Due to market volatility and social distancing driven by COVID-19, ranchers are holding on to cattle longer than usual, which means less cattle are heading to market.
Auction yards around Oklahoma are already seeing effects, but Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist Derrell Peel says auctions are doing their best to continue amid the crisis.
"I have heard of some instances around the country where auctions have been cancelled, [but] I’m not aware of any in Oklahoma that have," Peel said. "Many of these auctions have limited access to the auction facilities, only letting in buyers."
Most auctions typically attract a diverse group of people — including buyers, sellers, workers and the general public — to eat at on-site cafes, to enjoy the animals or watch auctioneers work.
The Department of Homeland Security website states, “agribusiness support services, includ[ing] those employed in auction and sales are considered part of the essential critical infrastructure workforce.”
Several meat processing facilities around the country, including two in Iowa and one in Pennsylvania, have already suspended work due to COVID-19 illnesses among employees.
Peel says if more facilities halt production of meat products, that’s when consumers could see less beef on supermarket shelves.