Cattle set-aside program off to a slow start

The impact of COVID-19 on the livestock industry has been severe. There were weeks of packers operating at half to no slaughter capacity, market-ready cattle waiting to get on a truck, and the food service sector being crippled due to closures.

One of the measures suggested to help mitigate the financial strain by the cattle industry was a set-aside program to stretch out the required weekly slaughter over a longer duration to allow packers to get caught up. The federal government eventually agreed, and put money in to the AgriRecovery program for partial funding of a set-aside program.

Three weeks into its implementation, the participation by producers has been limited, as shifts in short-term market dynamics has meant cattle are moving.

In Alberta, for the week of June 29, 5,098 head were accepted for the Fed Cattle Set-Aside with the average bid being $1.73 per head per day. In the following two weeks, no cattle were accepted into the program based on market conditions. For the week of July 6th, the Alberta Beef newsletter says that no animals were accepted for the program due to “demand from the packers of animals is strong and the basis is par or better.”

Saskatchewan has chose not release its data, saying it wants to ensure the program is not impacting markets or decisions for marketing livestock.

RealAgriculture has heard from sources that there was demand for the program in the first week in Saskatchewan and the remaining surplus of cattle rolled into the second week and the interest has been lighter since.

Manitoba is still working out the details of its program and is in consultation with the federal government, according to a government spokesperson.