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Wyoming ranchers share experiences during the outbreak of COVID-19

Updated: May. 17, 2021 at 6:46 PM CDT
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CASPER, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - The outbreak of COVID-19 impacted Wyomingites in many ways; some negative some positive. There was also much uncertainty during these times.

Rachel Grant, a Converse County Rancher, said her day-to-day tasks like fixing fences and checking on cows didn’t change much. “We were doing things that we normally do. We fed cows every day and checked on them during calving season,” Grant said.

Grant and her husband raise calves to be yearlings on their Glenrock ranch. Their product isn’t ready to go to a consumer. When beef at the grocery store was running out, Grant took on the role of educating friends and family on how meat gets from the producer to the consumer.

“When you have a hamburger, steak or roast in your crockpot it’s taken a lot of time and work to get that cut of beef to your plate,” Grant said.

Kesly Ellis, a co-owner of a meat processing plant in Uinta County, said their business boomed during what is normally their slow season. Ellis and her husband have been running their business for about three years. A current challenge they have is figuring out if this boost in business will stick around or go back to where it was pre-pandemic.

“When we are at full capacity one carcass has to go out for the next one to fit. That’s how close they are in there. In order to take in more animals e would have to expand our cooler or add another cooler,” Ellis said.

Ellis added they would need more equipment to keep up with their cooler space.

Keith Hamilton, a sheep and cattle rancher in Big Horn County, said COVID-19 paused lamb sales. “The restaurants were shut down so they couldn’t get that out there. That wasn’t the only place we had [lamb] but that was a major part of it,” Hamilton said.

Selling wool coming from the sheep was also a challenge. “We couldn’t ship our wool to China and so we lost about 30 to 40 percent of our market,” Hamilton said.

From good, bad and in between, these ranchers had a variety of different experiences. “It sounds strange but we really continued on with life as we normally would,” Grant said.

“An unsteady market with more meat processors could potentially be bad if we go back to how many animals we slaughtered pre-COVD,” Ellis said.

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