By Debra Davis
Several Alabama stockyards suspended cattle auctions this week to protect employees and customers and help control the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Scott Garrett, an owner of Mid State Stockyards, LLP in Letohatchee, said he and several stockyard owners in Alabama talked before suspending sales this week. Because stockyards are classified as essential, he said closures were made by individual owners.
“Our employees, cattle buyers and customers (sellers) are important to us, and we take their safety seriously,” Garrett said. “Right now, our plans are to have our regular sale next Tuesday (April 14), but things will be different until this health crisis is over.”
In addition to thoroughly cleaning the facility, Garrett said future sales will limit the number of people allowed in the auction area. Instead of sitting in a group around the sale pen, buyers will be asked to sit at least six feet apart. Cattlemen selling animals will be allowed in the auction area as their cattle are sold, he said.
“These steps are as much for the sellers’ protection as they are for the buyers and our employees.” Garrett said. “We can’t stop the virus, but we can do our part to stop it from spreading.”
David Garcia of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service provided a list of Alabama livestock market closures as of today. Those are:
- Dothan Livestock: Closed until further notice.
- Brundidge (South Alabama Livestock): Closed this week.
- Montgomery Stockyards: Closed this week and next.
- Coffee County Stockyards (New Brockton): Closed this week.
- Frisco City Stockyards: Closed this week.
- Opp Stockyards: Closed until further notice.
- Mid State Stockyards (Letohatchee, AL): Closed this week.
- Roanoke Stockyards: Closed this week.
- Uniontown Stockyards: Closed until further notice.
Garcia said the following markets have announced sales will continue next week:
- Arab Livestock Market
- Ashville Stockyards
- Cullman Stockyards
- Ft. Payne Livestock
- Northwest Alabama Livestock (Russellville, AL)
- Sand Mountain Stockyards (Kilpatrick, AL
- Tennessee Valley Livestock (Florence, AL)
- Valley Livestock (Moulton, AL)
- Livingston Stockyard
- Clay County Livestock (Lineville)
Volatile cattle prices also factored into Garrett’s decision to suspend the sale this week.
“Cattlemen depend on us to advise them when to sell their cattle and to help them get the most value they can,” Garrett said. “Prices dropped drastically in recent weeks, and in some cases a farmer’s price for butcher-ready cattle dropped by $350 per head. Until the market stabilizes, cattlemen might prefer to delay selling if they can.”
The Alabama Farmers Federation’s Brady Ragland has been monitoring the effects of COVID-19 on livestock markets. He encouraged cattlemen to study the market before making a decision.
“How and when to sell is a huge financial decision for every cattleman, and that is especially true when big fluctuations in the market occur,” Ragland said. “The majority of cattle in Alabama are still sold through public auctions. The decisions to sell now or wait in hopes of more favorable prices will vary for each producer and largely depend on what resources are available to them at home.”