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Fall cattle run in full swing

A later run and shortage of feed may be causing even bigger volumes than usual

Manitoba’s cattle auctions were busy during the week ended Oct. 19, as the fall run hit its full stride.

“I think every barn had their biggest sale of the year so far,” said Rick Wright of Heartland Order Buying. While big volumes are normal for this time of year, he said cattle were coming to market a little later than normal in some cases which exaggerated the activity.

In addition, “when guys are weaning their calves, they’re bringing everything to town,” said Wright noting that in the past they would have kept some cattle to move in the new year.

“The feed situation is a driver,” said Allan Munroe, of the Killarney Auction Mart, noting that tight feed supplies were causing some producers to move more cattle than they might otherwise in order to manage that supply.

“There are guys who instead of selling 70 to 80 per cent of their cattle in the fall, are selling 100 per cent,” said Munroe. He added that while the volumes were strong, prices were also solid.

“The 500- to 600-pound steer calves are holding steady with last year’s pricing,” said Wright adding that “the lighter calves are steady to strong.”

The heavier-weight animals are also looking strong in Manitoba, with prices in the province about $5 to $7 per hundredweight above what was being seen to the West. Wright linked that strength to good demand from eastern buyers in Ontario and Quebec. “In Manitoba, if we didn’t have the Ontario and Quebec market, (prices) would be considerably lower than they are,” said Wright.

However, “the heifer market is running about 30 cents behind the steers in most weight classes,” said Wright. He said the United States was providing the floor price for heifers, with quite a few moving to the south.

One challenge with the large volumes is finding transportation to move all of the animals. “It’s always an issue,” said Munroe, although he noted that Killarney’s Monday sale date helps beat the rush to some extent.

“We’re all short on trucks this week for the numbers,” said Wright. He expected that to continue heading into November, especially as the good harvest weather should see producers wrap up their field work.

From a pricing standpoint, Wright expected the general supply-and-demand fundamentals meant there would be more room to the downside than the upside, but added that volatility from sale to sale could get interesting. “It’s a bit of a roll of the dice the next few weeks.”

About the author

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Phil Franz-Warkentin writes for MarketsFarm specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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