The USDA estimated beef and pork production last week was down 65 percent from a year ago, as Covid-19 has meatpacking facilities closing or scaling back on beef and pork production.
Panhandle Pig in Scotts Bluff County, Neb. is also feeling the effects of the meatpacking crisis, as Smithfield has canceled their truckloads. The company has a plant in Crete, Neb., which was going to shut down, but has remained open.
“With their big producers, they can reduce them by like 40 percent,” said Mario Zavala, an owner-partner at Panhandle Pig. “We only send one or two (truckloads) per week, so they canceled our shipments to them entirely.”
Hog farms in the U.S. take pigs from birth to maturity with little disruption. Panhandle Pig inseminates its sows, and every week there is a new litter being born. The piglets go to the nursery where they mature until they are about 50 pounds and then move to the finishing sites.
Covid-19 has disrupted the flow, as the meatpacking facilities are closing or scaling back with workers falling ill with the virus.
Zavala said the problem now is where to send the hogs, which are ready for the packing facilities since space for a new batch is needed.
To save waste, Zavala said they are trying to slow the pig’s growth.
“We’re okay with keeping the rooms warmer, and they don’t eat as much; that’s one way to slow their growth,” he said. “I’ve been looking for someone to purchase the younger pigs, and we may have found someone to buy them.”
Uncertainty surrounds Covid-19, and Zavala said only a vaccine or some other solution, which could guarantee worker’s safety, will see the packing facilities running at full force again.
Panhandle Pig, like many businesses, has also had to adjust its workforce.
“I’ve had to reduce hours and inform everyone we’re going to have to tighten our belts, and the last thing we want to do is let anyone go,” he said. “So, we don’t have people losing their jobs, that’s the main thing.”
Panhandle Pig is also selling pigs to the public.
For more information, contact Zavala at 303-868-9484.