Beef-packing plants are returning to full capacity, in a June 25, 2020 story. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Beef plants nearly back to full capacity after COVID-19, but backlog of cattle

Cattle backlog at feedlots and ranches still high

CALGARY — Canada’s main beef-packing plants are returning to full capacity after COVID-19 outbreaks, but the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association isn’t expecting a backlog of cattle to go away soon.

The outbreaks caused prolonged closures and slowdowns at beef-processing plants across the country.

Among the hardest hit were the Cargill plant in High River, Alta., which shut down for two weeks before reopening at reduced capacity. The JBS Canada plant in Brooks, Alta., operated with just a single shift each day for a full month.

The two plants together normally process about 70 per cent of Canada’s beef.

“Our High River facility is currently operating at 95 per cent capacity and we expect to be back to our typical volumes next week,” Cargill spokesman Daniel Sullivan said in an email.

The plant processes up to 4,500 cattle per day.

The Brooks plant is now back to pre-COVID numbers of about 4,200 animals per day.

“We are carefully monitoring our risk mitigation measures on a daily basis, and will continue to make decisions based on the best available data and advice from both our team members and public health officials,” said Cameron Bruett, the head of Corporate Affairs for JBS USA.

Both plants suffered widespread outbreaks of COVID-19 and implemented new safety measures, including temperature testing of all workers, providing face masks and installing partitions on production lines.

Dennis Laycraft, executive vice-president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, said after months of struggle a return to normal is welcome.

However, he said the backlog of cattle at feedlots and ranches still sits at between 120,000 and 130,000 head and it’s going to take a while to reduce that surplus.

“At least we’re not backing up any more animals and secondly we’re going to start to work into those numbers going ahead,” he said.

“I think we’re hearing from everyone that this isn’t going to get done in a week. This is going to take months.”

While cattle prices have been lower because of the backlog, Laycraft said he hopes to see the system return to pre-COVID normal sometime this fall.

He said there are typically fewer animals going to slaughter in the summer, which means the plants will be able to make up for lost time.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2020.

Beef Industry

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Temporary COVID-19 testing sites coming to Wetaskiwin and Ponoka

The Wetaskiwin location will open Oct. 23, 2020 and the Ponoka location will open Oct. 29.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City and County of Wetaskiwin reporting active cases

Both the City of Wetaskiwin and County of Wetaskiwin have active cases.

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Maskwacis reporting 37 active cases

Numbers current as of Oct. 19

Manny’s Motel demolition. Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer.
Manny’s demolition under way this week.

Manny’s has been vacant since the January fire that took place at the property.

JJ Collett Natural Area Foundation held its AGM on Oct. 19 at the Ponoka Legion. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
De-listing Alberta parks creates ‘risk’ for coal mining: CPAWS

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society speaks at JJ Collett AGM

(File photo)
Ponoka’s seen rise in relationship ‘disharmony,’ domestic violence during COVID-19

While there has been an increase in files, not all have required charges to be laid

ACC President and CEO Ken Kobly spoke to Ponoka Chamber of Commerce members over Zoom on Oct. 20. (Image: screenshot)
Alberta chambers are ‘411’ to members, government: ACC president

Changes to government supports, second wave and snap election

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

RCMP. (Black Press File Photo)
Calgary man dies in two-vehicle collision near Sylvan Lake

A semi truck collided with a SUV just east of Hwy. 781 on Hwy 11.

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Most Read