The upcoming week could be an extremely busy one for Manitoba stockyards as a fierce blizzard cancelled or curtailed several auctions during the week ended March 10.
Volumes were nowhere near what they had been in the weeks prior to the snowfall. Ste. Rose Auction Mart said on its website it had carried over 1,500 head for next week and was asking ranchers to call ahead to consign their animals.
Due to the low number of cattle that were received, the overall chart structure is difficult to compare to other weeks. Generally, however, it seemed heifers were up by two to five cents, with steers trading mostly steady. Butcher cows and bulls kept firm while heavy and intermediate weights traded fully steady. Killarney Auction Mart reported 47 specialty steers weighing 696 lbs. sold for $192.75 each.
According to Anne Wasko, a market analyst for Cattle Trends and Gateway Livestock, the market is near its highest point so far in 2017.
“Prices still seem very strong based on what’s going on with fed cattle markets both in the U.S.,” she said. “They continued to strengthen this week and sales across Canada were pretty strong.”
The recent fall of the Canadian dollar has helped make Canadian cattle more attractive to U.S. buyers. As of Monday morning, March 13, the loonie was near 74.5 U.S. cents, down two cents from its mark on Feb. 16.
Some of that uptick is also tied to seasonal issues, Wasko said.
“Both fed and feeder cattle volumes have picked up in March,” she said. “Some of that is seasonal as far as prior commitments made in forward contracts to packing plants.”
Still, the drop of the loonie to the 74 U.S.-cent mark last week is certain to draw more U.S. buyers north of the border. Just a month ago, most of the buying was coming from Ontario and the West. There were reports that buyers in Nebraska and other big-volume states could simply purchase cattle locally and realize much the same profit as coming to Canada.
“The industry is also looking forward to a better grilling season as we get closer to spring,” said Wasko.
Bargaining power in the market is mostly in the hands of the seller right now, she said, “unlike last year when it was reverse… We were behind in our marketing, the carcass weights were getting heavier and we were backed into a corner.”
In the U.S., cattle futures hit their highest mark in a month’s time to end the week. Futures for cattle delivery in April trended below cash values, though, which typically means less demand is forecast for the next few weeks.
Rising prices for beef have also pushed up margins for packers, which has prompted some to keep buying.