Ranchers are optimistic that the demand for beef will expand as consumers recognize the value of keeping grocery store shelves stocked. “All of us in agriculture were helped in one way by the pandemic,” Mori Ranches’ Sam Mori said on Monday, Jan. 10. “Consumers went to the store and the realization set in that the people raising our food are probably the most important people in the world, right now.” The Lovelock rancher said that if the drought softens some, ranchers could see good times ahead. The University of Nevada, Reno, is hosting the annual Cattlemen’s Update in sessions across Nevada this week. On Monday, Mori joined Barnes Ranches’ Tom Barnes and David Stix of Stix Cattle Co. on a panel in Gardnerville discussing cattle markets and production. Gardnerville veterinarian Randy Wallstrum and State Veterinarian Amy Mitchell participated in a panel on animal health. Barnes said the new variant of the coronavirus is expected to affect packing house staffing in the first quarter of the year. The ranchers briefly discussed proposed — and, controversial — slaughterhouses in Carson City and Carson Valley. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” one said. “If they couldn’t build one in Yerington, getting it done in a more populated area would be even more difficult.” They were more optimistic about a slaughterhouse that is expected to be done by the end of 2022 north of Twin Falls, Idaho — True West Beef is building a 500-animal a day plant in Jerome. Meanwhile, there are about 245,000 head of cattle in Nevada, which one rancher described as “too many to feed and not enough to pay the bills.” Barnes added that consumers are seeking more choice and prime cuts of beef. “Consumers like prime beef, but you need to make sure the type of cattle fit the environment you’re trying to raise them in,” he said. Stix said lighter calves are selling faster now with those less than 400 pounds going quickly. “Prices are not as high, but plenty high for light-weight cattle and they were gobbled up,” he said. “A lot are going to the California (grass-fed) market.” The cattlemen also met in person in Fallon on Tuesday and will wrap up in Winnemucca on Friday.