Building Resilience for Livestock and Dairy Producers

Offering information on how to navigate market changes due to this pandemic.

The most common refrain we are hearing from livestock producers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic is the need to change how they market their products. Some have never tried direct marketing meat; others suddenly need to switch their marketing from in-person to online.

Below is a collection of resources we’re highlighting because they can provide you with the information you need to navigate these changes. We will continue to update our farm resilience resource page as new information becomes available.

We send best wishes to our small dairy producers who have been very hard hit during this pandemic. There are a few resources shared below related to managing costs that we hope are helpful.

Let us know if there are other issues you are considering, in this time of COVID-19, using our form. We will try to address some of these in future messages.

Updated Guide Provides Regulatory Information for Marketing Livestock and Poultry Products

The Cornell Small Farms Program is pleased to announce the release of an update to the Livestock Direct Marketing Guide: Regulations Every Livestock Producer Should Know. Understanding how to legally classify, slaughter and sell your meat and poultry is crucial for running a successful operation. Laws that dictate food safety regulations change often and can be unclear. This guide provides current information to meat and poultry producers on how to legally sell their products in New York State. While this guide, like our other guides, is specific to New York State regulations, much of the information is pertinent to all livestock and poultry producers. This guide can be accessed for free as a downloadable PDF file.

Cornell’s Pro-Dairy Offers COVID-19 Support

The Cornell Pro-Dairy Program has resources focused on coping with challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes informative podcasts and webinars about managing the herd and your farm labor through this crisis.

Pro-Dairy also coordinates the Dairy Advancement Program, which aims to assist New York dairy farmers to position their farm for long term economic and environmental sustainability. Funds are used to engage specialists for the implementation of record-keeping systems, financial analysis and to create business plans, to develop farmstead environmental plans, including design of practices outlined in the farm comprehensive nutrient management plan. For more information, contact Pro-Dairy’s Caroline H. Potter at, or your local Cornell Cooperative Extension educator.

Impacted by Slaughterhouse Closures Due to COVID? 

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is establishing a National Incident Coordination Center to provide direct support to producers whose animals cannot move to market as a result of processing plant closures due to COVID-19. Going forward, they will be assisting to help identify potential alternative markets if a producer is unable to move animals, and if necessary, advise and assist on depopulation and disposal methods.

Additionally, the USDA’s Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS) will be providing state level technical assistance to producers and will provide cost share assistance under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) in line with program guidelines for disposal.

If you are a livestock producer in NYS who is impacted by slaughterhouse closures and unable to move animals as a result, please contact Nancy Glazier at to provide the details of your situation (breed, number and type of animals, location).

Low Interest Rates for FSA’s Farm Storage Facility Loans

The rates for our Farm Storage Facility Loans are currently very low, and it may be worth taking advantage of these rates if your farm is in need of storage. These loans are available to anyone who grows an eligible commodity, regardless of if they can get credit elsewhere, and are to be used to build or buy permanent or portable storage and related equipment.

Sign Up for the MeatSuite to Sell Bulk Quantities of Meat

The MeatSuite website helps connect producers with consumers willing to buy bulk quantities of meat, whether quarters of beef, halves of pigs, 10+ chickens, or a bulk box of mixed cuts. Any producer in NYS can create a listing and add their products to it. We encourage CCE offices to publicize this site to make sure consumers in your county are aware of this resource to buy local meat.

Grazing Can Help Reduce Costs

Capturing more of your forage from pasture is an opportunity to lower your cost of production. Fay Benson, a small dairy specialist with Cornell’s South Central NY Dairy Team, explains how allowing animals to harvest their own forage and spread their own manure has been shown to reduce costs of machinery, fuel, and labor. Connect with your local extension educators for more support on expanding grazing on your farm.

Additional grazing information can be found in the list of Adaptive Grazing Resources curated by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). There are podcasts, tutorials, and videos about grazing for livestock beyond dairy cattle.

Considering a Value-Added Enterprise?

This may be a good time to start exploring something for the future. Penn State Extension has an Intro to Value-Added Dairy online class that is available for free until May 10. In this online course, learn about producing dairy products, such as yogurt and cheese.

For Additional Information:

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets released Interim Guidance for Animal Care Operations on March 22, 2020. This guide provides sanitation procedures and recommendations for all animal care operations throughout NYS.

The American Association of Meat Processors has curated a list of COVID-19 Resources. The resources range from labor laws, food safety guidelines, and small business assistance to training videos.

The Pennsylvania Center for Dairy Excellence has a library of resources to help dairy farm families and small business owners navigate the COVID-19 crisis, including crisis management tools, stress and wellness resources, and financial planning information.

The Livestock Marketing Association has curated resources for states nationwide including current guidance and sample letters for authorization of travel for livestock haulers, dealers, auctioneers, and more.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has provided guidance for animal health and safety during this time.

Kacey Deamer

Kacey is the Communications Manager for the Cornell Small Farms Program. In this role, she manages all storytelling and outreach across the program’s website, social media, e-newsletter, magazine and more. Kacey has worked in communications and journalism for more than a decade, with a primary focus on science and sustainability.