DENISON, Iowa – Tight supplies of slaughter-ready cattle have spelled disaster for some beef-processing plants. But Tyson Foods Inc. had good news for the employees of its Denison, Iowa processing facility — the Denison plant will continue processing cattle.

In 2012, Tyson announced that upgrades to the company's Dakota City, Neb. beef plant could lead to the closure of the Denison facility. The improvements will add roughly 200 production jobs and increase the number of cattle to be processed at the Dakota City plant. At the time, Tyson said there would be no need for supplemental beef supplies from the Denison plant.

But steady downsizing of the US cattle herd compounded by periods of sharp declines in cattle numbers due to drought meant fewer cattle sent to slaughter. Also having an impact on cattle numbers is the decision by some major processors to no longer accept cattle for slaughter that have been fed Zilmax, a feed additive.

Declining supplies of fed cattle forced some of Tyson's competitors to close processing facilities. But those same plant closures — coupled with reduced prices for feed — saved the Denison facility.
Nearly 400 employees work at the Denison plant, which is a slaughter-only facility.