Most Manitoba cattle markets are still a few weeks away from opening after the summer slowdown, with low numbers being reported at locations that are open.
Rick Wright, a broker for Heartland Order Buying Co., said markets that have been open are generally selling fewer than 200 head.
Of those, he said one-third to one-half are cows. A few yearlings are also coming in but not due to feed or pasture shortages caused by drought. They’re being sold by producers trying to generate a little extra cash flow, he said.
“We really haven’t had enough volume to establish a market,” he said.
A little over 550 cattle made their way through auction yards at Brandon and Virden last week, down slightly from the week previous.
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There was no sale this week at Winnipeg Livestock Sales, the only other auction operating in the province through the summer, although a butcher and feeder sale is planned for Aug. 25.
In Wright’s area, he said, a few light “wet-nosed” calves attracted more than $200 per hundredweight, 900-lb. steers sold for about $180/cwt and 600-lb. steers sold in the mid-$90s.
Heartland Order Buying is starting to get calls from producers looking to price cattle for September delivery and wanting to know current market conditions, Wright said.
“The cow market is under a little bit of pressure; a lot of that is exchange related and a bit is a heavy-duty supply of fed cattle available to the packers.”
Packers aren’t motivated to pay premiums normally seen for cows this time of year because of that heavy supply.
Manitoba producers have little incentive to move cattle early, with pastures in decent shape, but Wright said some producers might pull some October calves forward into September if drier pastures don’t receive rain in the next couple of weeks.
But it wouldn’t be a major rush, he added.
“We’re basically encouraging the guys, other than slaughter cattle, to hang on to them until there is a bit more volume around.”