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Prices remain strong as some cattle storm-stayed

An early winter storm that brought heavy snow across much of southern Manitoba over the Remembrance Day weekend did keep some cattle from making their way to auction in the province during the week ended Nov. 16. For what was on offer, prices remained strong for both feeder and butcher animals.

“Prices are staying very steady,” said Keith Cleaver of Heartland Livestock Services at Brandon, noting cull cow prices in particular showed some firmness during the week.

XL Foods’ beef-packing plant at Brooks, Alta. was reported to be shipping beef once again during the week, and the slow resumption of activity at the plant was helping underpin the butcher market to some extent.

“There are still a lot of cull cows, but when you get another buyer in the market it always helps,” said Cleaver.

In the feeder market, the premiums for the good-quality animals were starting to look a little more pronounced. “We’re seeing some calves that have just lost their shine with the weather… but that happens every year,” he said.

As a result, plainer animals did lose a couple of dollars per hundredweight on average. However, the reduced numbers on offer kept prices strong overall.

Province-wide, there were about 4,000 fewer animals sold during the reporting period compared to the previous week. The snow did defer some cattle from coming to market, while some of that decline was simply tied to the fact that the bulk of the fall run has already finished for the year.

Feeder cattle were heading both east and west, with a few cattle also finding their way south. Cleaver said local backgrounders were also showing good demand for the lighter-weight feeders.

“Some of the guys were waiting for it to get colder and for the ground to freeze,” he said. Rains earlier in the fall made the pens “a little sloppy,” which would not be ideal for bringing in calves, he added. Now that it’s colder, the mud is no longer an issue.

Hay availability may prove to be a concern in parts of Manitoba over the winter.

“A lot of guys have just enough (hay), but it is getting harder to find,” said Cleaver, adding “a lot of hay is going south and in some areas it’s getting tough to source some hay.”

The U.S. buyers “seem to be willing to pay a really good price for it,” he said. As a result, he expected local backgrounders might be feeding more straw, grain and pellets over the winter.

Auction yards in the province are expected to remain busy through November, but once December hits, most of the calves should be done for the year. Closures over the last couple weeks of December and into January are to be expected over the holiday period.

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Phil Franz-Warkentin - MarketsFarm

Phil Franz-Warkentin writes for MarketsFarm specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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