It was a surprisingly busy week for Manitoba auction marts during the week ended Feb. 16, as over 9,000 animals made their way to market, up from just 7,700 the week before.
“We saw some good volume this week,” said Rick Wright of Heartland Order Buying Co. “Everyone was up.”
Strong interest from eastern buyers helped to keep prices steady, he said. “Ontario interest on exotic-cross calves and real top-end black calves helped push the market.”
Heavyweight cattle over 900 lbs. sold very well, he said, though he added the sooner they are harvested, the better the price.
The market wasn’t as strong, though, for animals in the 750- to 900-lb. range.
“They’re going to come out in the summertime and there will be a glut of fats on both sides of the border,” he said, adding market uncertainty was making buyers reluctant to spend big dollars on that class of cattle.
Once animals get under the 700-lb. threshold, though, the buying is more intense.
“These cattle are extremely strong; they’re going to come off grass in the fall, futures look good and the dollar looks decent at that particular time,” he said.
Future prices for yearlings off the grass in late August, September and October also look bright, according to Wright.
A lot of ranchers made money off the yearlings last year, he said, and have reinvested back into the calf market, which is why they are so strong right now.
Some Manitoba operators said the volume of cows may have been a touch lower this week, although heiferettes were generally $2-$4 higher.
“There’s quite a spread between the heifers, as much as 20 to 30 cents,” said Wright. “So we’re going to see some producers keep their heifers at home and maybe breed a few more.”
Bred heifers were selling for good prices last fall, though, so some buyers would likely be shopping around. “Those guys who do that on an annual basis will step back into the market fairly soon,” he said.
One concern for some ranchers is the amount of water in their dugouts, according to Wright. “Some wells are starting to dry up,” he said.
There wasn’t a lot of snow available for spring run-off either, but there’s still a lot of time, he added.