Cattle prices see support from action on the grill

Terryn Shiells, Commodity News Service Canada / The number of cattle heading to auction yards in Manitoba was steady, while stronger prices were seen in both the slaughter and feeder cattle markets during the week ended June 1.

Steady to stronger prices were seen in the slaughter cattle market; the summer barbecue season entered full swing and more people are eating beef, which was supportive for prices, said Robin Hill, manager of Heartland Livestock Services at Virden.

“We definitely saw stronger demand for the butcher trade and bulls. We’re getting into hamburger season and it is prime time for the poorer cuts of meat from a cow or bull in the hamburger market,” Hill said.

Hill said most of the slaughter cattle that were purchased in Virden on May 30 will probably be used during the barbecue season.

Cattle auctions in Winnipeg and Brandon also reported an increase in demand for good-quality calves and steady to stronger prices for the week ended June 1.

The weaker Canadian dollar, compared to its U.S. counterpart, also contributed to some of the stronger price action in the markets in the week ended June 1. The weaker Canadian currency increased the buying power of the U.S. dollar, making Canadian cattle less expensive for American buyers, analysts said.

Hill, however, didn’t think the weaker Canadian dollar enticed more buyers. The amount of buyers from the U.S. hasn’t increased much from the same time last year, he said, as the value of the Canadian dollar against the U.S. dollar for the week ended June 1 saw little change when compared to the closing values for May and June 2011.

However, Hill said, cattle prices managed to increase between five and 10 cents this year when compared to the same time last year. The main reason for the increase was a tighter supply of cattle in Canada, he said.

Fewer butcher cows are being marketed in Manitoba right now, Hill said, “and with the demand of the hamburger season, prices are holding steady and even improving a little bit.”

While most of the demand was seen in the slaughter market, he said, feeder cattle were selling steady to stronger as well.

“The feeder cattle market was fully steady, with a lot of strong demand on grass cattle from 550 to 750 pounds. A lot of local buyers participated this week,” said Hill.

Many of the auction markets in Manitoba will be closing down or changing their sale schedules for the summer as farmers send cattle into pasture to gain weight and focus on seeding their fields. Hill said Heartland Livestock at Virden will change its sale schedule for the summer.

“Starting the first week of July we’ll have five weeks where we have sales one week, and none the next. After that we’ll be back in full swing,” he said.

The table here shows which cattle auction markets will be open for the summer, and which are changing schedules or closing, and indicates when the changes will occur.

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