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Dry conditions generate slaughter cow traffic

Dry conditions generate slaughter cow traffic

AUCTIONS | Solid demand remains supportive for prices

While the seasonal slowdown is in effect, activity at Manitoba’s cattle auction yards was still busier than usual for late June, as concerns over pasture conditions and forage availability saw large numbers of slaughter cattle move through the rings.

“Drought conditions are pushing slaughter cows to the marketplace,” said cattle buyer Rick Wright of Heartland Order Buying, noting the numbers were above normal for this time of year.

Auctions also saw plenty of cattle that had originally been slated as replacement heifers to be bred coming to the market instead and going to feedlots, “because there’s not enough grass and not enough demand for replacement heifers,” Wright said. Bulls are also coming to market earlier than normal.

“They are culling deeper,” he said, adding “there are no freeloaders staying on the farm… everything that doesn’t have a calf is coming to town.”

While the slaughter cow numbers may be up, the increased supply hasn’t cut into prices with ‘hamburger season’ leading to solid demand for those cattle, according to Wright.

Higher-quality D1 and D2 slaughter cows were generally bringing in about $90-$100 per hundredweight around the province during the week.

The lightweight feeder cattle that were still moving were also being met with strong demand, especially lighter-weight feeders under 700 lbs. Wright noted grain prices had come down slightly, which put some strength back in the feeder cattle market.

Feeder steers in the 500- to 600-lb. weight category brought anywhere from $180 to $233/cwt during the week, with average prices in the $210-$220 area.

Looking ahead, the hot and dry weather means “hay crops will be way behind this year and volume will be way, way down, which is weighing on the minds of cattle producers,” according to Wright.

The poor hay crops will push cattle off grass faster and see yearlings come to sale earlier than normal as well.

“We might see the calf run start earlier… calves will be lighter,” said Wright. “If we don’t get rain, the fall will be here earlier than normal.”

He expected the direction grain prices take over the next few months will influence what happens with feeder cattle bids at this year’s fall run.

North American weather will be a primary driver in the grain markets, with any softness in grain likely providing some stability for cattle.

Some auctions will be shut down until traffic picks up in August, with others running at reduced capacity every other week through the summer months.

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