Cattle prices ‘hit the bottom’ at Manitoba auction sales

Recent sales point to interest in top-quality heifers

Prices carved out a bottom for themselves at most Manitoba auction marts during the week ended April 20, according to one industry expert. Bids for heavier cattle dipped a few dollars on average while lower weights also were under pressure. Steers in the 400- to 500-lb. class were generally in the mid-$230s to -$250s per hundredweight, but some lower-quality animals strayed below the $200 mark.

“When it comes to the market I think we’ve hit the bottom,” said Rick Wright of Heartland Order Buying Co.

There is still a big spread between prices paid for steers and heifers, as much as 35 cents in some cases, he said.

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Much of the demand came from the east and west, with minimal buying from the U.S.

Finished cattle are drawing reasonably steady bids. However, a downward adjustment is likely coming, according to Wright. The export market in the U.S. is strong and packers expect to have a big kill near the end of April.

“That’s pulling a few cattle ahead, which is a good thing,” he said. “If the export market falters because of the value of the dollar or something Donald Trump says, it will reflect back on what’s happening in the cattle market.”

Volumes were lighter as just over 6,600 animals made their way to market during the week, down from around 7,800 the week before.

A few heifer sales have been held around the province in recent days and top-end quality animals drew strong interest, according to Wright.

“So it’s indicating that we’re seeing a few more heifers held back and they’ll probably be turned out to grass and possibly be bred.”

Grass-type cattle of decent quality also enjoyed solid bids. Butcher cows traded fully steady to $1 higher while bulls topped out at $117.

“Those that have market-ready cattle to sell are getting a real good price for their finished cattle,” he added.

The weather is starting to improve for calving operations as the cold temperatures that plagued much of the province in mid-April slowly melt away.

Some western parts of the province are still quite soggy, which is making life difficult for ranchers, according to Wright.

“Grass is slow coming, which means the cows are going to be slower turned out to pasture this year than other years,” said Wright, adding some big operations still didn’t have any grass to speak of.

Yearlings that were bought with the intention of going onto grass are also being held back for the time being.

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Dave Sims

Dave Sims writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting. Dave has a deep background in the radio industry and is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg. He lives in Winnipeg with his wife and two beautiful children. His hobbies include reading, podcasting and following the Atlanta Braves.

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