its operations running in as many facilities as they can.

"With this outbreak taking place everything has been fluid and we're dealing with changes almost continuously," Larson said. "We're really trying to prevent a situation where key employees or plant buyers end up with the illness and run the risk that the cattle can't be sold. We want to continue to market cattle and give producers an outlet to sell their animals."

Larson says Equity has suspended operations at its Marion and Barron markets because of their proximity to other facilities. But overall, the cooperative has been running as well as can be expected.

Steve Van Lannen of American Foods Group in Green Bay added that processors have been seeing extreme changes in meat demand and pricing from week to week. But just as in farming, they see the need for good communication with their customers.

"We as processors are trying to let the local sale markets know if we're at capacity or if things need to be shifted so they can let their producers know," he said.

One of the biggest adjustments beef packers have needed to make during the past month is converting more of its processing to ground beef. Van Lannen says with so many restaurants closing, quality cuts from fed cattle (that usually provide steaks) are being ground up instead.

Like the dairy markets, he said lower export demand is also affecting their businesses; coupled with the changes in the value of the U.S. dollar.

PDPW's Dairy Signal will feature atmospheric scientist Eric Snodgrass of Nutrien Ag Solutions and economist Dr. David Kohl on Thursday's edition.

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