Recent rains across Manitoba brought some much-needed relief to dry pastures, slowing activity at the province’s cattle auctions during the week ended Sept. 3. Prices for what was moving were solid, with strength in the feeder market but a softer tone in butcher cows.
“There were light offerings everywhere this week, for feeder cattle and butcher cattle,” said Rick Wright, senior Manitoba buyer with JGL Cattle, adding “the rain we got over the past few weeks has put some regrowth in the pastures and is buying some short-term time.”
As a result, “the big flood of cattle has slowed down, but we know they’ll come.”
Wright expected the rains likely bought two or three more weeks on the pasture, allowing the cattle to put a bit more weight on before they come to market. In addition, he noted that local background lots still have to take their silage off, so they can’t take big volumes yet.
However, the overall feed situation remains tight despite the brief reprieve, which should lead to an increase in butcher cows once the first frost hits and the grass disappears again.
For what was moving during the week, cow prices were already on seasonal demand, with high deliveries being met by only moderate demand. Wright said most of Manitoba’s butcher cattle were finding their way to packers in the U.S.; Western Canada was already filled with enough of its own.
For feeder cattle, prices were generally higher on the week, with the yearling market especially active, according to Wright. Light deliveries and good quality on the calf market were bringing in more money than anticipated, he said, given the high feed costs.
“I think the farmers selling those calves are going home pleasantly surprised with how high they are,” he said.
Good 500-lb. steers were bringing $230-$245 per hundredweight, with the lighter 400-weight animals hitting up to $260 per hundredweight.
Looking ahead, a shortage of trucks heading east could have an impact on the market when the fall run picks up in October, Wright said.
Cattle futures in the U.S. lost ground during the week, with both live and feeder cattle prices falling to their lowest levels since July. Meanwhile, the Canadian dollar held relatively steady.