Lack of feed has local buyers cautious at markets

Auction yards across Manitoba continued to see strong volumes of cattle come up for sale during the week ended March 28.

Some of the auction yards in the province’s southwest saw more cattle than anticipated, because their sales the week prior were very small due to weather problems.

Rick Wright, a buyer with Heartland Buying Order Co., said the strong volumes should continue at least through the first week of April.

“We’ll see another little blast here, just because there was no sale in Winnipeg on Friday, March 29, and no sale in Ste. Rose Thursday, March 28,” he said. Those auction yards were shut down for the Easter long weekend.

Farmers are also encouraged to get their cattle marketed as soon as possible, before conditions get too mucky and feedlots don’t want to buy anymore.

“Farmers are saying, ‘As soon as my yard starts to get mucky, I’ll move my cattle out,’” Wright said. “But, as soon as that happens at their yard, it’s happening in the feedlots as well and they’re not as keen (to take) cattle when the weather gets wetter.”

But the strong volumes won’t last forever, as road restrictions are on the verge of coming into effect, which “always slows down the cattle trade,” said Wright. A lot of cattle in the province have also already been sold, so volumes should start to decline soon.

Prices saw some slight recovery during the week on the feeder side of the market, following along with a slowly consolidating futures market.

Beef movement has been sluggish, which has kept a lid on prices, because it has slowed demand from feedlots.

“There’s feedlots that have got butcher cattle booked with the plants but there’s been delays in picking them up,” he said. “And that means they don’t have room, so they can’t bring in new inventory.”

Feeder cattle that weighed less than 750 lbs. managed to hold steady to stronger, because they were going onto grass, and it’s easier to make money that way. Cows heavier than 750 lbs. were hard to move, because they cost more to finish, and in the end it’s all about money, Wright said.

Demand during the week came from many directions, with about 70 per cent of the cattle going west, 15 to 20 per cent to the East and the rest south to the U.S. There wasn’t a lot of local demand.

Wright said the regular local buyers have been in the game, but there aren’t any new players. Producers are being cautious because of a lack of feed.

There continued to be strong volumes of butcher cows at the markets, as slaughter cattle prices remained strong. Much of the price firmness was linked to good demand for hamburger meat.

There wasn’t a lot of forward contracting going on in the province, though there are a lot of producers wanting to contract.

“We’ve got high grain prices for now and lower grain prices for the fall on the new-crop futures, so it’s very volatile and everybody is being very careful about extending themselves out,” said Wright.

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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