Maple Creek, Sask. — Ranchers are all too familiar with the mindset behind the phrase “next year country,” which implies hope for better times ahead.
But as one rancher at the Cow Town Livestock Exchange put it, it looks like they’ve now entered “this year country” instead.
It’s no wonder cattle producers feel more optimistic: buyers on Tuesday morning at the southwestern Saskatchewan market were snatching canner cows for up to $1.06 a pound. One young, light bull ran up to $1.65. Those prices will buy a lot of $6 breakfasts in the exchange’s cafeteria.
Cattle prices have surged since January, said Brent Weiss, auctioneer and co-owner of the Cow Town Livestock Exchange at Maple Creek, about 100 km east of Medicine Hat, Alta.
“It was on a steady keel up until then and it’s just accelerated since.”
Both feeder cattle and live cattle futures prices hit new highs last week. August and October futures for feeder cattle breached $200 per hundredweight (cwt) on Friday. Live cattle futures for June settled at $137.80, while October futures hit $144.50.
Strong choice beef cutout values and anticipated tight beef supplies for the fall bumped live cattle futures, which in turn helped boost feeder cattle.
Weiss was optimistic about cattle prices this year.
“I think the market is going to be pretty strong,” he said. “Our fat market out into the future looks good.”
Down the road, however, people should seriously look at livestock price insurance, he added. “You can figure it out and you can mitigate your risk with it.” [Related story]
Weiss said most things look favourable for the cattle industry in his part of the country.
“The only fly in the ointment this year, that I can see… is the weather,” he said. The Cypress Hills region of the southwest is short on rain and some ranchers are already sourcing hay.
On top of that, a severe localized hail storm on Monday broke windows, shredded leaves from trees and lilac bushes and may have damaged pasture and hayland south of Maple Creek.
As it was, hay supplies were already low on ranches, Weiss said. “The carryover is sucked up.”
— Lisa Guenther is a field editor for Grainews based at Livelong, Sask. Follow her at @LtoG on Twitter.