Cattle volumes were down at auctions across the province on week ended May 10, as domestic and international factors plagued prices and encouraged some producers to stay home.
Cattle futures have dropped considerably over the past 10 days, which contributed to the lowered numbers observed at auction.
“A lot of things are happening that primary producers don’t have any control over, but it’ll certainly affect the bottom line of what they’re going to get for their cattle,” said Rick Wright of Heartland Order Buying Co.
“That made some people a little bit spooked about marketing cattle on the downward trend.”
Prolonged trade talks between the United States and China have weighed heavily on commodities markets, which also put downward pressure on cattle futures.
Drought conditions in Western Canada and the U.S Midwest have put pressure on grain prices, adding to concern about future cattle prices.
“There’s lots of volatility in grain prices, so if producers don’t have a lot of product locked up, what’s it going to cost to feed these cattle?” Wright wondered.
Volumes are expected to be higher in mid- to late summer due to spring storms throughout the Midwest that have caused cattle to come to market 90 to 120 days later than originally planned.
“Cows are still in inventory, but we’ll have a bit more of a bottleneck in inventory later on in the season,” said Wright.
“That’s also weighing on futures. Between trade talks, weather and supply, the primary producer doesn’t have much control. That’s going to influence what the market is.”
Many auction yards are running at a reduced capacity as they move into a summer schedule.
Feeder cattle above 750 lbs. saw the largest drop in prices across the province. Prices ranged from $150 to $204.50 per hundredweight, compared to $170-$208 observed during week ended May 3.
Fed cattle prices were a bright spot in an otherwise sluggish market, stronger by about three cents across the province.
“When the guys are looking at a down market, and have the option of going to the field and plant, it’s not a hard decision to say, ‘We’ll put the cattle on the back burner for a couple of weeks,’” said Wright.