Grass cattle prices resist buyers’ expectations

The number of cattle moving to auction yards in Manitoba continued to decline during the week ended May 25, but values for the animals marketed held steady and firmed a bit in some cases.

The Victoria Day holiday on May 21 helped thin out the marketings of cattle, as did the need of farmers to concentrate on finishing off spring seeding. The holiday resulted in a few auction yards not having a weekly sale.

“Values for the cattle are staying pretty strong, with the exception of fat cattle,” said Keith Cleaver, manager of Heartland Livestock Services in Brandon.

The shortage of cattle numbers, as well as strong demand from feedlots, continued to maintain values at firm price levels, he said.

“There are also a number of producers who are still looking for cattle to put out on grass,” Cleaver said. “With the numbers depleting, it has made it harder to find the quality animals these individuals want.”

The late jump in demand for grass cattle was tied to hopes from these individuals that the value of these animals would decline, making it more profitable for them, he noted.

However, values for grass cattle never really went down and with numbers now tighter than ever, these buyers, if they want these cattle, are having to pay up more for those animals.

Demand for the cattle coming to the markets in the province also continues to be strong from both outlets in both Eastern and Western Canada.

“There is a fair amount of demand coming from both coasts, but the outlets in the East are the ones looking for the heavier animals,” Cleaver said.

There has also been a bit of an increase in demand from south of the U.S. border, he said, noting this interest was stimulated in part by the recent downswing in the value of the Canadian dollar against the U.S. currency, and by the fact that cattle in the U.S. remain extremely scarce.

“The interest from U.S. buyers is definitely there, but the values in Canada for the cattle continue to be just a smidgen too high still,” he said.

The drop in the value of the Canadian dollar, however, has helped the prices for cull cows and bulls increase.

Demand for slaughter animals also continues to be strong, given the tight numbers and the fact the barbecue season on the Prairies is in full swing, Cleaver said.

Recent strength seen in the U.S. cash market for cattle experienced a setback during the past week, with summer heat reducing U.S. consumer demand for heavier meals. Values in the northern-tier states were steady to US$1 per hundredweight weaker.

However, U.S. analysts continue to believe the recent downtrend in U.S. cattle values is only temporary, and tight cattle inventories in the U.S. and an expected rebound in U.S. consumer demand will eventually force values in the cash market back up.

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