Traffic can’t last much longer at local auctions

Cattle movement to the various auction yards in Manitoba was described as mixed during the week ended April 20. Cattle marketings were heavy at some locations while light at others, with the weather the key factor in determining those levels.

As for prices, the market held fairly steady on steers and was slightly higher for cattle weighing over 800 pounds compared to the week previous and where those values were a month ago, said Rick Wright of Heartland Order Buying. Steers weighing under 800 pounds were steady to strong.

The spread between heifers and steers also continued to narrow in, tightening by at least five cents a pound in some instances, Wright noted. The tightening was in response to the demand for heifers from the buyers who want to put the animals out to breed.

“There certainly was a lot of activity at the auction yards, looking for stock to go back out,” Wright said.

The cow market was described by Wright as fully steady to slightly stronger on the lean cows.

Volume totals at the various auction yards were expected to decrease pretty rapidly over the next couple of weeks and all indications suggest values for the animals being marketed should be steady to possibly stronger, given the number of buyers and the lack of cattle to work with, Wright said.

The absence of numbers was said to be tied to the absence of producers who were willing to background cattle last fall.

“A high percentage of the cattle that are being offered for sale through the auction yards are home raised and this is the first time they are coming to the market,” Wright said.

Wright speculated the number of cattle being marketed will continue to dry up, given that there are just not that many out there.

In the past, at least three to four years ago, 40 to 50 per cent of the cattle being marketed in the spring consisted of breeding animals and for some would be the second time through the auction yard.

“However, that practice has pretty well come to a dead stop, given the high price of feed and the cost of raising those calves,” Wright said. “It came down to no one wanting to buy the animals to feed, just because they did not have any feed to give them.”

Most of the cattle being sold at the auction yards are staying in Canada, Wright said. He acknowledged that there are indeed U.S. buyers in the market, but the lightweight calves being purchased by these individuals are staying in Manitoba or being shipped to Saskatchewan for backgrounding purposes.

U.S. buyers were seen as being competitive on the cattle weighing under 500 lbs., but the demand from these individuals on animals over that weight target is greatly diminished.

The recent downturn in the grain markets in the U.S. over the past week to 10 days has resulted in some price strength returning to the cattle market in Manitoba, Wright said.

“With the losses in the grain market, we have seen a bit of a recovery in the lighter, longer-term cattle,” he said.

There had also been a lot of excitement among Manitoba’s cattle producers, who were very pleased about the warm weather and the early development of green pastures, Wright said. However, that excitement has since faded some, given the return of colder, wetter conditions and, in some cases, snow.

With the early warm weather, pastures were turning green and there were hopes of turning cattle out sooner, Wright said. With the cold and wet, the greening of pastures slowed significantly and in turn prevented producers from turning out the animals.

There definitely have been cattle turned out, but not the jump that had been anticipated, he said.

With the approach of spring and summer, Wright noted the auction yards in the province will soon be considering reduced sales and possibly temporary closure.

The closures and reduced-sales schedules were likely to occur sometime in June and continue through to late August.

“We are having our auction mart meeting in a couple of weeks, and at that point there should be a better handle on which operations will be shutting down and when,” Wright said.

The Manitoba Livestock Marketing Association, which consists of most of the province’s auction yards, will hold its meeting May 4 in conjunction with the Manitoba-Saskatchewan auctioneer championships being held at the Heartland Livestock Services location in Virden.

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