The amounts of cattle moved to markets across Manitoba during the week ended May 24 varied by region, with northern markets seeing strong numbers and yards in the south seeing fewer cattle.
Farmers in the south were busy with field work and seeding, so fewer individuals were marketing their cattle and numbers were down during the week.
In the northern parts of the province, farmers were just starting to seed and still managed to market some cattle during the week, which resulted in stronger numbers at those auction yards, said Buddy Bergner with Ashern Auction Mart.
The strong volumes will come to an end soon, though, as producers in the north start working hard to catch up on already-delayed seeding.
Once things slow down enough, many auction yards across the province will reduce the number of sales they hold and some will close for the summer months.
Some, such as Gladstone Auction Mart and Killarney Auction Mart, have already moved to biweekly sales. Bergner said Ashern will hold two more sales — May 29 and June 12 — and will then shut down until August.
The cattle that came on to the market during the week yielded “barely steady” prices, as values continued to be pressured by “very high feed costs,” said Bergner.
Slaughter cattle yielded steady-to-strong prices during the week, and volumes continued to be good at most yards across Manitoba.
Good demand helped to keep prices on the stronger side, while volumes stayed good because some producers don’t have enough feed supplies to carry them through.
Some producers are also choosing to send their cows and bulls to market as a form of cash flow, said Bergner. “The cow market is about the best for profits, so some producers are keeping heifers and selling the cows.”
Most of the demand during the week came from the eastern and western parts of Canada, with a small amount of buying from the U.S. The Canadian dollar fell to fresh multi-year lows during the week, which helped to encourage some buying from the U.S., as it made cattle less expensive for them.
Bergner noted local demand was few and far between in Ashern, adding that “hardly anybody is buying grass calves here.”
Many pastures in and around the Ashern area, in the northern Interlake region, are still suffering from the flood of 2011.
“We can’t find any pasture up here,” he said. “There are so many people whose land is not usable because of past floods.”
Bergner noted there aren’t any flooding concerns this year, but pastures are “kind of swamped” from previous floods and it’s going to take awhile to recover.
“Producers will be taking their cattle to other pastures, so they won’t be using that land very much,” he said, “except maybe this fall sometime when they bring the cattle home.”