DENVER (AP) — To be a cattle rancher in Colorado is to expect setbacks.
There are droughts and fires and economic volatility. There are snowstorms and tornadoes and tricky equipment. There are changing consumer demands.
But rarely do the stumbling blocks line up one after another and all at once the way they have now with the crisis caused by the new coronavirus, which has placed a wide-ranging economic drag on one of Colorado’s largest industries. Nationally, the cattle industry is expected to take a hit as large as $13.6 billion, according to a study released by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
Cattle prices have plummeted, some types of feed have become difficult to find and schedules for readying animals for market have required rearranging. Meanwhile, slaughterhouses have either closed or, in the best case, reduced capacity because of worker infections, meaning feedlots have had to keep feeding animals that are past their processing prime.
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“We’ve been slowly limping along,” said Grant Bledsoe. His family’s 100-year-old Bledsoe Cattle Company — a feedlot, pasture and farm on about 80,000 acres of land on the Eastern Plains — stands to lose some $3 million in equity because of crashing cattle futures.
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