Manitoba cattle auction yards were still keeping busy during the second week of December, as ranchers cleaned out cattle and feedlots looked to fill some pen space.
Roughly 5,600 head of cattle were sold in the province during the week ended Dec. 14, well below the 10,000 cattle that moved through the rings the previous week.
Top-end feeder steers (600 pounds and under) were typically getting at least $200 per hundredweight (cwt), with prices as high as $250-$260/cwt for some of the lighter and higher-quality animals. Heifers were discounted by about $20-$40/cwt on average.
In the slaughter market, good-quality cows were generally selling anywhere from $50 to $70/cwt, while bulls were ranging from about $80 to $100/cwt.
With only a few stragglers to round up before Christmas, prices for what’s moving were relatively solid.
“We’re winding down,” said Dave Nickel of Gladstone Auction Mart. From a pricing standpoint, “the highs weren’t any higher, but the second-cut cattle were stronger.”
Buyers were likely looking to quickly fill some pens before Christmas, he said, while sellers were just cleaning up those animals they don’t want to be bothered with baby-sitting over the winter. “The real ones they wanted to move are already gone.”
Cull cow prices have softened over the past month, with large numbers behind some of that weakness, according to Nickel.
“There was a shortage of feed and more cows came to town than usual,” he said. “The market was just full of cattle.
“A lot of guys are telling me that they will cull their cow herd down to fit the size of the feed pile instead of trying to buy expensive feed,” he said, adding “it’s fairly tight in our area.”
Looking to the new year, Nickel was curious about what the market would look like in January. With more calves moving earlier than normal “it will be interesting what our runs will be like.”
Cattle futures at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange were choppy during the week, with live cattle hitting some of their best levels in more than a month before running into resistance.
The U.S. feeder cattle market was also choppy, bouncing off of nearby lows before running into resistance.