Some good thoughts on buying and selling bulls online from Dr. Darrh Bullock, UK Extension Beef Genetics Specialist.

During this time of social distancing you may want to consider alternate means for securing your bull if you haven’t already taken care of it. Bull buying often is a very social event including things such as auctions, open houses or on-farm visits. All of these events require, and actually encourage, close interactions with others. Well if you haven’t heard, now is not the time to be doing these things.

Many seedstock producers already are using the internet to help market their bulls and this crisis likely will push many more in that direction.

If you are in the seedstock business and you do not have a website I would strongly encourage you to get one established. Now is a great opportunity, your kids/grandkids are home from school, and this would be a good way to keep them occupied and benefit your business. Social media also is a good mechanism to get your message out, once again, consult the young folks, if needed.

Trying to sell bulls on the inter­net or social media should be very similar to how you normally sell bulls – provide your cus­tomers with the information they need. This will include perfor­man­ce information, hopefully in the form of EPDs and indexes, and a way to visually evaluate the bulls.

Of course, the best way to show off your stock is with good video footage, but having some still photos could be helpful, too. It also is important to clearly state your policies, such as returns, exchanges, etc. Now may be the time to be more flexible with some of these policies.

Customers likely are going to be much more willing to buy a bull without seeing him in person if they feel comfortable, they can exchange him if he is not what they expected.

For bull buyers, this may be a way to expand the population of bulls you are considering as replacements. Most farmers likely attend no more than two or three sales to buy their bull, but by shopping online your selection options greatly are expanded.

I encourage you to buy bulls online the same way we advise in per­son. Identify the bulls you are interested in based on their perfor­mance information – EPDs, Indexes – and then evalu­­ate them visually by videos and still photographs. One thing to be aware of is disposition is going to be difficult to evaluate. This is one area you need to discuss with the seller to ensure the bull has good temperament.

We are in unprecedented times and everyone is having to adapt to new ways of conducting business. Although buying bulls from a distance may not be your first choice, technology has provided us with a viable means to stay safe while accomplishing this task. Who knows, you may find you like this method of bull shopping.

The U.S. Meat Supply during the Pandemic. Life drastically has changed in the last few weeks. Restaurants, gyms, bars and shopping malls have closed, and only essential businesses are open as we try to social distance ourselves to slow the spread of COVID-19. We go to the grocery store only to see bare shelves and empty meat cases. Some are questioning our food and meat supply as well as the safety of these items.

Rest assured, what we are witnessing is panic buying and stockpiling. Simply, people are buying more and this is not an indication of shortages in the food supply chain.

Farming and meat processing are essential. According to Dr. Gregg Rentfrow, UK Extension Meat Science Specialist, recently the North American Meat In­sti­­tute reported a sharp increase in meat sales, which is evident at local grocery stores.

When COVID-19 began to spread globally, the meats in­dus­try with help from NAMI began to prepare for the increased demand. Furthermore, the USDA-Food Safety In­spec­tion Service continues to actively inspect both large meat processors as well as our local, small family-owned processors. There are no national food shortages, only certain items may not always be available.

Food safety has been a major concern in the meats industry over the last 30 years. However, during this pandemic some consumers are asking questions related to the transmission of COVID-19 through meat and food in general.

According to the FDA, there is no evidence COVID-19 can be transmitted through food or packaging. It is important to note COVID-19 causes respiratory illness and is spread via personal contact – unlike other pathogens associated with foodborne illness that cause gastrointestinal illness.

Meat processing facilities are cleaned and sanitized daily as well as the workers wear protective equipment to help prevent contamination.

These are trying times and people are scared, but the food supply chain is intact and there are no shortages predicted.

Furthermore, the meats industry has been laser focused on food safety and nothing has changed during this pandemic. Remember to maintain traditional buying habits and social distance when shopping.

Doug Shepherd is a Hardin County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources.