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Cattle sales begin to pick up

It’s still a bit slow, but last week saw animal numbers more than double

It was a slightly busier time for auction marts around the province as over 650 animals made their way to market during the last week of July. That compares to just 300 last week.

Feeder steers in the 400- to 500-lb. range fought to stay north of the C$200 (per hundredweight) mark. Steers in the 600- to 700-lb. mark were only slightly lower.

“There is a bearish tone to the U.S. market and we’re certainly going to feel that,” said Anne Wasko, a market analyst with Cattle Trends and Gateway Livestock.

She notes inventories in the U.S. are quite large right now which weighed on prices.

“Here in Canada, our Canadian dollar is strong, flirting with 80 U.S. cents which has played negatively into our local prices,” she added.

While the currency shows little sign of weakening any time soon, Wasko says the market isn’t ready to tank just yet.

She says the market has already come off the highs it saw this spring, so that might give prices a breather in the short term.

“As we head into August, the market, as far as fed cattle are concerned, could possibly chop sideways,” she explained.

However, looking into the fall, Wasko says the high herd numbers in the U.S., coupled with the currency and some other technical factors mean we will likely drift lower for a while.

“We have an idea on the direction,” she said. “I think the futures market has been trying to tell us that for a while.”

Feed conditions in Manitoba could be better as several areas need more rain for pasture and hay growth. At the same time, some parts of the province are reporting good-quality hay with average yields. According to the province’s latest crop report, pastures are showing some moisture stress with some ranchers having to move cows around or tap supplemental feed. Dugouts are over around 60 per cent full.

On the international front, Japan slapped a 50 per cent duty against U.S. beef on July 28. The move will only add to the problems facing U.S. companies which are trying to unload beef ahead of the fall run.

In turn, China halted meat imports from Australia temporarily, which prompted many countries to wonder who was next.

Prices for Australian cattle have fallen to their lowest levels since 2014 as farmers unload animals due to drought.

About the author

Columnist

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

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