Interest in grass cattle tempered by lack of grass

Tight feed supplies continued to pressure feeder cattle prices at auction yards across Manitoba during the week ended April 19.

Prices on good-quality cattle fared better than those on poorer-quality cattle, said Buddy Bergner of Ashern Auction Mart. “The good cattle were fully steady, but plainer-type cattle were down 10 to 15 cents (per pound).”

And it doesn’t look like the tight feed supply situation in the province is going to improve any time soon. It’s becoming more and more likely seeding will be delayed this spring, which would mean harvest activities will start later than normal. If that happens, existing feed supplies will have to stretch and last even longer than originally anticipated.

The late spring is also tempering demand, because some producers are interested in buying but just don’t have anything to feed the cattle.

There are people who want to buy grass cattle, Bergner said, but there’s no grass because there’s still a lot of snow on the ground. Persistent cold temperatures aren’t helping snow melt any faster, and unseasonably late April snowstorms in the province have only made the situation worse.

By the time there is grass, there might not be any cattle for interested buyers to acquire. “Everybody is looking over their shoulder for grass,” Bergner said.

Most demand for Manitoba feeder cattle during the week came from buyers in eastern and western parts of Canada. Bergner noted there was some light demand from the U.S., which bought “the odd load here or there; not very much, though.”

The amount of feeder cattle coming on to the market varied at each auction yard, as some saw large drop-offs in numbers and others slowly declined but still saw strong volumes.

Some auction yards that had sales earlier in the week saw fewer feeder cattle because a snowstorm kept some producers from marketing their animals.

Feeder cattle numbers are also starting to decline, as there aren’t as many cattle around and farmers are starting to focus on other projects. Spring road restrictions also slowed cattle marketing.

Once the cattle trade starts to slow down a lot, various auction yards may change their schedules, holding only one sale every two weeks until the summer, when many markets will close until fall.

Some auction yards have already changed their schedules, such as Heartland Livestock Services at Brandon which moved from holding two sales a week to just one.

Slaughter cattle numbers were reported as fairly steady as well during the week, with prices steady to stronger. “Cows and bulls are fully steady, they’re a good price,” said Bergner.

Much of the strength on slaughter cows and bulls came from continued strong demand for less expensive beef, such as hamburger.

But some other cattle on the slaughter side of the market weren’t as strong during the week. Bergner noted fatter cow prices “should be a lot higher.”

About the author

Columnist

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

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