Manitoba cattle auction yards saw plenty of activity in the first week of February as more than 8,000 cattle went through the rings. By comparison, roughly 5,000 head were sold in the previous week.
Feeder prices continued their steady ascent over the past few weeks as lighter-weight steers saw the greatest value. High-end steers weighing less than 500 lbs. were consistently being traded at more than $250 per hundredweight, with some animals fetching more than $300/cwt.
Harold Unrau of Grunthal Livestock Auction Mart cited a couple of reasons for the rise in prices.
“Basically demand. Futures are up a little bit. They’re showing signs of strength and there’s hardly any (cattle) being sold,” he said, adding that sellers have plenty of feed to keep their cattle longer.
“The feeder cattle (prices) will remain strong for a little while, maybe even a little stronger.”
On the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), March futures for feeder cattle were trading at US$139.45/cwt on Feb. 4, down from their month-long peak of US$144.375/cwt on Jan. 25 but still higher than a month ago. Meanwhile, April futures for live cattle have climbed over the past three weeks to US$123.650/cwt.
Prices continue to jump for feed grains as increased overseas exports deplete domestic supply. According to Prairie Ag Hotwire data from Feb. 4, high-delivered bids for feed barley are running from $5.06 to $6.75 per bushel, more than 91 cents higher than last year, and feed wheat is trading from $7.18 to $8.44/bu., a vault of at least $1.50.
However, Unrau thinks some feedlots are avoiding the higher cost of feed for now.
“(The prices) are keeping the markets down, but I think a lot of the feedlots have pre-contracted their grains. Anyone who bought their grain earlier, this price won’t affect them at all,” he speculated.
Also, he said, while grass cattle are staying put in Western Canada, some of the high-end cattle are moving east as feedlots are increasing capacity there.
“Most high-end cattle are going to Ontario and Quebec,” Unrau said. “There is a little bit of room in the eastern feedlots.”
Manitoba Beef Producers (MBP) will host its 42nd annual general meeting virtually through Zoom on Feb. 11. The meeting includes presentations, the appointment of an auditor for the fiscal year and elections for MBP’s board.