After frigid temperatures affected most of Manitoba earlier in February, cattle sellers made up for lost time as thousands of cattle poured through the rings during the week ending Feb. 26.
More than 14,000 cattle were auctioned off across the province, including at least 13,000 feeders. By comparison, at least 7,000 cattle in total were sold at Manitoba auction sites during the previous week. At Heartland Livestock Services (HLS) in Virden, 3,523 cattle were sold on Feb. 24.
“It’s because of the cold snap,” HLS Virden manager Robin Hill said. “We had 1,300 last week, but as the weather got nicer, the numbers got bigger… We would have had 2,400 head (on a normal day) a year ago.”
Auction sites across Western Canada and in the United States also saw higher numbers, he noted, as milder temperatures took over.
Feeder prices stayed relatively steady for the most part, but lighter-weight steers at some sales were traded at higher prices and with more variability compared to the previous week. High-end steers weighing less than 500 lbs. attracted at least $260 per hundredweight, while low-end animals ranged from $150 to $270/cwt.
“We saw a little pressure on the heavier 850-(lbs.)-and-up cattle, especially on the steers,” Hill said. “We’re going to see big volumes with the nice weather (the first week of March). We’ll see the producers start to get ready for calving over the next few weeks, so we’re trying to get pen space.”
On the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), March futures for feeder cattle were trading at US$139.050/cwt on Feb. 26, fairly steady from the week before.
Meanwhile, CME April live cattle contracts were valued at US$120.725, nearly US$6 less than 10 days earlier.
The Canadian dollar briefly traded at 80 U.S. cents before closing at 79.81 on Feb. 25, a three-year high for the currency.
According to Prairie Ag Hotwire data on Feb. 26, high-delivered bids for feed barley ranged from $5.73 to $6.86 per bushel, at least $1.58 higher than last year. High-delivered bids for feed wheat ranged from $7.33 to $8.44/bu., at least $1.62 higher than last year. Both crops are experiencing increased export demand and depleted domestic supply.
Since January, most cattle have been going to feedlots in Western and Eastern Canada, as well as to local markets, Hill said. The only difference now is stronger cattle prices.
“I think we’re going to see steady demand for the grass-type cattle,” Hill added. “The buyers are going to be timid on finishing cattle over the summer months.”