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Winter weather drags on Manitoba cattle auction action

Buyers in the U.S. and down east are becoming less of a factor

More winter weather hit parts of southern Manitoba during the week ended March 15, disrupting some cattle auction activity. However, signs of spring were also starting to be felt across the province.

While Manitoba may be getting some better weather, “it doesn’t look like Nebraska is,” said Allan Munroe of Killarney Auction Mart. Heavy flooding in the major cattle-feeding state and surrounding areas will likely disrupt the North American market, with a slowdown in Canadian sales to southern buyers expected.

Eastern buyers were also becoming less of a factor than they had been earlier in the winter.

“They’re having trouble getting the cattle moved out of the fat pens to make room for more background calves,” said Munroe, adding “they’re not as aggressive as they were earlier on, but they’re more aggressive on the cattle they like.”

Roughly 7,000 head moved through Manitoba’s major auction yards during the week, with prices generally holding steady.

Munroe said the 500- to 600-weight feeder heifers were “probably the brightest spot of the past week or so,” as a few people were looking for cattle to put out to grass.

“We’re seeing a spread in the stretchier cattle versus the shorter ones,” he said.

Muddy yards will come to play in the next few weeks, but the forecast points to a nice and slow melt.

“We need those April/May rains that we missed out on last year,” said Munroe.

“We’ll deal with a little bit of mud if it means we get some grass.”

Munroe said most backgrounders were making do on feed, but the brutal cold in the winter had cattle eating through more feed than normal.

“So the guys who were a little tight (on feed) are probably a little tighter.”

He was hopeful there would be grass by May to turn the cattle out, instead of waiting for June.

“We’ll start to see things slow down in the next couple of weeks,” Munroe said, noting volumes typically drop off at this time of year.

Cattle futures in the U.S. were choppy during the week, with live cattle futures falling sharply at one point before recovering higher by Friday. Feeder cattle futures were choppy, but rangebound overall.

About the author

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Phil Franz-Warkentin writes for MarketsFarm specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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