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Slaughter cows just keep coming to Manitoba markets

The number of slaughter cows coming on to the market in Manitoba continued to remain strong during the week ended March 22, which had some industry members surprised.

“Everybody is asking the same thing: ‘Where do the cows keep coming from?’” said Keith Cleaver, manager of Heartland Livestock Services at Brandon. “Everybody is surprised. You would think those numbers would have to slow down.”

Some producers may be selling their cows in the slaughter market instead of breeding them this spring because they’re worried about feed supplies.

“A lot of guys are just nip and tuck, so even if she is a decent cow and she lost a calf or whatever the reason, she’s getting sold because of feed supplies,” said Cleaver.

Slaughter cow prices are also strong right now and continued to move higher during the week, which may be why more producers are selling their cows.

“If you get C75 to 80 cents per pound for her, it’s not feasible to leave her open for a year, even if she is decent,” Cleaver said.

Much of the strength in slaughter cow prices during the week was linked to good demand for hamburger meat.

The story was different for the feeder cattle market in the province during the week; while most classes of feeder cattle managed to keep steady prices, the value of heavier feeders fell a couple of cents per pound.

Values for heavier cows were weaker, following declining futures prices. Some of the softness was also linked to dwindling feed supplies and high feed costs.

The demand for Manitoba feeder cattle was coming from all directions, with buyers from Eastern and Western Canada and the U.S. in the mix — but none of them were willing to pay more for cattle, which kept a lid on the market, Cleaver said.

There were also signs of some local demand during the week, mostly for grass cattle. Some local buyers may be showing interest because good snowpack levels are promising for grass production this year.

“If there had been no snow cover, guys might not have been as eager to buy,” said Cleaver. “We definitely have the moisture to get grass started, but there’s no guarantee it’s going to last all summer.”

Many areas in Manitoba received a lot of snow over the winter months, including a snowstorm that passed through the province on March 17 and 18.

After the storm

Because of the snow earlier in the week, some cattle auction yards that had sales earlier in the week saw a sharp decline in volume.

“A lot of guys are calving right now and they just didn’t have time to get their yards pushed out to get the trucks out,” said Cleaver.

Heartland Livestock Services at Brandon saw only 408 cattle go through the ring, while Killarney Auction Mart, Grunthal Livestock Auction Mart and Gladstone Auction Mart had 100 cattle or less.

But, Winnipeg, Ashern, Virden and Ste. Rose still managed to have good numbers, because their sales were held later in the week after the storm.

Those that saw fewer numbers should see more cattle at their next sales to make up for it, but the strong volumes won’t last for much longer.

“Volume will dwindle down here fairly quick because a lot of the cows are already gone,” said Cleaver. “There’s probably going to be decent numbers, not huge numbers, but decent until the end of April.”

About the author

Columnist

Terryn Shiells writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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