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Cattle feeders open up about challenges during pandemic

Farmers opened up about what it's like to put food on the table during this pandemic.
Posted at 6:30 PM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-25 19:30:04-05

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Ia. (KMTV) — Iowa's congressional delegation is pushing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand COVID-19 programs for Iowa family cattle feeders.

Family cattle feeder Edward Morse wants to remind the public that his profession is integrated with the rest of the economy. On the demand side, his operation is facing challenges on account of pandemic shutdowns and the extra safety precautions at beef plants.

"Once the beef plants started to shut down, certainly depressed the prices for cattle, you didn't see that on the retail side because there was a shortage on the retail side," Morse said.

Morse estimates prices were depressed by more than 20% due to the pandemic and are clawing back.

"We decided to put our cattle on a diet so they weren't gaining as quickly as they could to give us a little bit longer of a time period to be more flexible, that increased our feeding costs and we faced a lot lower prices than we really needed to cover all those costs," Morse said.

Custom cattle feeder, Gage Zellmer says business is very slow.

"Our custom cattle feeding customers, we don't see them like we usually do, everything's kind of been shut down, slow, not a lot of people out and about which is strange," Zellmer said.

When it comes to the beef cattle industry, Morse and Zellmer hope the public better understands their role in the economy; that's all the support they could ask for.

"When that supply chain is interrupted, it's a serious problem," Morse said.

Sens. Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst are among the legislators who signed off on the letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.