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Grass cattle see strength in largely local marketings

Activity is seen staying strong as calving season looms

Activity was solid at Manitoba’s cattle auction yards during the week ended Feb. 23, with good demand for lighter animals especially.

Roughly 10,600 head of cattle moved through the rings across the province, up from about 9,000 the previous week. Prices held reasonably steady on most classes, with the lighter-weight animals seeing the most strength.

“Grass cattle are bringing a premium right now,” said Brad Kehler of Grunthal Auction Mart, adding that poorer futures prices for heavier animals were likely behind some of the interest in the lighter classes.

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Many cattle are staying local, with no real movement south to the U.S. “Nobody is pricing cattle a long ways out,” Kehler said.

Cattle under 650 lbs. “are seeing a pretty good dollar figure,” he said, pegging six- to seven-weight cattle at about $210-$240 per hundredweight, while the seven- to eight-weights were considerably discounted.

Butcher cattle held reasonably steady on the week, with certain cows seeing better prices on a case-by-case basis.

With spring just around the corner, Kehler expected to see some good activity at auction yards.

“Calving season is upon us, and guys need to make room for them,” said Kehler adding that “we’ll be fairly busy for the next few weeks.”

The Manitoba government on Friday released its first flood forecast of the year, and current conditions point to a rather low risk of spring flooding. While the low flood risk is good news for ranchers with cattle in the river basins, the poor snow cover is raising some concerns over moisture levels going forward.

“Guys are thinking that there’s not enough snow around here,” said Kehler. Some ranchers were a little short on feed, he added, and could be getting concerned about pasture conditions and what next year’s feeding season will bring.

“But it’s Manitoba. The tap could turn on and never turn off for a few weeks, so you never know.”

Feeder cattle futures in Chicago moved lower over the course of the week, losing about US$4 per hundredweight. Live cattle futures also lost some ground.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cattle on Feed report, released Feb. 23, showed 11.6 million head in feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 or more as of Feb. 1, up eight per cent from the same point the previous year.

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Phil Franz-Warkentin - MarketsFarm

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

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