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Weekly cattle auction report

For week ending Oct. 4, 2013

Activity at Manitoba’s cattle auction yards held steady during the week in both pricing and volume. The height of the fall run is still a couple of weeks away, which kept values well supported for what was available.

Top-end lighter steers were topping $180 to $190 per hundredweight across the province, with heifer calves under 500 pounds bringing up to $150 to $160/cwt.

“We’re not in the crazy season quite yet,” said Robin Hill of Heartland Livestock Service at Virden, adding that “we’re getting a little more volume, but not big volumes.” He said volumes would pick up in the next few weeks, with the fall run getting into full swing after Thanksgiving.

Relatively smaller volumes for this time of year helped underpin the market, with the higher-quality calves moving east to Ontario and Quebec seeing the most aggressive demand and best prices, said Hill.

He pointed to the delayed harvest as the primary reason numbers were a little behind normal. “Once guys get done the harvest, we’ll see volumes increase as the weeks progress.”

The butcher market was also holding steady during the week.

Hill expected prices will shift lower as volumes pick up. “We’re out of the hamburger season now. While the demand is there for the volumes we’re seeing now, we’ll see a softer cow market going forward.”

At the same time, Hill didn’t think the eventual decline would be drastic.

From a feed perspective, supplies of hay and grain heading into the winter are generally plentiful across most of Manitoba, which Hill said would be good for the cattle sector overall.

Abundant feed supplies might encourage some producers to retain cattle over the winter, but Hill noted backgrounding cattle didn’t pay very well the past few years, a fact which will be in the backs of many minds going forward.

Strong calf prices right now would more than offset the cheaper feed costs, he said. “I think guys will market the top end of the calves in the fall, with the lower end backgrounded.”

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