Wet Pastures, Bugs Slow Livestock Gains

– Todd Wallace

“Instead of being out there grazing and breeding, they are standing around in a little circle trying to fight the bugs.”

Cattle producers in Manitoba can expect to buy feed come fall because cur rent pas ture conditions are limiting the weight gains, according to industry officials.

During the week ended July 16, cattle movement was said to be slow as the industry is experiencing the seasonal summer shutdown. However, prices for cattle were steady to strong, ranging from $30 to $60 per hundred weights, or cwt, for slaughter cattle and $78 to $125 per cwt for feeder cattle, according to auction yard results. At the auction yards, feeder cattle were in high demand, but the quality of the animals varied.

However, the weight of cattle that will be hitting auction yards this fall is in question due to poor pasture conditions.

The summer season is typically when cattle producers send their cattle to pastures to fatten before selling them in the fall. However, due to the excess moisture conditions in Manitoba, many pasture lands are forcing cattle to higher ground which could affect their weight gains, according to Pam Iwanchysko, forage production specialist, and Tod Wallace, beef extension specialist, with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives.

“Cattle are … not utilizing much of the pastures other than the high ground areas,” said Iwanchysko.

“Livestock weight gains are significantly reduced because of that, the grass is full of water so they’re not getting a lot of fibre in their stomach and the weight gains are significantly less than producers are hoping for,” said Iwanchysko.

Wallace said that bugs this year have also been a factor, with mosquitoes and black flies being the worst. He farms himself and said in the pasture he has seen packs of cattle huddled together, as well as bulls lying in the grass in an attempt to protect themselves.

“Instead of being out there grazing and breeding, they are standing around in a little circle trying to fight the bugs,” said Wallace.

With the wet weather conditions in Manitoba, it is expected that cattle producers will want to source feed for their cattle before auction in the fall. However, the excess moisture has affected forage crops not only in Manitoba but across Western Canada, and has the potential to change the price of feed.

“There’s not going to be a lot of slough hay this year and in the southwest region of (Manitoba) a lot of producers rely on that for about 50 per cent of their hay production,” said Wallace.

However, Wallace said producers who started to access their hayfields recently have been surprised by the quality and he suspects that the yields will counter the loss of acres, leaving feed prices steady.

“Yields on some of the hay fields are really going to be good, but then there’s going to be a lot of lost acres because of excess moisture,” explained Wallace. “I think it will even out and I suspect most alfalfa hay will be around the normal price it is every other year.”

Haying in some parts of the province has begun, but no significant progress has been made, according to Iwanchysko. She said that consistent warm, dry weather is needed in Manitoba for forage croplands to dry out and for haying to make significant progress.

“If we get some good weather I think things will improve where producers can get out onto some of their tame hayfields,” said Iwanchysko.

But if unfavourable weather conditions continue to cycle through, “it’s going to have a significant impact of forage and livestock producers in the near future here,” said Iwanchysko.

FROM THE AUCTION FLOORS:

Note: All prices in Cdn$ per cwt. These prices also generally represent the top one-third of sales reported by the auction yard.

Ashern Livestock mart: Ashern is closed until mid-August.

Gladstone Auction Mart: Closed until August 16.

Grunthal Livestock Auction Mart: There were too few cattle for a market report this week.

Summer schedule: Auctions will be held every other week in July and August.

Heartland Livestock Services, Brandon: A total of 296 cattle were on offer in Brandon during the week.

A1-A2 steers traded from $79-$83.25; A1-A2 heifers $78-$81; D1-D2 cows $55-$60.75, age verified $55-$62.50; D3 cows $48-$55 and good bulls $68-$72.25.

Feeder steers weighing 900-1,000 lbs. sold from $85-$92; 800-900 lbs. $98-$105.25; 700-800 lbs. $105-$115; 600-700 lbs. $110-$122.50; 500-600 lbs. $110-$123; and 400-500 lbs. $115-$119.50.

Feeder heifers weighing 900-1,000 lbs. sold from $80-$89.50; 800-900 lbs. $85-$92.50; 700-800 lbs. $90-$107.50; 600-700 lbs. $100-$107.50 and 500-600 lbs. $108-$112.75.

Summer schedule: Auctions will be held every Tuesday.

Heartland Livestock Services, Virden: There were about 419 cattle sold at the sale held July 14.

Butcher steers brought $78-$83 while butcher heifers sold from $77-$81.50. Age-verified/young cows sold from $57-$61; D1-D2 cows $55-$59; D3 cows $52-$55; shelly cows $48-$52 and mature bulls $69-$73.25.

Feeder steers weighing 900-1,000 lbs. brought $87-$96.50; 800-900 lbs. $95-$104.25; 700-800 lbs. $98-$108; 600-700 lbs. $105-$118; 500-600 lbs. $110-$124; 400-500 lbs. $110-$125.

Feeder heifers weighing 900-1,000 lbs. traded from $78-$88; 800-900 lbs. $85-$94; 700-800 lbs. $90-$102; 600-700 lbs. $98-$107; 500-600 lbs. $100-$109 and 400-500 lbs. $100-$111.

Summer schedule: Auctions will be held every Wednesday.

Killarney Auction Mart: Killarney is now closed until mid-August.

Pipestone Livestock Sales: Pipestone is closed until the end of August.

Ste. Rose Auction Mart Ltd.: The next sale will be held on August 12.

Taylor Auctions, Melita, Man.: The next sale will be held on August 19.

Winnipeg Livestock Sales Ltd. There were about 300 head of cattle sold during the week ending on July 16.

In the slaughter market, choice steers and heifers sold from $80-$83; select steers and heifers $77-$80; dry fed cows $44-$47; good fleshed $40-$44; lean $34-$40; young age verified $45-$56.50 and good bulls $62-$74.50.

Feeder steers weighing 800-900 lbs. brought $92-$97.50; 700-800 lbs. $97-$103 and 500-600 lbs. $105-$118.

Feeder heifers weighing 800-900 lbs. traded from $85-$90; 700-800 lbs. $90-$95; 600-700 lbs. $93-$99 and 500-600 lbs. $95-$100.

Summer schedule: Winnipeg will hold a sale on Fridays only.

Amanda Lefley writes for Resource News International

(RNI), a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and

commodity market reporting.

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