WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Every Thursday rancher Josh Mueller counts cattle as they enter the ring at the El Dorado Livestock Auction. But this time he’s doing it with a lot more on his mind.
“So we’ve been kind of sweating bullets here all week trying to figure out what’s it going to be like,” said Mueller who is also the owner and manger at the El Dorado Livestock Auction.
Thursday was the first auction since the Tyson plant near Holcomb caught on fire. The auction barn is feeling the effects now that the plant is closed. Mueller said it’s already caused the price of cattle to drop to about 6 to 7 cents a pound.
“When a lot of guys are looking for profit margins of $30 to $50 a head and now all of sudden they are losing $80 a head its a pretty big turn around,” Mueller said.
1,500 cattle were expected for Thursday’s auction but many ranchers cancelled leaving only about 900 to sell.
“Some of those guys decided to keep those cattle at home rather than take a lower price,” said Mueller.
The problems don’t stop there for cattle ranchers. They’re having to look for other plants to send their livestock to for processing while Tyson is offline. But that’s easier said than done as other plants are already at processing capacity.
“That’s one of the problems in the cattle market right now is we got a big enough supply of fed cattle,” said Mueller. “It takes all we can just to keep those cattle moving through on a daily bases.”
This, in an industry that Mueller said is already struggling.
“Guys have just been basically breaking even or loosing money now for the last year or 18 months at least,” said Mueller. “It really puts stress on a guys financial position whether or not they can get loans to buy more cattle. A lot of the farmers and ranchers are well into their golden years so to say and some of those folks might just consider hanging it up you know after something like this.”
A Tyson company spokesperson tells KSN they do not have a specific timeline of when they expect to reopen the plant but said it will be a matter of months until they are at full production again.
In the meantime, ranchers are staying hopeful that the plant will open sooner rather than later.
“Hopefully, we can come up with something positive out of it,” said Mueller. “Try to figure out some internal things that we can do in our industry where we can better absorb situations like this and kind of spread it across the market rather than one segment taking the blunt of the drop in the market.”