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Cattle volumes at auctions to drop soon, but not yet

Sales remained busy in the post-holiday time frame

Good volumes moved through Manitoba cattle auctions open during the week ended April 26, with solid prices in both the feeder and butcher markets.

The short week due to Good Friday the previous week, and the fact that some auctions were closed for Easter Monday, meant the sales which were running were busy.

“The numbers are hanging in surprisingly well,” said Dave Nickel of Gladstone Auction Mart, adding that “the lighter feeders are in strong demand.”

Prices for steers (400-600 lbs.) were generally in the $210- to $260-per-hundredweight area, with heifers going for about $10-$30/cwt lower in most cases.

“I think our feeder numbers will be dropping very quickly in the near future,” said Nickel, accounting for some of the strength as buyers look to fill their demand before the cattle stop coming to market.

Most cattle that were going to come to market this spring have likely already done so, with odds and ends moving over the next few months.

“It looked like last-minute Christmas shopping to me,” said Robin Hill of Heartland Livestock Services at Virden, noting much of the strength in the market was linked to buyers who held back their purchases for one reason or another.

Cold weather in January and February also hampered some selling at the time, accounting for the big numbers that moved through April.

“The feeder market was really, really strong,” said Hill, adding that the solid prices came despite a softer tone in the U.S. futures.

At the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, futures prices for both live and feeder cattle dropped sharply during the week as fund traders bailed out of long positions. That could spill into the Manitoba market going forward.

Near-record-high cattle-on-feed numbers in the United States, as of April 1, added to the selling pressure in the futures.

Volumes in Manitoba are expected to start dropping off over the next few weeks, as cattle are turned out to grass and many mixed farmers turn their attention to spring seeding.

As seasonal factors in the market cause numbers to dry up, the orders from Ontario should also back away, said Hill.

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