Two years after the discovery of a single case of mad cow disease in Washington state, the impact still is being felt. Kansas City-based National Beef Packing reported this week that its profits dropped 53 percent this year, mostly because of lingering business conditions fostered by the discovery. The company also said higher cattle prices brought on by the U.S. ban on Canadian cattle and the Japanese ban on U.S. beef raised the company's costs ... and kept prices for finished product low.
Packers often have to be flexible to deal with market forces beyond their control. This week's early visit from Old Man Winter is an example.
This week's blizzard that dumped up to 20-inches of snow across seven states was not fit for man nor beast. Many roads were slowed or closed to traffic, hindering delivery of cattle to packing plants.
Packing plants in eastern Nebraska, for example, had difficulty obtaining cattle from western feedlots. There were reports some plants were trying to make do with more local cattle that had been scheduled for delivery later in the week.
The blizzard and low temperatures put Plains cattle in the hardest-hit areas behind on their optimum weight gains. The 10 to 14 foot high snow drifts in some places, also allowing cattle to get out of their pens. Some feedlots had 4,000 to 5,000 cattle that would need to be sorted after the pens and fences are repaired.