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Sale volumes rise as prices improve on heavier cattle

Grass appears to be greening up in a timely fashion

Prices for cattle at Manitoba auction marts ticked upward during the week ended May 4, particularly on cattle at the heavier end, as producers prepared for spring activity.

Feeder steers ranging from 700 to 900 lbs. were generally $5/cwt higher on average, according to prices from the province’s main auction marts. It was a different story for lower weights, though, as prices hung mostly steady.

“We have seen a bit of a rebound here the past few weeks, which is certainly welcome news,” said Allan Munroe of Killarney Auction Mart.

Prices for heifers hung steady, with some strengthening at the top end.

Lighter grass cattle were also firm, with a good mix of medium- and heavier-weight cattle coming to market.

Some top-quality heifers traded $10 higher.

“I’m actually starting to get a few calls from guys booking dispersals for next fall,” he said. “It could be a sign we’re going to see a lot of cattle come to town next fall.”

Volumes were higher this week as over 7,700 animals made their way to market, compared to just under 6,000 the week before.

Interest came from all four directions as some buyers from the U.S. took light interest in sales.

Low volumes were creating logistical challenges for some of the longer hauls. “With the numbers dropping down it is getting harder to put things together for the East,” said Munroe.

To make things more complicated, quite a few of the cattle that were bought by eastern buyers last fall and then backgrounded in Manitoba were starting to make their way back east. “So that’s tying up a lot of those eastbound trucks right now.”

Grass in several parts of Manitoba is on the verge of greening up and according to Munroe, it came at just the right time.

“I’m not hearing about a lot of feed for sale right now,” he said, adding that at the same time it didn’t appear any producers were critically short.

In the U.S., packer bids rose a few dollars May 4 compared to earlier in the week. Reports out of Chicago indicate businesses in the retail market are choosing now to build up inventories for what is expected to be another busy summer.

For several months stakeholders in the cattle industry have been pointing toward the summer as a period when a massive number of cattle will be put on the market. As a result, most expect prices to take a serious hit due to the oversupply.

However, ideas are starting to take hold that the influx of beef may not be as big as previously thought.

“There’s starting to be some doubt about how many of these fat cattle are going to come this summer. Maybe that wall of cattle won’t be as brutal as we were expecting,” said Munroe.

About the author

Columnist

Dave Sims writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting. Dave has a deep background in the radio industry and is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg. He lives in Winnipeg with his wife and two beautiful children. His hobbies include reading, podcasting and following the Atlanta Braves.

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