Herd of purebred Saanen and Nubian goats in a dairy barn. (Photo by WilleeCole Photography / Shutterstock.com)
Herd of purebred Saanen and Nubian goats in a dairy barn. (Photo by WilleeCole Photography / Shutterstock.com)

By Audrey Hill
Student at Cal Poly

Like the rest of the world, COVID-19 has no doubt taken its toll on the residents of Kern County. The start of this decade has certainly been full of surprises; as the coronavirus gained news traction in early 2020, no one would have anticipated the hold it would place on society by mid-March. The number of cases continues to rise every day even with social distancing measures, and many of us are taking emergency quarantine and sanitation procedures to an extreme we’ve never experienced before. All of us are dealing with a massive disruption in our lives—one that will remain a part of our history for a very long time, but this will surely be a moment of solidarity for us all in the future.

As we sit quarantined at home, I’m sure most of us have found that our pets and livestock are more essential to our lives and routines than we realize. They keep us on a schedule and more importantly keep us company. So, what about the industries that cater to them? I checked in with local livestock businesses to ask what changes they’ve undergone and how sales have changed during such an unprecedented time.

Businesses like farm and feed stores play a crucial role in our county because of the sheer amount of backyard farms that rely solely on them to provide the feed people need for their animals. Stores like Round Up Feed & Pet Supply, Tractor Supply, Kushman’s Feed & Farm Supply and Rosedale Farrier Supply, to name a few, are very busy keeping up with the recent demands. Just as people are stocking up in toilet paper and flour, livestock and pet food isn’t staying very long on the shelves either. Seth Kushman from Kushman’s Feed & Farm Supply said that “[his] feed sales and deliveries have maintained steady, especially for dog and cat food, but the sales of most luxury items have completely stopped.” He also touched on the resilience of the county’s farmers and ranchers, saying that if there is anyone that can find the strength needed to combat COVID-19, it is the ag community of Kern County. Thankfully, feed and supplies are still readily available even for those who buy in bulk, due to the diligence of essential workers like Seth Kushman. However, some businesses are having a harder time staying afloat.

Mike Poncetta of Maggenti Show Goats says that feed and supplements have not been an issue to find yet, but his sales are another story. As we enter prime time to buy prospect show quality animals for shows like the Kern County Fair, auctions are usually popping up all over California. This is where breeders like Poncetta and local youth wanting to get involved with livestock can come together to buy and sell these animals. However, due to COVID-19, most of these auctions have been postponed and even some shows have even been cancelled. Poncetta fears that “with jackpots and fairs being cancelled, there is hesitation to purchase animals because of the uncertainty of future fairs and livestock competitions,” and is thus driving his sales down. As many breeders deal with this same issue, Poncetta notes that auctions and even some livestock shows have been moved to an online format to keep the show stock industry moving at the same pace. He also thinks that online shows and auctions could be the way of the future in the show stock industry. 

These are stressful times for many of us, but by continuing to be independent and hard-working while finding strength from our animals, we can stay sane and hopefully get through this pandemic with relative ease and speed. We are a strong group of people with the drive and heart to do the right thing, and by staying home and choosing to support small businesses we can help keep ourselves and loved ones safe and secure. Although the state of the world changes day by day, and there are many uncertainties that lie ahead, the ag community of Kern County continues to be stronger than ever. We may be experiencing history being made, but with an optimistic outlook and some will-power we can overcome any hardship put in front of us.

Ms. Hill is an Animal Science student at Cal Poly (SLO) with plans to become a large animal veterinarian. She grew up in Bakersfield spending most of the time in the ag community, and she’s proud to call it her home. “I’m honored to represent Kern County’s small ag at home as well as at Cal Poly.”