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Current strength in cattle prices not expected to last

Producers face early sales due to short supplies of feed

Cattle prices in Manitoba continued to hang strong during the week ended Aug. 17, as producers grappled with growing feed problems and persistent smoke from fires in British Columbia and Ontario.

Volumes remained seasonally low, but one market watcher noted activity at online auctions was brisk.

“When you look at video sales there are more cattle getting lifted, (especially) yearling cattle coming off grass early and then getting sold electronically,” said Anne Wasko of Gateway Livestock Marketing. “We are seeing a pickup in volume.“

Wasko estimated prices for cattle were up $10-$15/cwt. The rise came at a welcome time as some producers faced the prospect of having to sell their cattle early due to feed problems.

Soaring temperatures in Western Canada and a lack of rain continue to scorch pasture and hay lands.

Smoke from fires in B.C. has also made its presence felt across the Prairies. Wasko said it doesn’t seem to be too much of a disruption, though it was keeping direct sunlight from hitting the ground in many areas.

However, more rain is badly needed and the situation is especially bad south of the Trans-Canada Highway, according to Wasko.

“Cattle are moving early because conditions are tinder dry,” she said. “There’s higher feed prices, high forage prices; options for producers are skimpy.”

Those thoughts are echoed by Brian Lemon, general manager of Manitoba Beef Producers.

“We think that the lack of feed will probably force some difficult decisions for producers and more cattle are going to end up going to town,” he said.

Prices are expected to fall as a result, which is why the current strength in the market is so important. “Historically, prices are starting at a pretty decent place right now.”

With the influx of animals hitting the market in early fall, Wasko said that will likely result in lower numbers early next year.

“It could end up looking like a smaller cow herd by Jan. 1, 2019,” she said.

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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