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Manitoba markets shrug off bearish fundamentals

Sales in the southwest region book larger numbers


Lively activity at Manitoba cattle markets during the week ended Sept. 29 was surprising, given current market fundamentals, said Rick Wright of Heartland Order Buying Co., in Virden.

Calves coming to market straight off cows were attracting higher prices and higher volumes, at least in southern markets, he said. The market in Virden had almost 1,900 animals through during its Sept. 27 sale.

Calves were up, he said, despite Monday’s decline in U.S. cattle futures, following a bearish Cattle on Feed report issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The report showed the number of cattle placed into feedlots in August increased three per cent, which was higher than expected. The report also showed plentiful U.S. beef supplies in storage.

“We expected that the market would be a little stickier than what it is, and actually it went just the opposite. We saw strong demand for the yearlings and very strong demand for the steer calves,” said Wright.

Yearling prices are about five cents higher than two weeks ago, he said, with some steer calves 10 to 15 cents higher than two weeks ago and interest starting to come in from Ontario and Quebec.

Buyers are currently offering more for steers with the price gap between steers and heifers at about 20-35 cents per pound, depending on weight and fleshiness.

Northern Manitoba markets aren’t quite as robust, Wright said. “We didn’t see at Ashern, Ste. Rose, Gladstone, Winnipeg having as big of numbers as they have in the southwest corner.”

Reasons for that vary, but can be largely attributed to an earlier grain harvest in that region, which allows farmers to turn their attention to other matters. Rain also forced many producers to park the combines for a couple of days, he said.

Although volumes were not quite as strong across the entire province this week, Wright is confident the prices and optimism are not just regional.

“The deferred contracts for future delivery on electronic sales have been very active again this year — very, very active. So, the indication is there’s a lot of optimism in the market.”

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