Entering July, some Manitoba cattle auction sites either are or will soon take their summer break. But continuing drought-like conditions may increase selling demand for cattle producers and auction sites could see their summer vacation be shorter than normal.
“We had our last regular sale for the summer break here (on June 29),” said Tyler Slawinski of Gladstone Auction Mart. Most auction sites across the province typically close or operate at a reduced schedule during the summer months.
“Our scheduled restart date is Aug. 17, but if the dry conditions stay the way they are, it will be Aug. 10 or sooner,” he added.
In total, at least 1,000 cattle went through the rings at four auction sites — Gladstone, Heartland-Brandon, Killarney, and Winnipeg — for the week ended July 1. Both Killarney and Ashern added regular sales due to demand to be held on June 28 and July 7, respectively.
With limited selection for buyers to choose from, no feeder heifer sold for more than $210 per hundredweight and only at Gladstone did a feeder steer sell for more than $230/cwt. Yet, feeder prices remained steady while butcher prices were steady to lower as more cattle trickled in from the United States.
“We’re starting to see some slight pressure in the cow and bull trade. There’s a big drought in Nebraska and North Dakota and some of those cows are starting to trickle across the line. (It is) a cheaper option for Canadian kill plants to maybe take hold of some of those cows. Of course, they don’t have to pay as much as these local ones,” Slawinski said.
At the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) on July 2, the August live cattle contract was trading at US$122.500/cwt, holding mostly steady over the past two weeks but US$4.50 higher than last month. Meanwhile, the August feeder cattle contract was trading at US$157.100/cwt, steady for the past two weeks but nearly US$10 more than three weeks ago.
The Canadian dollar has dropped more than six-tenths of a U.S. cent during the week, but grain prices continue to go up due to dry weather and worsening crop conditions.
“The futures have been climbing, which is relatively unheard of when the grain is climbing and the feed grain is climbing, but everything seems to be going up and hopefully, they don’t all abruptly come down at the same time,” Slawinski added.
As Gladstone enters its summer break, Slawinski believes the auction site had a good year. However, he worries for the future of the site as fewer individuals enter the cattle business and feed prices continue to rise.
“I think, overall, everything kind of averaged out. I think it was typically a normal year and going forward with these drought conditions and (more) farmers retiring and getting out of the business… If we can stay on par and on track and keep an average number of cattle moving through our barn, we’re doing all we can do,” he said.