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Slaughter totals increasing, but challenges are far from over

Daily slaughter capacity for both cattle and hogs has continued its push to recover to pre-COVID-19 levels.  But as Brownfield’s Meghan Grebner reports, the challenges are far from over.

University of Missouri livestock economist Scott Brown says there has been a lot of economic incentive for packers to ramp their production levels back up.  “I think it’s important, especially in hogs, to remind ourselves maybe we could say we are breaking even right now,” he says.  “That’s about the best thing we could say.  And we probably have about 2-plus-million head of hogs to try and work through in the backlog.  It’s far from over and it’s going to take us a while to get there.”

He tells Brownfield the same can be said for cattle.  “We might not have a bunch of heavyweight cattle left, but we have a lot of cattle that have been slowed in getting to the feedyard, etc. that we’re going to pay the price for as we go through the remainder of this year,” he says.

And even with the shortened holiday week – Brown says cattle slaughter was down just 11 percent on the year and hog slaughter was down just 7.7 percent relative to year-ago levels.

Tyson’s Storm Lake, Iowa facility shut down last week for cleaning after more than 500 of the plants 2,500 employees tested positive for COVID-19.  It’s expected to resume operations at some point this week.

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