Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chains are suffering, especially in beef and dairy. Kansas State University’s extension beef team hosted an online workshop on May 14 to help producers manage market challenges.

According to K-State agricultural economist Glynn Tonsorhe, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed Kansas’ beef supply chain to as much as 40% capacity, though the state has rebounded in recent days.

Tonsor noted that the USDA reported on March 30 that Kansas’ commercial cattle slaughter numbers were 120,000 head per day, "but then throughout the month of April, we’ve had almost day after day decline in the number of animals we were able to harvest," he said in a release.

Tonsor said the volume fell to as low as 72,000 – a nearly 40% reduction in the number of animals harvested over the same period in 2019.

Kansas feedlots, with capacities of 1,000 or more head, contained 2.29 million cattle on feed on April 1, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. This inventory was down 4% from last year. Placements during March totaled 345,000 head, down 27% from 2019.

"The good news is that over the last 10 days, we’ve had improvement," Tonsor said. "We continue to make progress. I anticipate that to continue, but there is a long road ahead to get closer to a feasible total capacity in the weeks and months ahead."

On May 13, 91,000 animals were harvested.

Bottlenecks in beef processing facilities due to COVID-19 have led to less meat available at grocery stores, higher meat prices, a run on meat by consumers and lower livestock prices for producers.

Livestock producers have had to adjust their management strategy to feed animals longer and sell them at heavier weights.

To manage this outcome most efficiently, K-State Research and Extension beef extension specialist Dale Blasi said producers should know the average weight of the calves currently in their operation.

"Knowing this is critical to assess your marketing strategy," he said. "It allows you to examine how rations can be formulated with available feed ingredients at the least possible cost."

He encourages cattlemen to use the feeder cattle risk management tool available from the K-State Department of Agricultural Economics.

As dried distiller’s grains are in short supply due to decrease in ethanol production, producers must find alternatives.

Jaymelynn Farney, a beef systems specialist at the Southeast Research-Extension Center in Parsons, noted in the eastern part of the state, some of the commodities that can match or exceed distiller’s grains for the animal's protein needs include corn gluten meal, corn steep, soybean meal, whole soybeans or sunflower meal.

"You always want to evaluate what commodities you have in your area, and the cost per pound, depending on what you’re wanting to use that commodity for – protein or energy," she said.

In western Kansas, Justin Waggoner, a beef systems specialist for the Southwest Research-Extension Center in Garden City, said alfalfa is good forage.