SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — Herds of cows are becoming a lot like oil; you can’t sell them without losing a significant amount of money.
Ranchers in parishes like Caddo, Bossier, DeSoto and Natchitoches could soon lose millions of dollars and possibly go bankrupt. This is because the COVID-19 pandemic is shutting down meat packaging plants all over the Midwest and the Great Plains.
Have you noticed that coolers in several local supermarkets are almost empty? Grocery stores are stocked with beef but limiting the amount of red meat customers can buy.
A large amount of beef is sitting in pastures all over the Red River Valley and probably not moving until the end of the summer, when we could see meat prices finally start to drop.
“Louisiana is a cow calf state, so from conception to through birth, through about a seven-month-old calf, that is where we fit into the cattle industry, which makes us the starting point of the cattle industry," said Marty Woolridge, Cow-calf Rancher and owner of Woolridge Land and Cattle Co. “We are dependent upon the finished product, the retail product in the stores and the restaurants and being packaged and then going out to sell.”
More than 90% of the ranches in Northwest Louisiana have been family owned for more than one hundred years, with on average 25 to 50 head of cattle. They depend year-to-year on the income generated from selling their calves at auction.
According to Lee Faulk, Cattle Rancher and Associate Extension Agent for the LSU Agricultural Center, Northwest Louisiana has over 1,900 beef producers in this region; people that own cattle and raise cattle. “We have roughly over 121,000 head of cattle just in our head, a head of mother cows. And that value is well over a hundred million dollars.”
Because production is backing up, they’re seeing cattle backed up in paid lots, that trickles down to local ranchers.
“The problem is, a lot of these producers aren’t going to see the loss until later on in the year.”
Chief Investigative Reporter Stacey Cameron spoke with these local ranchers about their vital role in the nation’s food supply.