MSU Extension animal agriculture team focuses on providing assistance during time of disruption for the livestock industry

MSU Extension animal agriculture team assists farmers with managing risk, operation flow, and addresses industry disruption while protecting the economic stability of animal agriculture operations across Michigan.

Pork carcasses hanging up
Pork processing plants experienced critical closures and delays because of COVID-19 infections in employees.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented disruptions to farms across Michigan. During the spring months of 2020, the animal agriculture industry, specifically the pork, small ruminant, and milk sectors of the industry, found itself in an unparalleled situation. The processing plants that service the pork and small ruminant industry were experiencing processing capacity delays and shutdowns that were a direct result of COVID-19 outbreaks in employees. Milk processing plants had decreased demand due to the closure of restaurants and schools.

At one point in time, the slaughter capacity of the industry was down to nearly 60% of normal capacity, which sent ripples through the industry, from the processing plants to the farms that supply the animals. In the Midwest, several plants were subject to this situation and Michigan’s pork, lamb and goat producers were not immune to the effects. Farming operations also had to become adept at protecting their workforce from unintentional spread of disease by increasing human safety practices focused on stopping the spread of COVID-19. These combined issues resulted in a turbulent year for farms and the people who are employed by these operations.

Using a multi-pronged approach, MSU Extension educators focused on the animal agriculture industry across Michigan and worked on numerous levels—with farmers, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, industry associations, and with federal agencies to identify and respond to issues brought on by the disruptions. MSU Extension helped farmers develop plans to alter how their operations functioned to account for processing delays and change in demand.

Educators also worked with regulatory agencies to find solutions to disposal of products that did not have market access, finding applicable and environmentally friendly options that could be used. Members of the MSU Extension animal agriculture team also worked to develop educational materials that focused on consumers, helping them better understand food labels as they began to prepare more meals at home during lockdown. These efforts and others that supported Michigan’s animal agriculture industry are highlighted in the newly released 2020 MSU Extension Impact Reports.

A brief overview of the efforts of MSU Extension to support the animal agriculture industry in Michigan during the COVID-19 pandemic, can be found on the Agriculture and Agribusiness Impacts page. Specific information can be found by contacting a member of the animal agriculture leadership team: Charles Gould at, Sarah Fronczak at or Beth Ferry at

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