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The coronavirus: Ranching impact

The mainstream media is full of doom and gloom and people are stockpiling toilet paper and Lysol. Large events are being canceled and travel restrictions are in effect because of this form of the human Coronavirus (COVID-19 virus.)

Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on their surfaces and are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Seven strains are known to infect humans, including this new virus, causing illnesses in the respiratory tract. Four of those strains cause common colds. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can mutate and infect people and then spread between people such as with Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV), Severe Acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV), and now this new virus (named SARS-CoV-2). The complete clinical picture with regard to COVID-19 is not fully known. Reported illnesses have ranged from very mild (including some with no reported symptoms) to severe, including illness resulting in death. While information so far suggests that most COVID-19 illness is mild, a report out of China suggests serious illness occurs in 16 percent of cases. Older people and people of all ages with severe underlying health conditions — like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example — seem to be at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 illness.

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person. Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).

Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).

Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.

The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.

* Fever

* Cough

* And shortness of breath. (According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website and the World Health Organization.)

Many producers vaccinate their herds for Bovine coronavirus. Infections are associated with three distinct clinical syndromes in cattle: calf diarrhea, winter dysentery (hemorrhagic diarrhea) in adult cattle, and respiratory infections in cattle of various ages, including the bovine respiratory disease complex (shipping fever) in feedlot cattle. Bovine Rotavirus-Coronavirus Vaccines are given to pregnant cattle to prevent against scours in the calves. Coronaviruses were first reported as a cause of diarrhea in calves in the United States in 1973, and since then they have been recognized worldwide in association with the three clinical syndromes. The economic impact of respiratory disease and calf diarrhea is considerable. “Bovine Coronavirus is mainly seen as diarrhea and BRD while the mutated human form is respiratory. Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that continues to mutate,” said Brigham Scott, DVM.

The stock market has plunged steeply and the cattle market has taken a sharp downturn in recent weeks which some blame on the virus. But John Nalivka, president of Sterling Marketing Inc. believes the Coronavirus is on the bottom of his list of things that have impacted our beef markets. “Our production for the first part of the year has been high. We have record high carcass weights and more cattle on feed than a year ago. And we are in Lent so not as strong a demand for beef, add to it our pork production and our red meat supplies are well above a year ago also people are staying home more.”

“There is not a strong demand for beef right now, once we get on the other side of Easter and pull our weights down and hopefully get past the virus, it will make a difference in the markets. It’s a combination of all the above,” Nalivka said. “Last year we had a tight supply and the packers were keeping everything current and that kept the weights down. This year the feed cost weren’t as high as expected, so a lower cost of gain and feeders are holding onto them to get a better price. If they are growing good even holding onto them a week longer makes a big difference.”

Nalivka feels that China has been buying our pork but most of their imported beef is coming from Brazil. “We are still facing record high numbers of heifers going on feed and the cow slaughter is still high. Cattle will start moving going into the growing season and we have to pull the weights down. It’s not the virus that is affecting the demand, they are just using it as a reason. With the current oil war going on between Russia and the Middle East it will lower the cost of production for producers as fuel is one of the biggest costs.”

Experts recommend frequent hand washing and staying calm.


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