Spring weather kept cattle auction yards across Manitoba busy during the last ‘official’ week of winter, as producers were busy moving animals before pastures green up and attention turns to field work.
“It’s been an incredibly busy month all over Manitoba for cattle marketing ever since things warmed up after the cold snap,” said Allan Munroe of Killarney Auction Mart.
“We’ll start to see numbers ease off a bit, but prices have stayed steady considering the volumes going through.”
About 12,000 head of feeder cattle were marketed across the province during the week, up from the 10,000 that moved through the rings the previous week.
Top-end feeder cattle bids held reasonably steady across the province during the week, with the best demand still for lighter animals suitable for going out to grass.
Demand for feeder cattle came from both eastern and western feedlots, with local buyers also looking to pick up more animals, according to Munroe.
The backlog in Ontario after the Cargill plant there was shut down earlier in the winter has been worked through, so they are more current in their purchases. Eastern buyers tend to pay up for quality animals, in order to make it worth their while to fill up a truck, which adds to the strength in the Manitoba market.
“They tend to take the gravy and the cream, and we love to let them,” Munroe said of the eastern demand for higher-quality animals.
Butcher cows have improved since late 2020, although they were off at the high end slightly this week. “Hopefully once we get into barbecue season they’ll start to perk up too,” Munroe said.
High feed grain prices remain a limiting factor in the cattle sector, with feedlots and backgrounders now hoping for better feed and forage supplies in the upcoming year.
Much of southern Manitoba is on the dry side, according to moisture maps, and in need of some precipitation. Dugouts are also low, and Munroe expected many areas will need more than just timely rains.
While some precipitation would help the grass, “it’s hard to haul water if the dugouts are empty,” he said.
With the dryness, “we could see guys who normally grass their calves sell a few of them in the spring instead.”
Last year at this time, the concern in the Killarney area was that it was too wet, causing seeding delays.
“This is a good time of year to have a drought, but we hope it doesn’t continue into April/May,” Munroe said.