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Producers catch up on cattle marketings after storm

The number of cattle making their way to auction yards in Manitoba increased significantly during the week ended Nov. 23. Much of the jump in cattle marketings was associated with farmers playing catch-up to last week’s plans, which were snowed out by a winter storm. Steady demand from all outlets, meanwhile, allowed values to remain firm.

“There was definitely no shortage of people wanting to buy the influx of animals that arrived this week,” said Buddy Bergner, with Ashern Auction Mart. “The cattle went to Ontario, Alberta, some went to the U.S. and some stayed locally.”

The values for the top-quality animals remained firm, if not a bit better, while the plainer type of animals lost a little bit in value, Bergner said.

Packer demand for cattle continues to be aggressive, he noted, with much of that interest tied to the fact of a significant shortage of cattle in Canada as well as in the U.S. Part of the reason for the demand being fairly aggressive has been the fact that marketings to date have also been on the slow side, he said.

“There are also a lot of farmers located across the province who are in the process of dispersing their cattle herds,” Bergner said, noting that this will only further tighten the supply base further down the road, he said.

Winnipeg Livestock Sales officials confirmed that farmers were in the process of culling off cows, yearling cattle and Holsteins.

Grocery stores and restaurants were believed to be restocking beef supplies for early December and booking more beef for later in the month in preparation for New Year’s Eve events.

The tightening cattle supply situation in the U.S. was also linked to the firm price trend in Canadian cattle values. A recent U.S. Department of Agriculture cattle-on-feed report showed lower-than-expected numbers of young cattle being placed in feedlots to prepare for slaughter.

Analysts cautioned, however, that processors were on the lookout for a break in the prices, as consumers tend to back away from beef products as the price inflates, switching to pork or other less expensive meats. Prices were, however, expected to hold up.

In the meantime, the cattle numbers hitting the auction yards in the province will likely remain strong, weather permitting, Bergner said.

The steady marketings were associated with the fact that calving season has switched over from starting in February to the April-May period. This in turn has resulted in calves not being ready to market for a couple of months later than the traditional September-October time frame.

Bergner noted cattle marketings also pick up a little ahead of the Christmas and New Year breaks most auction yards take.

He noted his auction yard will hold its last sale ahead of the break on Dec. 19. Cattle sales were tentatively scheduled to resume on Jan. 16, 2013.

Feed supplies in his area, meanwhile, were described as very tight. Much of that was linked to the fact of a very poor fall harvest.

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