The first real snowfall of the year, seen on Nov. 17, didn’t keep the cattle away at Manitoba’s auction yards during the week ended Nov. 22.
The snow made for some messier conditions and caused a few cancellations here and there, but overall didn’t interfere too much with cattle marketing in Manitoba during the week.
“We probably had about 300 to 400 cattle cancel, but we were still close to 3,000 total for the week,” said Keith Cleaver, manager of Heartland Livestock Services at Brandon.
The story was similar at most other auction yards across the province, with many reporting selling steady to higher numbers of cattle compared to a week ago.
Cleaver noted each region’s road conditions varied, some very icy and some fine. It all depended on how busy the roads were, how cold it was and how much snow fell in the region.
Wintery conditions didn’t keep the buyers away either, which helped prices for feeder cattle stay steady to stronger during the week.
Cleaver added there was some interest from U.S. customers in addition to the regular buyers of Manitoba feeder cattle from the east and west.
Buyers from the U.S. are coming up to Canada to buy feeder cattle because it’s economical for them, with the Canadian dollar being so much weaker than their currency. On Nov. 22, the Canadian dollar traded below the US95-cent mark for most of the day, though it closed just above that level.
As long as the Canadian dollar stays weak relative to its U.S. counterpart, buyers from the U.S. will continue to come up to Manitoba to purchase feeder cattle, Cleaver said.
But that’s not the same case for slaughter cattle, with Washington’s revised mandatory country-of-origin labelling (COOL) rules coming into effect.
The U.S. government on May 23 proposed to implement a tougher COOL labelling rule in an effort to comply with a WTO ruling. On Nov. 23, that rule came into effect and is expected to cost Canadian producers up to an additional C$90 to $100 per head, much higher than the $25 to $40 a head it cost them previously.
The Canadian government is working toward ending the mandatory COOL rules in the U.S., with the most recent effort seen by Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz during the week. According to a government news release, Ritz was in Washington on Nov. 21, speaking with US government officials on COOL.
The WTO is also trying to determine whether the rules fall within its guidelines, as a committee was formed to work out the issue in late September of this year.
“As the 2013 amended regulations increase the discriminatory effects of COOL against Canadian livestock, Canada is confident that the WTO will continue to find the US non-compliant,” the government said in its release.
“If Canada prevails in the compliance proceedings, which may include an appeal to the WTO Appellate Body, the next step would be for Canada to seek authorization from the WTO to impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. imports.”
Cleaver said the implementing of the rules is in the back of every farmer’s mind in Manitoba, adding they would like the final ruling to come sooner rather than later.
The slaughter cattle market was weaker during the week, though it may not be attributed to the COOL rules. Seasonally, Cleaver said, it’s a time when many slaughter cows and bulls come on to the market and the increase in volumes puts downward pressure on prices.