There was good movement through Manitoba’s cattle auction yards during the second week of February, with prices relatively steady for most classes of cattle.
“The light cattle are still very strong,” said Allan Munroe, of the Killarney Auction Mart. However, “the big ones took a hit with the drop in the futures a few weeks ago,” he added.
“With cattle, we’re always buying time,” said Munroe noting that the heavier animals closer to slaughter are also closer to lower slaughter prices. Meanwhile, the lighter-weight animals won’t be at slaughter weight until the fall or later.
Both live and feeder cattle futures in Chicago dropped sharply in late January/early February partially on fears over the novel coronavirus outbreak in China (COVID-19). The futures have since stabilized and were generally trending higher during the week ended Feb. 14.
Munroe said quality was a major factor in the local markets, with an abundance of better-quality animals at the Killarney yard at the Feb. 10 sale helping underpin the market overall.
While some heifers in the 550- to 650-pound area were seeing good demand, the spread between heifers and steers remains rather wide, said Munroe.
The closure of the Ryding-Regency Meat Packers plant in Ontario is another feature in the Manitoba cattle sector, as the lack of one major buyer has reduced the competition and led to hit-and-miss eastern movement. The plant, which had been the third-largest meat packer in Ontario, was shuttered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in December.
Weather was mixed during the week, with relatively mild conditions for sales held Monday/Tuesday and much more frigid temperatures for the end of the week.
“The weather is more uncomfortable for people more than anything,” said Munroe, noting that the weather overall remained considerably better than the previous winter.