Ranchers, too, deal with coronavirus

Thursday, March 26, 2020

For ranchers, day to day life hasn’t really been affected by the coronavirus, but business has changed slightly, and some ranchers expect more changes to the cattle market in coming months.

“As far as what we do on the ranch day to day it hasn’t really affected us because we’re already socially isolated,” said Wyatt Donald of Donald Ranch in Sweet Grass County.

As for the cattle market, Donald said the price of beef has gone up 50 cents per pound. Donald attributes this sudden spike to recent panic shopping. “On the business side it is impacting us,” Donald said. “Looking at retailers and other businesses and what they’re experiencing right now we’re really pretty fortunate to be in this industry.”

As for the spike in beef prices, Donald suspects it won’t last, and instead the prices could tank.

“The price of beef may have gone up, but that’s going to be temporary,” he said. “It’s all hard to say at this point. We just don’t know long term how consumers are going to buy beef in the future. This seems like a generation-defining event that could change the beef industry forever. People eating at home instead of going out to eat at restaurants drastically changes which cuts of beef sell. Since restaurants are the main customers for higher quality cuts of beef, I expect sales of those cuts to drop off.”

Donald expressed concern for the future of the cattle market.

Shirley Halverson at the Halverson Ranch didn’t express the same concern for the future of the cattle market, but she did make an interesting observation regarding the effect of the coronavirus on the ranching industry.

“So far nothing has really changed for us, but one thing I have noticed is it seems like there are more people looking to buy meat directly from locals rather than from the meat market, since people are struggling to find meat in the grocery store,” Halverson said.

If Donald’s predictions are accurate, once the grocery stores regain control of keeping shelves stocked consumers will likely return to buying meat at the market rather than directly.