How COVID-19 is affecting animal producers – and what to focus on right now

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Author: Science Communication Team EW Nutrition

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As the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to spread and large parts of the world are under lock-down, meat, dairy, and egg producers are working hard to maintain production in the face of many challenges. Let’s take stock of three major difficulties for animal production businesses – and consider three elements of the multi-pronged “solution” our industry is creating to this unprecedented situation.

1. Demand patterns are volatile

Stock-piling and panic buys considering quarantine and social distancing measures have driven up consumer demand for non-perishable, shelf-stable, and frozen food. Accordingly, sales of products such as eggs, long-life milk, and fresh chicken have strongly picked up, while demand for restaurant cuts is waning.

Eventually, however, consumers will purchase less while they use up their provisions. Moreover, the economic effects of this pandemic might include higher unemployment, long-term pressure on the hospitality industry, and reduced export demand from areas strongly affected by the virus.

2. Feed additive price hikes and labor shortages

Measures to contain COVID-19 have led to multiple production and transport disruptions in China, where much of the global supply of ingredients such as vitamins, threonine, and lysine, as well as fertilizers, originates. Analysts expect that this will drive up animal health and feed additive prices in 2020.

Labor availability is at risk due to sickness, quarantine, childcare issues, and movement restrictions for seasonal labor. Consequences may range from productivity losses to major animal welfare challenges.

3. Misinformation can create hazards

There is no scientific evidence that farm animals can contract, transmit, or spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but fake news along these lines can cause great damage.

In India, rumors were spread that the virus can be transmitted through the consumption of chicken, leading to a 70% drop in the wholesale price of chicken. Knock-on effects are also felt by feed companies, equipment providers, corn, and soybean growers, and even other protein producers, as the rumors have morphed into a general suspicion towards animal protein.

4. Biosecurity matters more than ever

Many of the prevention and control measures against SARS-Cov-2, such as tight hygiene standards and limiting visitors to facilities, are familiar to animal producers. After all, biosecurity is essential to contain devastating pests such as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza and African Swine Fever. Now is the moment to reinforce biosecurity protocols even further, on farms and in processing plants, to keep both workers and animals safe.

5. Feed additives to safeguard performance

As border controls, transport restrictions, and port closures upend the normal flow of raw feed materials, quality concerns regarding the origin and storage conditions, e.g. mycotoxin contamination, are becoming topical.

Especially given the added issue of labor shortages, producers need to, therefore, prioritize their feed additive portfolio. Intelligent feed additive solutions have been proven to support animal performance in challenging situations, boosting gut health and immune functions.

6. Collaborate and communicate

Industry associations and advocacy groups are working hard to prevent the spread of misinformation and to ensure that politicians and regulators do not gloss over the needs of producers and farm animals. These include access to feed supplies and practicable labor arrangements, but also guaranteed allocations of protective equipment, without which safe operations are not possible.

This crisis highlights what should be obvious: animal producers are in the business of “what really matters,” providing safe and nutritious food for everyone. This is a moment to rally – if anyone knows how to deal with uncertainty, volatility, and rapidly changing circumstances, it is animal production.

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