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Backlog of cattle cleared, Lanesboro Sales Commission set to reopen auction services



Lanesboro Sales Commission brought good news to local beef producers Saturday announcing the regular sale schedule would start again April 15 at both the Lanesboro, Minn and Decorah, Iowa locations.

Last week, Lanesboro Sales Commission canceled regular sales. Beef processors noted they would not be filling seats at the auctions because of an oversupply of dairy cattle entering the meat market.

“The slaughter cattle market in Lanesboro looks to be significantly improved over last week,” Joe Nelson, owner of Lanesboro Sales Commission said. “The processors utilized the opportunity you [farmers] gave them this week to clean up a backlog of inventory and will be back in the seats.”

Nelson said there are still processors experiencing workforce issues because of COVID-19.

“This is a very fluid and rapidly changing environment, and as a result, we highly recommend that customers wishing to consign beef steers and heifers contact one of our representatives or myself directly about their livestock,” Nelson said.

He admitted they still have opportunities to market cattle, but not in the volume they had been accustomed to in the past.

“During this time of uncertainty, I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to both our sellers and buyers for their loyalty and dedication to both the livestock business and the auction method of marketing,” Nelson said.

The ripple effects of COVID-19 continue to crash into the agriculture industry as sale barns struggle to find a fair price for producers.

When restaurants, food service industries, and schools closed, there was a bottleneck as meat, dairy, poultry and other producers tried to reroute distribution back into retail where some stores were struggling to stay stocked.

As dairy processors face an immediate market loss, thousands of gallons of milk are being dumped, and farmers are asked to cut back on production and herd sizes. Dairy cows being sold into the meat market at alarming rates, overwhelming packers who are struggling to keep up with labor demands.

Joe Nelson, owner of Lanesboro Sales Commission in Decorah, started receiving calls last week from processors who said they would not be in the sales barn to make their regular purchases. Not willing to risk the pricepoint for his producers, he canceled four sales through April 13.

“We were not willing to take a chance of getting everybody’s livestock into the auction if we can’t honestly market them in a true market,” Nelson said.

Nelson referred to a letter sent to dairy producers asking members to sell cows by April 15.

“It put an extra burden on,” Nelson said. “It almost put a bounty on market cows.”

He heard of a processing plant in Green Bay that received 2,000 cows from a single dairy farm last week.

The Lanesboro sales barn typically sees anywhere from 700 to 1,800 head of cattle at a time. Nelson was optimistic that they could open again next week but could not make any definitive plans until he receives more direction from processors.

“We felt it was in the best interest of our producers to just take this week and pause,” Nelson said. “I have been in this business for 36 years. I put my heart and soul into getting people a fair market price for their livestock, and I didn’t feel like I could open up this week and give them a fair market value.”

It was not an easy decision for Lanesboro Sales Commission. Nelson admitted he was nervous about closing fearing he would be the only market cattle auction to do so. “I’m just worried to death,” Nelson said. “I can’t do anything for anybody right now, but I wasn’t going to just sit here and take it and not at least try [to help].”

Although Lanesboro Sales Commission canceled its upcoming auctions, staff are still on hand to answer producer questions. Nelson said they will be posting updates online and on Facebook.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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