Cattle volume on auction yards across Manitoba continued to pick up during the week ended Sept. 27, as harvest continues to progress and pasture conditions decline.
According to Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives’ Sept. 23 weekly crop report, despite rainfall that slowed combining, harvest across the province is well underway.
The report also said cattle are being moved to fall pastures and areas with harvested crop stubble.
Dave Nickel of Gladstone Auction Mart said cattle volume doubled from 403 on Sept. 17 to 863 on Sept. 24. Yearlings will continue to be marketed for the near term, he added.
“I think we’re going to see another couple of weeks of yearlings coming in and then I think volume will start tapering off,” he said, noting the calf run is just around the corner. “Yeah, I think calf numbers are going to be steady this fall.”
Feeder cattle prices continued steady, and with expectations of ample feed grain, a decline is not expected, Nickel said.
The biggest factor for low feed grain prices has been the U.S. corn crop. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the crop is expected to be the largest on record, which has led to prices deteriorating over the summer and into the fall.
At the close on Sept. 27, the December corn contract on the Chicago Board of Trade was at US$4.54 per bushel — significantly lower than the $8/bu.-and-higher prices seen last year.
The story is the same for western Canadian barley prices. As of Sept. 27, Lethbridge barley was worth C$147.73 per tonne, compared to $226.06 per tonne at the same time last year.
“Feeder prices were fairly strong this week, and I think they’re going to stay where they are,” Nickel said, adding that butcher prices should also remain fairly steady for the time being.
Prices for butcher cows “seemed to be steady, but I can see it may be tapering off in a little bit as people start cleaning out the pastures and moving their cattle around.”
Manitoba cattle again ended up moving east, west and into the U.S. over the past week, which is not unusual for this time of the year.
Helping U.S. buyers has been an up-and-down Canadian dollar. After strengthening the previous week amid news that the U.S. Federal Reserve decided not to slow its monetary stimulus in September, the value of the loonie against its U.S. counterpart weakened, making Manitoba’s cattle market more enticing to U.S. buyers.
At the close on Sept. 27, the Canadian dollar was worth US97.06 cents, down from the previous Wednesday’s close of 97.83.
However, despite the importance of the dollar, Nickel said the key factor remains the price of grain.
“I don’t know if the Canadian dollar will be a big issue this year,” he said. “It’s going to be more what prices of feed are going to be and how much is available.
“They’re expecting big crops, so I understand feed grain prices have already dropped, so I expect that cattle prices would stay steady and possibly pick up a bit.”
Heading into the winter, Nickel said, while forage supplies vary from area to area, most growers should have enough to last them through the Manitoba winter.
“It depends from area to area, because some are doing all right and some don’t have as big of forage supplies as they would have hoped for,” he said. “Our area is average. I don’t think there will be an issue with supply over the winter.”