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Fall cattle run picks up steam

After a slow and muddy start, auction barns have filled up

Cattle auction yards were busy across Manitoba during the last week of October, with the fall run in full swing.

“We’re busy, I think every barn is full (across the province),” said Robin Hill, of Heartland Livestock Services in Virden. “The volumes in Western Canada really cranked up over the past week, and now everybody is at maximum capacity for barn space.”

Large numbers were reported at all of the yards holding sales during the week, with prices generally firm with the previous week. While the numbers were big, the demand has been there to meet the volumes moving so far.

About 16,000 feeder cattle were marketed at the sales held during the week, with an additional 1,000 head of butcher cows.

“With a little bit of frost in the ground, the light cattle felt a little higher on the week,” said Hill adding that the local demand was helping the volumes. However, Virden saw prices slip a bit on the heavier-weight feeders.

“We’re into very fair selling at big volumes,” said Hill.

Cattle were moving to Alberta and Ontario feedlots, with some demand coming up from the United States as well. “East, west, and south – there’s lots of demand from all three sides,” said Hill.

While forage shortages remain a concern in some areas heading into the winter, the moisture this fall generally helped improve the feed situation for cow-calf producers.

Adverse harvest weather for the spring cereals also resulted in more feed-quality grain, with expected declines in feed costs compared to earlier ideas also helping support cattle prices.

“I don’t think we’re as short of feed now than we were two months ago,” said Hill.

The butcher market is a bit slower than normal, but is picking up. Hill said the late fall kept many producers busy with other things, but they were now putting more attention back in selling any cows they want to cull before the winter.

“As volumes increase, we’ll see more slide in the cows,” said Hill, noting that, that was normal for this time of year.

Live cattle and feeder cattle futures in Chicago climbed to their highest levels in months during the week, with speculative fund buying a feature in the activity as bullish technical signals drove the market. Solid beef demand and signs of tightening cattle supplies in the U.S. also underpinned the futures.

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

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