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Cow prices coming under pressure at some markets

Feeder prices remain steady as the fall run continues

The fall run remained in full swing at Manitoba cattle auction marts during the week ended Nov. 16, with large volumes and reasonably steady feeder prices at most yards.

About 16,500 cattle moved through the rings across the province during the week, with demand coming from all of the usual sources. Feeder steers (600 pounds and under) were typically getting at least $200 per hundredweight (cwt), with prices as high as $250-$280/cwt for some of the lighter and higher-quality animals.

Heifers were discounted by about $20-$30/cwt on average.

In the slaughter market, good-quality cows were generally selling anywhere from $50 to $75/cwt, while bulls were ranging from about $80 to $100/cwt.

A shortage of feed in some areas saw more cows and bulls come to market than might otherwise at this time of year, which weighed on prices in those markets, according to Dave Nickel of Gladstone Auction Mart.

“This week we witnessed the largest weekly drop in cow prices in the post-BSE era,” Winnipeg Livestock Sales said in its weekly market report.

The Winnipeg commentary noted cow prices were down by about $10-$12/cwt on the week, as “kill plants cannot keep up with the cows that are being flushed out of the system due to shortages of feed and heavy culling at this time.”

Futures in the U.S. also came under some pressure, which contributed to the softness for cows in the Manitoba auctions, according to Nickel.

On the feeder side, Nickel didn’t think there were any particular market-moving factors on either side. “There are no big movers and shakers at this time, but it could break at any time,” he said.

Calves are coming in a little bit lighter, he added, noting the lack of grass in some areas was likely behind that.

Plainer cattle were under more pressure, he said, but first-cut calves were holding steady.

“Many feedlots are backed up with fat cattle that are awaiting kill and this is also hampering the calf market. With large volumes of calves moving at this time of the year buyers are very selective and large discounts are being made for stale or short cattle,” said the Winnipeg report. However, good grass weight steers and heifers were still trading with healthy demand.

U.S. feeder cattle futures fell to their softest levels since June early in the week, before uncovering support and correcting higher. Live cattle, meanwhile, held relatively rangebound during the week. News that Japan was considering lifting import restrictions on U.S. beef from cattle over 30 months of age provided some support for that country’s prices.

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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