Another Osage County fair is in the bag and things were a little strange and strained (because of the COVID-19 virus). For the most part the fair went on as usual and while attendance was down, at least we did have a fair where other counties have not.
A lot of people were caught off guard when after the livestock auction, they could not find a custom processor to take care of the animal they had purchased. This was not entirely COVID-19 related.
In the past, animals that were sold at the auction but were not intended to be processed were simply shipped out. Steers most likely went to South Central Livestock in Vienna and hogs to Central Hog Market in Freeburg.
For several years now shipping out hogs after the fair auction has NOT been an option. The major pork packers quit buying hogs from county fairs, state fairs and large hog shows. Why you ask? All kids showing hogs are required to go through the Pork Quality Assurance program just as pork producers are. Trouble was, the kids (or parents) were not following the guidelines of the program. Hogs that had been fed feed with antibiotics in it were not being taken off that feed during the appropriate withdrawal period. (Lots of hogs were coming into the plants with antibiotics still in their system and if caught in time, those hogs were condemned resulting in a loss for the plant.)
Secondly, in an attempt to have that lean heavy-muscled hog that judges seem to go for, these show hogs were being fed feed with certain supplements in them (mostly a hormone called Ractophomine) and the packers do NOT want that in their meat. Consumers do not want meat from a lean heavy-muscled hog because it is tough and tasteless. Warnings went unheaded. So in a last ditch attempt to get their point across, they quit buying show hogs all across the country.
When the COVID-19 virus first hit, the packing industry seemed untouched until it was. If one packing plant, beef or hogs or poultry is closed down for even one day, the effect is felt throughout the industry in lower prices for the producers. Several plants were closed for days, some weeks, and some still are only operating at a reduced capacity.
Pork producers who had nowhere to go with their hogs were selling hogs for as little as $25 per head (to get rid of them). When hogs are ready to go, they are ready to go.
There was a rush by people who had never before purchased freezer pork or beef to take advantage of this situation. Scheduling to have your animal processed at one of the local custom processors became a scrambled panic.
We were all aware of the hamburger cost in the grocery stores if they could even get any. Beef whether it was cows, bulls, fed steers etc. have filled up shackle space at custom processors in the area, as well as the animals that they had scheduled before the pandemic even hit.
As a custom processor myself we have seen such a surge in animals coming in from the St. Louis area and the Lake, 20-30 head over a short period of time.
If this situation does not change I would suggest that next year if your child is going to show a steer, a hog or sheep at the fair, call ahead when you weigh that animal and schedule a processing slot even if you don’t need it for yourself, your buyers will appreciate having a place to take that animal that they have put a lot of money in.