By Connor Lynch
WOODVILLE — “Sometimes it feels more like a funeral than a sale. It just takes a little bit of the fun out of it,” said Kevin Barker, who runs the Kawartha Lakes Community Sale Barn.
Normally the barn hums with life; there are buyers there to be sure, but the weekly sale is as much an excuse to socialize as anything else and farmers turn out in droves. COVID-19 put an end to that, and put a bit of fear into the farming community to boot.
The barn was running at about 80 per cent capacity in late April, Barker said, because many farmers had gotten spooked by the COVID-19 outbreak and the social distancing restrictions put in place. Maximum capacity for buyers at the sale barn is 50, which is plenty, but many farmers were concerned that, with the disease outbreak, buyers would stay away, he said. “Because you’re restricted on the buyer end of it, it sends the notion to a lot of people that, ‘Are there enough buyers in the seats?’
“Everyone’s of the mindset to hold onto cattle, market them later.”
It doesn’t help that the small, secondary revenue streams like the snack bar and flea market are shut down as well. “All those little perks have disappeared now.”
While it wasn’t exactly a party atmosphere at the Renfrew Pontiac Livestock Exchange (better known to locals as the Cobden sale barn) last month, it was at least basically business as usual, said Mike Dick, who co-owns the business with his father. “We haven’t really missed a beat,” he said.
Prices on cattle in general have been pretty strong; they dropped off but climbed back up. The sale relies on stocker sales. “That’s our main go-to. And we have the same amount of stocker buyers that ever were there. COVID-19 hasn’t really affected that.”
An employee at the Ottawa Livestock exchange said fewer animals are being sold and no one want fresh cows. A trucker dropped of some beef cattle and quipped: “We’re not getting top dollar but it could worse.”
EASTERN ONTARIO: Some sale barns low on volume but others hum right along
By Connor Lynch