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Cattle markets beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Producers are cleaning out their pens ahead of year-end

As the last few days of 2017 wind down, so too does activity at most auction marts in the province. Volumes were noticeably weaker during the week ended Dec. 15 as producers cleaned out their pens before the end of the year.

Just over 5,000 animals made their way to Manitoba’s eight major outlets, compared to 7,300 the week before.

Prices were a touch softer in some cases. Feeder steers in the 500- to 600-lb. class were down $10 per hundredweight while heifers (400-500 lbs.) dipped by roughly $5-$7.

“Fed animals saw some seasonal pressure,” said Brian Perillat, senior analyst with the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. “Cull cows were at prices close to a year ago.”

On the other side, good-fleshed cows and bulls were generally $5 higher than a week ago.

Domestic demand is quite strong, he added, and Canada is exporting a steady amount of meat internationally.

“The overall market has been pretty good and the spot cash market is looking strong for calves,” he noted.

Demand has been better than many expected, Perillat said, even though cattle numbers are bigger.

However, he said, feeder calves have been feeling some pressure in the futures despite interest in them from feedlots.

“Prices are working to keep the premiums to where they were last year,” he said.

There are some indications a further lull could be in store for Manitoba cattle prices, though, due to pressure in the U.S. market.

Futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange fell last week as a glut of beef on the market dragged the market lower. Animals in large numbers have reached slaughter size and are ready to be processed. As a result, meat packers have been reducing their bids in an effort to get their hands on fresh carcasses.

Typically the U.S. Christmas season sees a push on for choice cuts of beef but in this instance the amount of beef available outstripped the demand, creating a downward push on the charts.

There are also some ideas cattle numbers in Canada will continue to grow in 2018.

The market should be able to handle it, Perillat said.

“Feedlots have had a good year feeding cattle in 2017 and have been paying up for calves and feeders here across Canada,” he noted.

Feed costs are also higher than a year ago, which is making life tough for some producers.

About the author

Columnist

Dave Sims writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting. Dave has a deep background in the radio industry and is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg. He lives in Winnipeg with his wife and two beautiful children. His hobbies include reading, podcasting and following the Atlanta Braves.

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