Lower demand and falling futures drag on cattle

Cattle auction yards around Manitoba are in full-on summer mode, with very little activity to report during the first week of July.

Many yards shut down completely for a few weeks in the summer, while the Canada Day long weekend added to the holiday mode.

One of the few yards still moving cattle through the rings during the week was Heartland Livestock Services at Virden, which will keep holding sales throughout most of the summer, closing only to get caught up on other jobs and maintenance around the yard during the week of July 19 and again the week of Aug. 2.

While there were only 347 head on offer at Virden, the small volumes are also being met with a lack of significant demand. Robin Hill of Heartland Virden said the declines in U.S. futures over the past few weeks were spilling over to weigh on Canadian prices.

Live cattle futures at the Chicago Mercan­tile Exchange fell to their lowest levels in two months during the week. Meanwhile, grain prices were rising on the back of U.S. weather concerns, cutting further into the cattle market.

“We’ve definitely seen the butcher cattle drop,” said Hill. In addition to the bearish influence of the U.S. futures, he added the poor performance of summer fat cattle “doesn’t help,” with July, August and September typically the lowest fat cattle markets of the year.

The small volumes were limiting buying interest from abroad, as it’s getting harder to put a full load together. Rather, most of the activity was local to local.

It was too early for calves to be coming in, Hill said, but some small producers were still gathering a few cows that maybe lost late calves.

Pasture conditions are a focus at this time of year, with Hill describing the local situation as “hit and miss.”

Some areas need rain, he noted, while others look OK from a moisture standpoint.

“If you’re in the right spot, you’re getting a little drink every once in a while.”

Haying is also underway in the province, with about 10 to 20 per cent of the first cut off in Hill’s area. He expected to see a big push over the next week, provided the weather co-operates.

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