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Cattle volumes taper off but prices hold steady

Buying interest from Ontario provided price support

Cattle still moved through the Manitoba auction yards during the week ended Dec. 8, but activity was starting to slow down as fall marketing wraps up ahead of Christmas and New Year’s.

Volumes were down, but prices held steady for most classes of cattle on offer.

“The end is in sight,” said Allan Munroe of Killarney Auction Mart, adding that “the big run’s over.”

While feeder animals were down, there were still quite a few cows during the week as producers get them preg checked and clean out their barns ahead of the new year.

Demand from the U.S. was largely non-existent this year, as “our Canadian feedlots were willing to pay more than the American ones,” said Munroe. Small numbers were moving south, but “Ontario was the force that made our market” this year, he said.

Strong buying interest from Ontario feedlots kept prices underpinned during the week, according to Munroe. However, with numbers starting to dwindle, it will soon become harder to put a load together to move east.

“There was tremendous volume through all of Manitoba this fall,” said Munroe of the numbers across the board around the province. With so many animals moving earlier in the fall run, what’s left to move is more a matter of cleaning up ahead of the holiday season.

Some feedlots have their pens getting full, and yearlings are getting fat and moving out, said Munroe. That will open up pen space in January when the auctions get moving again.

On the cull cow market, Munroe noted dry conditions in much of the “cow country” led to more cull cows coming to town.

However, with slaughter facilities filling up, buyers have to hold on to the cows for one to two weeks before getting them into a plant, which has cut into prices to some extent.

“They can’t store cows for free,” said Munroe. There were enough cows moving through that there likely won’t be a post-Christmas bounce this year, he said, but added cow prices appear to have found support and are looking relatively stable.

“Hopefully, a bunch of those cows can move through the system.”

About the author

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Phil Franz-Warkentin writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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