The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is negatively impacting industries of all kinds, including the cattle industry.
Several stockyards in Oklahoma are cancelling weekly auctions, but one family-owned stockyard in Bristow is trying to keep their doors open.
The Mid America Stockyards parking lot, usually at full capacity on a typical Saturday, was only half-filled. Cattle pins are overflowing with thousands of livestock, but there were nearly two hundred on Saturday.
James Roe said ranchers like himself are hurting because fewer cattle sold means less money.
“This is our livelihood,” Roe said. “This is what we do to make a living.”
Helen Varner, who owns Mid America Stockyards, Inc. along with her family, said they wanted to keep their doors open to allow ranchers to continue selling, even if it meant a lower profit.
“We do this as an obligation to our customers,” Varner said. “We have fourth generation people trading with us and we are just trying to take care of our customers and employees.”
The stockyards’ staff is taking extra precautions by setting up a drive-through to allow ranchers to drive up and unload their cattle, all without having to leave their cars.
Varner also said they allowed 50 sellers in the auction room and made sure to regularly wipe surfaces down.
“I think people are just scared,” Varner said. “I do worry about the ranchers who have weekly checks or may have to sell a few cattle to pay some bills.”
Roe walked away with two cattle, where he usually buys 50 to 60.
“It’s scary because like I said this is what most of us have done our whole life,” Roe said. “When you slow us down and there’s nothing there to do, there’s no money.”
Varner’s family plans to continue hosting weekend auctions at Mid America Stockyards and remain open as long as they can.