Mad cow fears mean less stockyard activity, but local cattle farmers hopeful about prices

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Many that raise, buy and sell cattle were on guard Tuesday at Natchez Stockyards, just coming to see what the prices were like after the latest mad cow disease scare.

&uot;They came to see what the cattle were bringing,&uot; said Jerard Allen, Natchez Stockyards owner. &uot;We should have had 500 cattle today.&uot;

But instead, he had about 225.

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Natchez Stockyards is just a reflection of low cattle turnout across the state as buyers and sellers are watching and waiting.

Bill Shafer, a buyer from Grand Saline, Texas, who travels all across the country, said it is the same everywhere.

&uot;Most people are scared and want to see what the market is going to do,&uot; said Jody Nobles, a worker at the stockyard and a buyer from Alto, La.

When the news of mad cow disease in the United States Dec. 23, most in the cattle industry were taking their holiday break and not buying or selling cattle at all. But the packing plants and those raising their cattle were working.

&uot;Everything just quit,&uot; Allen said, referring to when the news broke. &uot;But we’ll survive it.&uot;

Allen’s optimism stems from the pricing Tuesday, which was about the same as it was when the stockyard closed for the holidays, he said. &uot;The cattle are still bringing a good price,&uot; Allen said.

And that, Glenn Lipsey, a cattleman from Monterey, said is because cattle prices were the best he had seen in 10 years.

&uot;Before this mad cow hit, prices were at a high,&uot; Lipsey said. &uot;I think everyone was concerned about what it was going to do.&uot;

&uot;It leaves everybody skeptical for a little bit, but as long as the long-term effect, I don’t think it will have one. I believe everything is going to be all right.&uot;

Allen said he knows the hit came at a good time &045;&045; while they were off for the holidays. During the fall, it might have been a different story.

&uot;It was the only good thing we had about the whole thing,&uot; Allen said. &uot;We’ve weathered this thing as well as can be expected.&uot;

Allen said the meat is safe here. He said if markets will put beef on sale and keep people eating, &uot;we’ll be in good shape.&uot;

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the disease is &uot;amplified&uot; by feeding cattle meal made of meat and bone from infected cattle. &uot;The kind of feed they saw causes this, I’ve never seen it,&uot; Nobles said.

From what these cattlemen can tell, the mad cow disease was an isolated incident in the Northwest.

And, the disease was found in a Holstein cow, a dairy cow, not the same ones sold at the stockyard for meat. &uot;Possibly, the cost of southern cattle will be hirer,&uot; an optimistic Nobles said, since the disease was detected in the Northwest. &uot;We were so far away from where they quarantined.&uot;

So why are cattlemen so hopeful?

&uot;I guess I want it to be,&uot; Shafer said of wanting prices to rise. &uot;Everybody’s hoping.&uot;