Summer slowdown supports values at auctions

Cattle prices at Manitoba auctions were steady to stronger during the week ended June 8, as there was a smaller number of cattle for sale.

Rick Wright, buyer with Heartland Order Buying Co., said cattle numbers normally slow down a little bit as the summer months approach, but this year the number of cattle at auction was lower than usual.

“Pasture conditions are good and the future prices for fall are extremely strong,” he said. “So, a lot of producers were encouraged to just go to the pasture with their cattle rather than sell them now.”

Wright said feeder cattle prices were steady to higher due to strong demand. As the U.S. dollar strengthened against the Canadian dollar last week, U.S. buyers found Manitoba cattle less expensive, and more attractive, he said.

“The feeder cattle market was extremely aggressive on all classes of cattle… we saw most classes running two to five cents per pound higher than the previous week,” he said. “Most of that was due to the U.S. buyers being much more competitive than they normally are.”

The bull market was also two to five cents higher per pound, following the same price trend as the feeder cattle market, Wright said.

The slaughter market was steady to one to two cents higher as the hamburger market provided a strong demand for butcher cattle, and the U.S. dollar’s strength provided support, he said.

The finished cattle market saw a very light offering of cattle from Manitoba, he said.

“We’re not feeding very many cattle in Manitoba because we had no barley crop last year to feed them… So, to put them to pasture and feed them to gain weight makes the cost very high.”

However, he said, the finished cattle market remained steady as a larger offering from other western provinces made up for the small number of cattle that came out of Manitoba.

It is unusual for cattle prices in Manitoba to remain steady, never mind experience gains at this point in the season, he said.

“Normally this time of year the cattle would be all discounted because the buying numbers are so shy and it takes so long to put a load together of uniform cattle from so many different sources,” he said.

However, because local demand was very strong the market wasn’t impacted by the summer slowdown this week, Wright said.

Only six of nine cattle market auctions in Manitoba held sales this week as they slow down for the summer. See the schedule table for information on when auctions will be held over the next few months.

There was a lot of contracting of Manitoba cattle for the fall months done between producers and U.S. buyers, Wright said. The interest of buyers from the U.S. to contract Manitoba cattle for the fall grew as they wanted to lock in prices while their currency is stronger than the Canadian unit.

“There were huge volumes of Manitoba cattle that were contracted in the past week and prices for those cattle were three to seven cents per pound higher than anticipated, but there were a lot of them,” he said.

Because the cows are already technically sold, he said they will not be at auctions in August, September and October. However, he said, it won’t have a big effect on the volumes that will go to auction during the fall months.

“They’re not calves, they’re all yearlings off the pasture, and the trend has been on those big strings of yearling cattle to go direct,” Wright said.

The large volumes of cattle being contracted this week may not have a big effect on the number of cattle that will be offered at auctions in the fall, he said, but it does provide “extreme optimism” for prices in the fall.

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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