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Glen Nicoll’s Manitoba Roundup – for May. 21, 2009

Glen Nicoll

Where w e had been once surrounded by cows that were discounted in price because of an oversupply, the lack of demand had turned into $400 bred cows. That picture went fuzzy late last month when XL Foods shut down its Moose Jaw plant because of what it termed a shortage of cattle, both fed and non-fed. XL owners, Nilsson Brothers, said they would recall the 200 staff in late September when the cows come home off grass. The latest big picture stats from the West on beef cows are the January 1 numbers that showed a Prairie cow herd down 250,000 head from a year earlier on just over 4 million head. The slaughter heifers were down 16,000 head on a quarter of a million and the steers over a year were down 30,000 ending up at 170,000. Year over year slaughter stats show so far this year the cow kill is only 80 per cent of last year

The million-head capacity in Alberta and Saskatchewan feedlots has been underfilled for about the last year and feedlots have seen some finished cattle price improvements, as the showlists of cattle ready for the rail have been shorter of late. The steer kill is running 11 per cent over last year with heifers 4 per cent higher. Cow slaughter is 20 per cent under last year.


We were front and centre for the 700 head in Gladstone May 5 and the buyers’ section was brimming. The cows contributed 100 head.

A slowdown in the feeder run has been expected, but the trailers keep showing up at most marketing points. Across the Prairies, auction mart volumes so far this year are just a bit above last year. Feeder exports to the U. S. at just over a quarter of a million are 25 per cent under last year at this time.

In checking with other marts, and reading the Canfax report, there were some pairs pushed over the $1,400 mark by local bidders. The bred cows in the West were selling for $900 without too much singing from the auctioneer. Gladstone had a 1,275-lb. cow-calf pair of young tans trading at $975.


Light steers in Gladstone were elevated to 33 per cent selling over $1.30. The old benchmark in the $1.20s brought home 31 per cent and the remaining 36 per cent sold under $1.20 per pound. Peak price was $1.37 for the 480-lb. Angus-X ($557 per head). Some 403-lb. Char-smokys settled in the middle of the stream at $1.25 ($504) and the coarse characteristics kept the 462-lb. Chars at $1.12 ($517). The purported lower yield and reduced marbling propensity helped to hold the 490-lb. Herf-X at $1.05 ($514). When the bidding was done they figured 10 per cent of the 5s were worthy of $1.30 with 63 per cent in the $.20s and 27 per cent under $1.20. Weight at $1.30 was only up to 505 lbs. on the Angus-X ($656) while the weighty 585-lb. smoky sold for $1.24 ($725). Some 598-lb. Char-Simms settled at $1.16 ($694).

Light heifers had a local helping hand, which had 40 per cent trading right around $1.20. The next 42 per cent were between there and $1.05, leaving 18 per cent under $1.05. At the $1.20 wall were the 435-lb. Char-Simm-Red Angus ($522) and the 470-lb. Char-Xs ($564).

Steers at 6s sorted into 22 per cent at $1.20 or above, 53 per cent in the dollar-teens and 25 per cent under $1.10. Up top were the pair of 548-lb. Char-Xs at $1.24 ($816) and the age-verified 650-lb. smoky-Chars sold for $1.23 ($799) as one of the few calf packages travelling with paper. Some 686-lb. red Simms went out the gate at $1.18 ($809) and in keeping with the 25 per cent of Manitoba steers that come with questionable castration practices, the coarse 635-lb. Angus was kept to 97 cents ($616).

The south is still hungry for grassers. Alberta averaged $1.14 on the 6s. Nebraska had the better 6s at US$1.14 (C$1.32). The little ones at 4s down south were selling up to the upper US$1.40s (C$1.70).

Seven-weight steers were in demand to go either to feed or grass. We watched 39 per cent sell over $1.10, 37 per cent over the buck and 24 per cent under the dollar. The “do not cross” sign went up at $1.14 for most. But the 705-lb. Gelbvieh-X found bids until $1.15 ($811). The $1.14 bought the 700-lb. Red Angus-Herf ($798). Some 703-lb. (Char-Simms weren’t showing any real discount reason when they reached the final bid of $1.08 ($759) and the coarse 788-lb. Simms stopped at 96 cents ($756)


Futures for feeder cattle are at US$1 (C$1.15) for August through October. Fat futures have perked up a bit to get to a US89-cent (C$1.04) December and they hiked to US92 cents (C$1.08) for next April. Nebraska 8-weight steers were averaging US97 cents (C$1.13).

Heavier cattle were feeling a little price pressure here and in Saskatchewan according to Canfax charts due to the rise in the dollar. There was still some package premiums on the larger lots listed on the Internet sales which helped Alberta steers at 8s to average $1.04 and the heifers at 8s sold to a 96-cent average in feeding country.

Gladstone steers at 8s stalled under 95 cents leaving 69 per cent under 90 cents and 30 per cent in the low 90s. For the 93-cent peak you could have purchased the 805-lb. Char ($748) and the fleshy 888-lb. Simms were worth 87 cents ($772). At 9s, the 912-lb. Char-Xs sold for 93 cents ($848) and the 900-lb. Simms stalled at 84 cents ($756). Heavier ones were in the low 80s and the fat 1,305-lb. Simm sold for 74 cents ($966).


Almost 6 cents slid off the fats in the West, down to 91 cents even though XL’s Moose Jaw plant was primarily a cow facility. Ontario kept an average of $1.

Cows showed no change in some marts, according to some reports and up to about a 3-cent drop at some others. Gladstone cows came with a fair amount of paper and the birth certificates slid 10 per cent over 60 cents with another 17 per cent in the 50s. The 40s and lower bought 73 per cent discounts cut the skinny 1,325-lb. Char to 29 cents ($384) and they figured the blind 1,230-lb. Char was going to have trouble on the trip so they compensated their costs to 2 cents ($24).

Heifers were bid into the low 70s alongside the 1,175-lb. Char at 72 cents ($584).

Bulls were solidly in the upper 50s with the big old 2,080-lb. Char sitting at 60 cents ($1,248).

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