Numbers moving through Manitoba’s cattle auction yards are starting to pick up ahead of the fall run, with prices holding firm during the last week of September.
“We finally saw decent volumes of calves to establish prices,” said Rick Wright of Heartland Order Buying.
“Up until now we’ve had really light deliveries and the market was all over the road, but this week saw enough volume to establish the prices and the prices were surprisingly strong — especially on the heavyweight wet-nosed calves.”
Top-end cattle were going to Ontario, he said, noting heifers were showing some surprising strength. While steers still trade at a premium to heifers, that spread is narrower this year.
However, Wright expected that spread would eventually widen back to traditional levels as volumes pick up in October and November.
Dryness throughout the summer had led to expectations for an early start to the fall run, but recent moisture helped the pastures rebound and cattle are being held back while the grass is there.
Producers were also concentrating on completing harvest, with the focus on field work rather than cattle on any good-weather days.
Eventually there will be a heavy frost and the cattle will come off the pasture. Wright expected to see huge numbers come to auction after that happens, due to feed shortages in many areas.
“I think we’ll have some big-volume days with some really unpredictable markets,” he said. “The supply right now is not overrunning the demand, but we’ll see that shift as we go further down the road.”
Yearlings off the grass are now mostly cleared up. Wright said lightweight yearlings under 850 lbs. were showing some strength, while the heavyweights were struggling to hold their own.
With a glut of fed cattle overhanging the market, Wright expected some backgrounders would be looking for calves instead of yearlings this year, in order to wait out the current oversupply of fed cattle.
The butcher cow market is coming into the time of seasonal decline, as slaughter plants make more money on the fed cattle and have less of an incentive to kill the older cull cows. If producers still have cull cows to sell, Wright recommended getting that done early, noting “as we go deeper into the fall, we’ll see a decline in price.”