With national meat shortages on the rise amid the coronavirus pandemic, Carroll County farmers face unique challenges.
To address their concerns, a virtual meeting for cattlemen will be held next week, during which an expert will advise the growers about their options for managing herds, according to Paula Burke, the County Extension Coordinator at the Carroll County Agriculture Center.
Meanwhile, the food supply in the county has proved resilient during a time of economic shutdown. Although there have been shortages in the supply chain to local grocers, Burke said local producers of meat, vegetables, and other commodities have been able to find a market for their goods.
“We had a week or two that the (Carroll County Livestock) Sales Barn was closed when we were sheltering in place (when) I had a few panic phone calls of ‘how am I going to sell my cattle?’ ” Burke said. Now that the Sales Barn has resumed operation, those worries have been alleviated.
Yet there have been reports of some employees at national meat processors falling ill with COVID-19, shutting down those outlets for cattle growers. But, Burke said, local cattle growers who don’t rely on one market outlet may have seen marketers seeking them out.
“They’re hearing meat shortage, so they’re calling local farmers, and we’ve been encouraging that,” Burke said. “Reach out to your local farmer; we’ve got product here.”
Nevertheless, growers only have a certain number of animals ready for the market. And they must decide whether to breed for the future and figure out what to do with the animals they have now.
On May 21, the first virtual Carroll County Cattlemen’s Association meeting will be conducted over the Zoom video conference platform. Beef specialist Jason Duggan will talk about herd strategies to help cattle growers survive the current industry climate.
Meanwhile, local producers of fruit and vegetables — as well as some meat producers — are finding local farmers markets to be a good outlet for their sales.
“With fruits and vegetables, obviously you have a little bit more control,” Burke said. “You know you can put in a few more rows, or you can put in a few less rows. And you can hold on to that seed, you know, maybe till next year.
“With livestock, farmers have to decide right now ‘am I going to continue to breed’; ‘am I going to be able to sell those animals? What about the animals that I have ready now?’ So, it makes it a little bit more stressful I think for meat producers.”