Despite some price increases for feeder cattle, markets were largely steady to higher this week, according to Rick Wright of Heartland Order Buying Co.
Any gains, he said, were helped by packing plants in Ontario and Alberta taking in more livestock. “It stimulated some (price) activity on the bigger cattle.”
Another supportive factor was that the spring run has pretty much finished, with few cattle coming to auction and more farmers putting animals to pasture for the summer. That meant buyers had to move quickly.
“If you saw them, you better buy them,” Wright said.
There was also some interest from U.S. buyers, particularly in “fleshier, middle-quality cattle,” he noted.
U.S. buyers often purchase 300 to 500 head from Manitoba auctions, he explained.
A sample of prices from this week shows feeder steers in the 400- to 500-lb. category at Grunthal increased from $190 to $232 per hundredweight (cwt) on May 5 to $200-$280/cwt on May 12. Feeder heifers in the 600- to 700-lb. range went from $140-$164/cwt on May 1 to $165-$191/cwt on May 8.
With the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions continuing, Wright believes a lot of volatility will remain in the market for quite some time.
“We’re very fortunate to be in a season where we don’t have the big volumes to deal with. If this would’ve happened in the fall, we would’ve been in big trouble,” he said, noting demand was stronger than supply this week.
As summer approaches, Wright stressed cattle ranchers need to call their auction marts ahead of time, as not all facilities will continue operating on a weekly basis.