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Cattle sales accelerate after post-holiday slump

USDA’s Cattle on Feed report gave the futures a boost

Following the new year slump, sales are starting to pick up again at Manitoba auction marts.

“It just felt a lot better this week. It was like (the buyers) wanted them again, before you just wondered… does somebody want them?” said Rick Gabrielle with Heartland Livestock Services at Virden.

Over 8,400 head of cattle were sold through the province’s eight major auction marts for the week ended Jan. 26. In Virden the volume was down to 1,307, from 2,078 head the previous week, but according to Gabrielle, demand was better.

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The previous week, the usual cattle buyer from out east didn’t attend the sale, but this week he was there, which helped increase demand, according to Gabrielle.

“The majority of the cattle were going west… the eastern buyer was here and calves (were) going to go east again too,” he said.

Volume was down, however, from the larger-than-normal fall run. At Virden there were 8,500 head more cattle sold in 2017 than in 2016.

“A lot of people were moving their calves sooner. So that’s maybe a factor of why our number was down (this week),” Gabrielle said.

Looking toward the upcoming week, however, sale numbers will be up again. There were already 2,100 head of cattle counted at the presort, Gabrielle said.

Prices are similar to this time last year. Around the province 800- to 900-lb. steers were getting around $170-$190 per hundredweight (cwt). Heifers the same weights were lower, at $155-$165/cwt.

“I had a local seller call me and wonder what his seven-weight steers would bring. We averaged $180.60 with the seven-weight steers yesterday and a year ago he got $180,” Gabrielle said. “I would say we’re pretty much running neck and neck to where we were last year.”

On the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), cattle futures rallied for the majority of the week and sank lower Thursday after the U.S. dollar strengthened; however, futures recovered Friday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s monthly Cattle on Feed report, released Friday afternoon, showed U.S. ranchers sent nearly one per cent more cattle to U.S. feedlots in December than the year before, which provided support for the market. February live cattle futures finished the week 2.125 U.S. cents higher, at US$1.246/lb.

About the author

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Ashley Robinson - MarketsFarm

Ashley Robinson writes for MarketsFarm specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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