ALEXANDRIA, Ky. — Local farmers are facing an unprecedented problem. The coronavirus has created a backlog of cattle that normally would be sent to meat processing plants.

What You Need To Know

  • Farmers know where the beef is, they have it all.

  • Processing plants are working at smaller capacity.

  • The backlog is effecting costs.

  • Beef isn't only industry affected.

Alan Ahrman said his fellow beef farmers are having a tough time.

“The packing plants are closing down or operating at a smaller capacity and so it’s becoming a backlog in cattle that are not being able to be marketed and everything,” Ahrman said.

Ahrman said there’s plenty of meat but there’s a break in the supply chain.

“The people that have the big backlog are that people that have large numbers that have the calves up to ready to be harvested but they have nowhere to go with them,” Ahrman said.

Simply put, the farmers raise the animals. Those animals then are sent to feedlots where major meat plants process and send the food to grocery stores or restaurants.

But the coronavirus has forced some plants to shut down and reduce capacity by operating at 50 percent or less. 

“But it also points out a weakness we in our system. That we’re counting on 5 or 6 big companies, 4-5 companies that operate 75 percent of the beef processing and now all of a sudden when they shut down, our whole system goes down,” Ahrman said.

Campbell County Extension Agent Don Sorrell said it's impacting costs.

“Prices on the farm have been reduced by about $0.30 a pound, so for a 1,500-pound animal you’re looking at $300 reduction in price for that animal what it was worth let’s say March 1 versus early May here,” Sorrell said.

Ahrman says the beef industry isn’t the only one taking a hit.

“It’s happening not only in the beef industry, but the pork industry, and as well the chicken industry as well,” Ahrman said.

The farmer believes it could take up to a year for cattle raisers to come out from the backlog.