Activity at Manitoba’s cattle markets continued to pick up steam during the week ended Sept. 13, with both feeder and slaughter cattle seeing good demand. Yearlings accounted for the bulk of the activity, with the height of the fall calf run still some time away.
“The cattle market is hot… and demand for feeder cattle is strong,” said Buddy Bergner of Ashern Auction Mart. Declining grain prices, together with the fact that fewer cattle are around, helped underpin prices, he said.
Expectations for a record-large U.S. corn crop have sent corn futures at the Chicago Board of Trade to their lowest levels in three years. December corn ended the week at about US$4.58 per bushel. Last year at this time, that same bushel of corn would have cost about US$8. Canadian feed costs have also come down, with forage supplies looking sufficient heading into the winter.
Cheaper feed costs leave more profits on the table for the cattle sector, which makes buyers more willing to pay up. The futures also bear that out, with feeder cattle values in Chicago about US20 cents per pound better than they were at this time a year ago.
Demand for cattle in Manitoba came from across the board during the week, with animals moving “south, east, and west,” said Bergner. Slaughter cattle were also moving out in all directions.
The better feed supplies could have some producers looking to background more cattle over the winter, rather than move them in the fall. However, Bergner said, cattle prices were just so attractive right now that the opposite would likely hold true.
“Lots of guys are saying that they’ll just dump their calves at these prices,” he said, adding that the mentality is “‘Why work?’ If they can get so many dollars for their calves, they’ll just let them go.”
Top-end feeder cattle prices were steady to as much as $10 per hundredweight higher during the week, depending on quality. Slaughter cattle values generally held steady.
Overall volumes were also higher, with a number of yards seeing over 1,000 head move through the rings for the first time this season.
Harvest operations are moving forward across the province. As the harvest winds down and cattle move off pasture, activity will pick up at the auction yards as well. Increased volumes have the potential to weigh on values, but for now the demand is there.