The spring cattle run is lasting longer than some people originally anticipated, and auction yards across Manitoba continued to see strong volumes of cattle during the week ended April 12.
Auction yards at Grunthal, Virden and Gladstone all reported having more cattle at their sale than the previous week, while markets at Ashern, Brandon and Ste. Rose saw slight decreases, but still had strong numbers.
Cold temperatures and excessive snow are causing some producers trouble in getting cattle out of their yards to market, said Allan Munroe with Killarney Auction Mart.
Sometimes, he said, it’s “easier just to keep feeding them than it is to actually try and get them sorted and hauled out.”
Snowfall persisting across the province has also limited some activity in recent weeks, especially at Killarney where sales are held on Mondays.
“It seems like a lot of the storms come through on a Sunday or Monday,” said Munroe. “And, that’s made our life, and our customers’ lives, challenging.”
Munroe expects there will be a couple more weeks of strong cattle numbers before marketing slows right down. Much will also depend on when farmers are able to get out and start seeding.
As of Friday, there was still around a foot of snow in many fields in Manitoba, so as long as farmers aren’t in their fields, they might think about marketing cattle.
But, once seeding starts, markets will be very quiet because “farmers won’t even be looking at their cattle, never mind trying to market them,” Munroe noted.
Once that happens, some cattle auction yards might start to change their schedules.
“At some point if the numbers get down, we might end up dropping to once every two weeks,” said Munroe. “And, my guess is sometime in June we’ll have our last sale (until fall).”
The fear of tightening supplies, as the seasonal slowdown in volume fast approaches, helped to keep feeder cattle prices steady to stronger during the week.
Top-end cattle saw more price strength during the week, because buyers are starting to get a little bit pickier now, said Munroe.
The general firmness in the market was also linked to corn values seeing some declines recently, which reduced feed costs for producers.
Prices on the slaughter side of the market were also steady to stronger, with continued strong demand for hamburger meat behind much of the firmness.
Volumes on the slaughter market were steady in some areas, but above average in other parts of the province.
At Killarney, it was status quo: “We’re not seeing a big jump in slaughter numbers, just sort of seasonal ones that lose a calf,” said Munroe.
In other areas, tight feed supplies are causing producers to send more cows to be marketed for slaughter.
For example, the auction yard at Ashern saw 320 cattle come on to the slaughter market, up from 250 a week ago. Grunthal Livestock Auction Mart and Brandon’s Heartland Livestock Services market also reported a pickup in volume on the slaughter market.