Good demand lifts feeder cattle at lighter weights

Feeder cattle prices were mostly stronger during the week ended Feb. 8 at auction yards across Manitoba, with the exception of heifers that weighed more than 650 pounds.

There are more heifers around over 650 lbs. in the province, but Allan Munroe at Killarney Auction Mart isn’t sure that’s why their prices weren’t as strong this week.

“Some of them maybe were showing a little more flesh,” he said, which could have had buyers bidding a little bit lower than for the lighter cattle.

Lighter classes of cattle on the feeder side of the market were strong during the week due to good demand.

“We saw our highs get higher this week on most classes; our averages stayed very similar but we didn’t have the same quality we did the week before,” said Munroe.

Demand for the feeder cattle was coming mostly from the West, and U.S. demand also started to pick up during the week because of some weakness in the Canadian dollar. The loonie was slightly above par with the U.S. dollar for most of the week, but dropped below parity on Feb. 8.

Munroe said eastern demand for Manitoba cattle dropped off during the week due to some logistical transportation issues. “There’s not as much freight coming from Ontario to Winnipeg right now, so they’re having a challenge getting trucks.”

Munroe wasn’t sure if there were any local buyers in the game during the week. He said he didn’t see any local guys bidding for themselves at the auction in Killarney, but they could’ve had order buyers bidding for them.

Prices on the slaughter side of the market were steady compared to the week prior, but fewer cattle came up for sale during the Feb. 4-8 time period in Manitoba.

A lot of slaughter cattle came on to the market in January, Munroe said, and markets are starting to slow down in volume now. However, he said, there will still be some spikes every once in a while in the coming weeks.

Some producers may be looking at losing money at calving time, which would prompt them to get some cattle out as soon as possible due to a shortage of hay, he said.

Volume on the feeder side of the market was steady during the week, and Manitoba’s auction yards should continue to be fairly busy until early March.

“We’re going to see pretty steady flow of cattle for the next month anyway, I would think, and it’s hard to know after that,” Munroe said.

There should be more cattle coming up for sale in coming weeks because feed prices are high, and there are shortages of feed and hay in the province.

“As guys’ feed bins get lower they’ll sell the cattle instead of buying feed, and it’s kind of getting right close to calving, too,” Munroe said.

Some producers, however, might hold off come springtime and wait for stronger prices.

“Some of the guys with the lighter-weight calves are holding off in hopes that they’ll see those grass cattle perk up a little bit.

“Whether they do or they don’t, I don’t know, but hopefully there will be a few more people looking” for lighter-weight calves, he said.

About the author

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

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