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Glen Nicoll – for Mar. 5, 2009

Glen Nicoll is unable to cover livestock markets from his regular perch in the auction mart bleachers these days, but last week was able to take in the Ashern Auction Mart sale over the Internet.

U. S. beef cow inventory as of the beginning of 2009 is down a million from the year earlier at 31.1 million, with 5.5 million replacement heifers. That puts breeding females about the same as 10 years ago.

The herd reduction is not totally driven by market conditions. The U. S. drought map has a brown blob up the middle which means Oklahoma, Kansas, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri and parts of North and South Dakota and Montana are “abnormally dry or in moderate drought.” There are areas of “extreme” or “exceptional” drought in much of Texas, where the cow herd is about equal to our national herd and drought has already caused some cattle deaths.

The Canadian beef cow numbers in Stats Canada’s Jan. 1 inventory didn’t show as significant of a drop as the empty corrals might have suggested. Canada is down 330,000 head of beef cows to 4.6 million.

Beef replacement heifers were 537,000, down from 595,000 last year. Manitoba beef cow numbers dropped about 39,000 to 575,000. Replacements came down 3,000 head to 59,000. With the calves, fed cattle and dairy added in, the province had 1,280,000 cattle compared to 1,355,000 last January.


There were 2,393 head in the pens at Ashern last week, with the large-volume trade 6-or 7-weight steers and 6-weight heifers. Grass fever had afflicted a couple more semi-local producers and they added their few cents worth to a couple of weight breaks.

Lightweight steers had the top end pulled over $1.20 to buy 46% while 49% were in the dollar teens and the remaining 5% stayed under the buck. Up at the $1.26 top bid were the 435-lb. Angus-X ($548 per head) while the 55-lb. Red Angus-Xs ended up at $1.18 ($437). Some 450-lb. tall smokeys stalled at $1.04 ($468). Week over week they put just over a nickel on the 5s. That was accomplished by buying 79% over $1.10, the top end taken by 535-lb. Red Angus-Xs at $1.20 ($642). In the mid-range, the 565-lb. Char-Xs and smokey-Simms sold for $1.04 ($687.) A coarse 595-lb. pair of spotted Simms stopped at 96 cents ($571).

Steers at 6s were sorted with 43% over $1.10, 50% over the dollar and 7% under a buck. Some 615-lb. Red Angus-Xs had the bids stop at $1.15 ($707) and the 620-lb. Char-Xs sold at $1.04 ($645). The 699-lb. Herf-Red Angus ended up at 96 cents ($671) and the 665-lb. Angus-X bulls were bought for 86 cents ($646).

Seven-weight steers divided evenly at the dollar mark. An 80-head package of preconditioned 794-lb. smokeys stopped at 94 cents ($746). Discounts applied to the 720-lb. Herf-Simms (for an 81-cent finish $583). They topped at $1.04 for a load of 735-lb. Char-Xs ($764).Some 700-lb. red Simms stayed at $1.01 ($707) and the 725-lb. Char-Simms hit 98 cents ($710). Pre-conditioned 794-lb. smokeys stopped at 94 cents ($746).

Light heifers straddled the $1 line, elevating 25% over $1.05, the peak just barely over that mark. On top were the 488-lb. red Simms at $1.07 ($522). A bunch of 399-lb. Angus-Xs in both colours brought 97 cents ($387) and the fleshy 320-lb. smokey sold for 80 cents ($256). Fiveweight heifer sellers were the beneficiary of local interests, helping to push 12% over $1.05 and 72% over the buck, leaving 16% under the dollar.

Six-weight heifers had enough new interest to move the average up 6 cents. That came from having 61% over the dollar, 31% in the 90s and 8% under 90. ($) The ringful of 614-lb. (smokeys and Char-Simms set the peak at $1.06 ($651). A double weigh of 623-lb. Chars and CharSimms stopped at $1.02 ($635) and the narrower 655-lb. Angus-Xs notched 97 cents ($635). For 695-lb. smokeys it was a 93-cent winning bid ($646.).


Steers at 8s had the dollar line again as a benchmark with 32% on top mostly taken by the 57-head preconditioned package of 830-lb. smokeys, tans and reds at $1.02. The same colour of vaccinated steers at the same weight with age verification garnered 99 cents ($822). Initial drafts were priced around the 885lb. Char-Simms at 92 cents ($809). Heifers at 8s had 45% in the upper 90s topped at 99 cents by the 885-lb. red Simms ($876). Mid-range, 815-lb. Char-Simms brought 94 cents ($766). Steers at 9s were locked into the 80s from a peak of 87 cents on the 995-lb. Angus-Simms and smokey-Simms ($866) with 940-lb. Char-Simms at 82 cents ($772) and the 945-lb. Holsteins bringing 48 cents ($954). Some 1,022-lb. Char-Simms sold for 87 cents ($889). The 1,075-lb. Char-Simm heifers were held to 61 cents ($656).


Cows travelling with birth certificates topped at 50 cents for the 1,685-lb. Herf-Simm ($842) while the fleshy 1,448-lb. Char-Simms stalled at 42 cents ($608). Some 1,405-lb. Simms sold for 36 cents ($505). The skinny 1,265-lb. Herf-Simms stalled at 30 cents ($379). Other low-yielding cows were priced 10 to 15 cents under that with some down to the single digits.

Bulls with paper were up to the 62 cents on the 2,050-lb. Simm ($1,271) while a young 1,865-lb. Char sold for 58 cents ($1,082) and the underfed 1,630-lb. Char brought 50 cents ($815.)

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