As a cold snap descended across Manitoba and the rest of the Prairies, the number of cattle headed to auction was down significantly during the week ended Feb. 11.
“Guys are getting up early in the morning and they have water that’s frozen or a tractor that won’t start. They have bigger fish to fry rather than fighting the cold,” Scott Anderson of Winnipeg Livestock Sales said.
Temperatures in southern Manitoba dipped into the -20 to -30 C range during the week, with wind chills making it feel like -40 C or colder.
“We’ve had several cancellations for Feb. 12 already,” Anderson said, expecting less than the 1,100 head seen at the Feb. 5 sale.
During the week, auctions such as Ashern had about 220 head, with Gladstone getting around 175, while Brandon saw 370 and Killarney had 445. Grunthal had so few head at its Feb. 9 sale that it didn’t post any prices.
Prices at Winnipeg’s Feb. 5 auction were on the upswing, according to Anderson.
“Light cattle were $2-$3 (per hundredweight) stronger and the mid-weight cattle were $2-$5 higher. The heavier cattle were a couple of bucks higher,” he said.
Getting its auction in just before the arctic conditions landed, Winnipeg saw about 1,000 feeders go through its doors, along with 100 for the slaughter market.
Cattle in the 400- to 500-lb. range saw steers sell for $225-$285/cwt and heifers, $190-$215. In the 700- to 800-lb. class, steers sold for $165-$196/cwt and heifers for $155-$172 for heifers. The 900- to 1,000-lb. cattle saw steers garner $155-$162/cwt and heifers pulled in $145-$162.50.
Anderson noted the Canadian dollar didn’t have much of an effect on prices last Friday, but something else will.
“The cost of grain at some point will have an effect on the heavier feeders,” he said.
Feed barley prices in Manitoba were as high as $5.25 per bushel, with feed wheat topping off at $7.20/bu., according to Prairie Ag Hotwire. Over the course of the last 12 months, those prices have increased $1.10/bu. for barley and $1.94/bu. for wheat. Saskatchewan and Alberta have experienced similar price hikes as well.