As the cattle market gears up for the annual fall run, producers in Manitoba are grappling with dry pastures and looming transportation issues.
“The pasture issues are extremely serious; we’re bordering in some regions on drought conditions and have been for the past two to three weeks,” said Rick Wright of Heartland Order Buying Co.
He doubts there will be a lot of local buying of calves this fall. “For guys with feed, they can either sell it or keep it for their own cows,” he said.
Prices were stronger during the week ended Sept. 7 in most classes. Steers (800-900 lbs.) were up $5/cwt on average. Yearlings were up roughly $3-$4/cwt, with some of the lighter yearlings as much as $8/cwt higher.
Butcher cows were a touch lower with relatively few animals drawing over the $80/cwt mark. Bulls stayed relatively steady.
Heifers also hung steady, with animals in the 500- to 600-lb. class up $5/cwt.
“The market on the yearlings was fully steady to strong — lots of demand from the West on the lighter yearlings,” he said, adding heavier steers were starting to make their way into Ontario and Quebec.
According to Wright, interest in calves was significantly stronger on the week. “The calves were very close to what they were last year, price-wise, which is surprising because we thought they’d be under pressure.”
Volumes were on the light side, with 4,750 head sold, compared to 3,200 the week before.
Going forward, Wright expected the calf market to start heating up quicker than in some previous years.
Finding trucks could be an issue in coming weeks, though. “Most companies have told me they’re a little short of drivers this year,” he said.
That’s somewhat worrisome, according to Wright, as a large volume of calves will need to be moved. “It could be a bigger concern as we get into peak times at the end of October and early November when we traditionally have the biggest runs.”
There are also ideas demand for beef from North America may grow with the outbreak of swine flu in China. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, the outbreak is “just the tip of the iceberg” and could spark increased imports of alternative proteins.