TOPPENISH - The Toppenish Livestock Commission held its first sale yesterday, Monday, since the announcement that a case of mad cow disease had been detected in the Yakima Valley. While Monday's hastily organized sale can only be reported as fair, Lower Valley sales yard officials are feeling a bit more secure about the future of the beef market.
The livestock sales usually slow down during the Christmas holidays, but last week's news caused local cattle growers to fear the bottom would fall out of the beef market.
With uncertainty about the immediate future of beef sales in the Lower Valley, Toppenish Livestock Commission officials decided it would close the popular sales yard until further notice.
This past Saturday, commission staff members announced the Monday sale and any future sales would be canceled until further notice, said John Top, a commission spokesman.
Top said the commission was prepared to wait out the news that the United States' first case of mad cow disease has been found just 20 miles east of Toppenish on a Mabton dairy farm.
"We knew there would be a lot of uncertainty in the market following that news," Top said.
But, at the last minute, responding to a demand for cows, the sales yard owners decided to hold its regular Monday sale.
The numerous buyers calling with demands for beef convinced the commission to go ahead with its regular Monday sale. "We started getting calls from buyers Saturday needing beef," said Top.
"So we got on the phones and started calling our suppliers," he explained.
He said Monday's market prices were "fair" and just shy of 100 animals passed through the sales arena.
"We didn't know how many bids we'd get under the circumstances," he said, noting the buyer response was good enough to convince the commission to resume its regular sales schedule.
Top said the commission will hold its regularly scheduled sales beginning Jan. 5.
"We'll hold sales Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, like normal," he said.
"We're feeling better about the situation," he added.
"Beef is still moving off the grocery counter and processors need cows, so we're going to sell to them," he said.
. Julia Hart can be contacted at
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