Tis the season for bull sales among the country’s purebred cattle operations, but this year they have an extra hurdle to contend with: COVID-19.
The purebred cattle sector expects bull sale season to move forward as planned, albeit with social distancing measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
As of March 17, the province has reported eight confirmed and seven presumptive cases, including two from the Southern Health Santé-Sud Health region and one in the Interlake.
The pandemic has led to widespread closures, and the federal government has urged Canadians to avoid gatherings with more than 50 people.
Cancellations have not yet spread to the purebred cattle sector, which is moving into its peak bull sale season.
Rick Wright, executive secretary for the Livestock Markets Association of Canada, says bull sale prices so far have been strong this year. Among other things, the association has asked members to keep sales in line with the 50-person maximum attendance.
“Most of the bigger breeders that are selling bulls have their sales online,” he said, noting that allows customers to see animals ahead of the sale and bid electronically while still social distancing.
“This is a long term investment,” he said. “If you’ve got cows, you need bull power and you need good genetics and I think we may not see the crowds at the bull sales going forward that we’ve had, but I think the support will be there.”
Helge By, of Regina’s By Livestock, says sales on his schedule have gone forward so far, although owners have received calls asking if sales are cancelled.
His sale management company is encouraging people to attend sales only if actively interested in the animals, or to arrange to view bulls ahead of the sale and bid remotely.
“The sales are still going, but (we’re) trying to minimize crowds and the effects of it through online bidding or telephone bidding, things like that,” he said. “The cows still need to be bred, so at that point, I think it’s still going to go ahead as planned.”
By recently managed a sale in Medicine Hat during the third week of March. The sale drew a “good” in-person crowd, he said, although he expects that might now start to change the pandemic heats up in Canada.
Many breeders have also had limited contact outside the farm due to calving, By noted, something that may be lowering the perception of risk among potential sale attendees.