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Feeder prices stay strong on lower availability

Feeder prices at Manitoba cattle yards were strong during the week ended Sept. 28. Some cattle saw prices comparable to those seen at the same time last year; some were even bringing higher prices.

Rick Wright, a buyer with Heartland Order Buying Co., said sellers were pleasantly surprised with the strong prices, as many people predicted they would drop due to high feed costs.

“Right now prices are staying strong due to a lack of volume,” he said. “And we did see corn prices come down this week, which helped too.”

Wright said the week marked the first time a decent number of calves hit the market since auction yards reopened after taking holidays in the summer.

Feeder cattle prices could still weaken slightly by the end of October, he said.

“We’re expecting that when we see bigger volumes later in the month, the market might move slightly lower,” he said. “But, we’re not expecting it to be a significant drop.”

Prices for feeder cattle in Manitoba were even stronger than they were in Alberta and Saskatchewan during the week, Wright said.

“Wet-nosed calf prices in Manitoba were stronger because there was buying interest from Ontario and some very limited interest from Quebec as well,” he said.

Calves went both east and west during the week, while yearling cattle went mostly west.

There wasn’t any evidence of local demand at the auction marts in the province during the week, and there probably won’t be any for the rest of the fall, said Wright.

A lot of local buyers aren’t interested in backgrounding calves because some of them are short on feed, there’s no extra stubble or grass to put cattle to, and some people are concerned about water shortages, he said.

“The creeks are quite a bit lower than they have been, some dugouts are starting to dry up and some guys are concerned about wells for the future.”

Wright said the strong prices are also deterring some local buyers.

U.S. interest

Surprisingly, there was some U.S. buying activity at Manitoba cattle yards during the week. The transactions occurred despite a high Canadian dollar, Wright said.

“There were some classes of steer calves that were purchased by American buyers to background in Canada,” he said. “So they’re not going straight to the U.S.; they’ll go after 120-150 days of backgrounding.”

The U.S. buying activity also wasn’t as strong during the week as it has been in past years, said Wright.

Prices on the slaughter cattle side of the market continued to take a nosedive during the week, as the seasonal downward price trend kicked in with the end of summer.

The recent beef recall had a slight impact on slaughter market prices, but it wasn’t anything to write home about, Wright said.

Canadian consumers were warned last week about ground meat products that may contain E. coli. The meat recall continued to grow to more and more products during the week.

XL Foods’ beef packing plant at Brooks, Alta. saw its license suspended late in the week because of the outbreak.

Prices weren’t largely impacted by the recall during the week because XL Foods still had its buyers out at markets despite the license suspension, Wright said.

The recall nevertheless affected the volume of cattle seen during the week on the slaughter market in Manitoba.

“We saw a very light offering of butcher cows for this time of year, so it looks like producers are holding back until they get a better handle on when they’ll start ramping up the cow kill again,” he said.

About the author


Terryn Shiells writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.



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