Weekly livestock news: March 23, 2020

Possible impacts of COVID-19 on farming

Two researchers from the University of Wisconsin in this article offer their opinion on how the coronavirus outbreak may affect the farming industry. At the top of the list is market effects: As restaurants close and people eat at home more, food service sales will be disrupted. This could particularly affect dairy, which is a big part of out-of-home eating, according to Successful Farming. In other countries, ships have been held at ports waiting to offload U.S. dairy and other farm products. Supply chain slowdowns and shortages are possible. This could affect pharmaceutical availability for large farms, the experts say. Other issues include farmer health, worker decreases and some shortages of personal protective equipment, like respirators and gloves. One thing farmers shouldn’t do: hoard farm supplies.

Meat processors ramp up production

Meat companies have ramped up their processing operations to meet demand as shoppers stock up. Tyson Foods, the biggest U.S. meat processor, is making its “most-significant shift” ever to produce more chicken, beef and pork favored by shoppers, which is different from cuts that restaurants use. Employees are working through weekends to fill as many orders as possible. Sanderson Farms said it’s adding Saturday shifts at its five plants that process chicken for grocery store customers and is ready to convert two other plants for processing. Pilgrim’s Pride and Perdue Farms are also working to accommodate increased demand, Bloomberg reports.

Coronavirus presents new challenges for dairy industry: Rabobank

Global dairy prices were trending upward in the fourth quarter of 2019, but that pattern stalled this year due to the coronavirus, a new Rabobank report shows. Buyers and sellers are struggling to figure out the future market impact as the virus continues to spread. Analysts found that while global milk production is rising, reduced Chinese imports, supply chain disruptions and increasing dairy surpluses in export regions will put downward pressure on global markets through this year. Rabobank expects consumer buying in China will normalize by the second half of the year, and some supply chains are already seeing improvement. But “the risk of a delayed economic recovery in China presents a major downward price risk to Rabobank’s current global dairy expectations,” Lillianna Byington writes in Food Dive.

Pandemic insurance policy could ease lost revenue concerns for some farms

James Allen Insurance has rolled out a comprehensive policy for business enterprises to protect themselves in the event of a pandemic, Farm Futures reports. The policy is designed to cover added out-of-pocket expenses, as well as lost revenue associated with the outbreak of infectious disease. Policies for farms would be structured based on enterprise type and size, scope of coverage needed, potential revenue loss, and expected timeframe for coverage. It would apply mainly to livestock farms that depend on revenue from third-party companies for things like poultry or hog finishers. It could be less useful for farms that get revenue at random times based on grain sales, since producers have to prove revenue loss based specifically on the pandemic.

China encourages firms to raise pigs overseas to plug domestic pork shortage after ASF

China said it’s encouraging companies to build pig farms overseas to stem a severe domestic pork shortage after the African swine fever outbreak cut its pig herd by nearly half, Reuters reports. Officials have urged local authorities to support qualified domestic firms to build hog farming operations in countries where pig products can be exported back to China. The government is concerned because pork prices have spiked, pushing consumer inflation to its highest levels in years. And the coronavirus outbreak has exacerbated the production shortage. “Top government documents in the past usually stopped at trade, talking about buying either grains or pork from abroad, but never involved raising pigs overseas,” according to one executive with a major pig producer.

Iowa State vet diagnostic lab gets new funding

The Iowa Pork Producers Association and the Iowa Farm Bureau have each committed $1 million to support Iowa State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, Feedstuffs reports. According to the college, the laboratory is the only full-service and fully accredited veterinary diagnostic lab in Iowa. University officials now want to expand the facility, and the funding from the two agriculture organizations will help that happen. The current Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory “has been pushed to its limits, while the need for the services they provide continues expanding rapidly,” said Mike Paustian, president of the pork producers association. “Over 75% of the samples being submitted to the VDL are from pig farms, which is why we have decided to help lead the charge to secure the funds needed for this project.”