Many industries have suffered losses during the Covid-19 pandemic due to the restrictions on social gatherings. Among them are those that specialize in genetic work for the dairy industry. The market for show cows over the last 4 months, its changed greatly,” said Alicia Lamb of Lamb Farms and their subsidiary, Oakfield Corners Dairy in Oakfield, NY. “The market for our show cattle is gone. I can’t say it’s 100% completely gone, but the value has declined significantly. We had planned to have a sale in the spring of about 60-70 head, and we were unable to have that sale because of the pandemic. We have about 100 extra head than we had intended at this time of the year and have been unable to sell at the value that we had planned to back in March. We’re getting offers that are less than half of what we typically get for our registered Holsteins.
The cancellation of shows and fairs has also led Lamb Farms to focus on different markets for their work. “There are two segments of genetics we focus on with registered Holsteins. Show cattle are straight forward, it’s based on their type and appearance. Our second segment is index cattle, which is high end commercial cattle. You’re looking to create the genetics for the next bull that goes into stud that makes the next greatest cow for production needs. Production traits are valued higher than physical confirmation in this field. The index market has remained relatively stable thankfully. One thing to remember about all of these shows and fairs that have been canceled – there a lot of related industries, side industries that are associated with them that are impacted by it too. Magazines that are dedicated to it, those guys are suffering because of advertisements being down. There are people that specifically board show cattle and they’re concerned because of no-shows since the events are cancelled. There are fitters that go from show to show to show, and those guys are out of business. And since there are no shows to compete in, you don’t know how to place your cattle against competition and whether it’s worth flushing that cattle for future IVF use. There’s just this compounding effect that people don’t really think about. It’s unfortunate. Moving forward as things do reopen a bit for our show cattle, it’s been important that they’ve been kept in shape to show the best that they can. There’s one show we’re looking forward to in Western NY in October, another in New England, to at least get the cows out to.
Others, like Liddleholme Farm in Argyle, NY have also seen changes to the market. “It’s been an adjustment,” said Adam Liddle of Liddleholme Farm in Argyle, NY. “The cancellation of the spring sales was a setback for sure. There’s been a few good online sales that we were able to consign to, and while we didn’t get 100% of the value that we would have gotten for a regular sale, we still did well and got our animals to market. In person is always better. People that spend $8-25k on cattle, they like to see them in person, see them walk, etc. And those sales were cancelled. You can see them online but it’s not quite like in person – it’s just different. With the live shows, when you go to that stuff there’s a lot more to them because the people there are your friends and peers and having to do everything online loses some of that camaraderie.
Liddleholme also feels for the effect that these cancellations have had on youth that raise for 4-H and FFA projects. “The fairs are where you compete against the other best animals to measure up against, to see how you’re doing and what you need to improve on,” said Liddle. “At the county fair level, we sell and lease animals. When we lease an animal to a youth, there’s no money involved. It’s likely that these kids aren’t from farms or have owned an animal before. We usually have 8 to 10 kids that lease and show at Washington County’s fair. Most kids like being around animals, and it’s a great way to get the next generation interested in farming. It’s a little disappointing for them, and usually a great summer project for them to work on.”
While there are concerns with a second wave in the country, and what that might impact, Liddle does his best to look at the long-term goals of his farm. “With everything in life, when there are challenges, there are changes,” said Liddle. You just have to change with it and go on. Farming is always changing. This is just a short-term thing and we’ll get through it.”