The effects of this winter’s cold temperatures are starting to become evident as cattle in Manitoba seem to be showing up at auctions weighing slightly more than last year.
“Cattle eat well in the cold and they eat more when it’s cold,” said Allan Munroe of Killarney Auction Mart.
Last year’s winter was difficult on the animals due to all the blowing snow and wind, he added; if cattle are uncomfortable and trying to keep out of the wind, they don’t eat.
Fortunately, that has changed this year as frigid temperatures have kept cattle eating feed more often than not.
Dry conditions in southern Manitoba have also impacted the movement of this year’s herd, he said. “There were cattle pulled off wheat fields and put into feedlots earlier than they normally would have been due to the dry situation down there.”
That’s pushing a lot of cattle that would normally finish in the summer months into fall, he added.
Prices held relatively firm compared to last week at most of the province’s eight major auction outlets. Heavier steers saw some weakening along with the middle weights. Slaughter bulls ticked slightly higher along with some heifers. However, cattle with heavy flesh, horns and coarse heads were being discounted.
Cattle in the 400- to 500-lb. range have steadily been gaining strength, Munroe said. Floor bids were generally in the $230-per-hundredweight range, stretching up to as high as $272.50.
“The guys are optimistic that down the road those cattle will continue to pay,” he said.
Prices are quite a bit stronger on a yearly basis, he added.
Demand is coming from all directions, even the U.S.
“We’re starting to see some cattle moving south, and the East wants cattle, but pen space is an issue,” he said. “We get a load or two that head out to Alberta every week.”
Over 14,000 head made their way to market compared to 10,600 the week before.
Feed doesn’t appear to be an issue for most ranchers right now, according to Munroe.
Some weakness could come the next week or two, as U.S. futures have been weakening recently. April-dated contracts fell 4.5 per cent on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange last week due to supply issues in the U.S. There are fears that the U.S. supply of cattle is rising too quickly and the pressure could be felt into summer.