The fall run in the Manitoba cattle industry largely wrapped up on the week ended Dec. 17. As that large influx of cattle came to an end for 2020, prices for feeders were down a few cents per pound and those for slaughter were up a few cents, according to Harold Unrau, manager of the Grunthal Livestock Auction Mart.
“Feeder cattle were a little softer due to quality,” he said, adding the stronger Canadian dollar also weighed on values.
The loonie remained above 78 U.S. cents during the week, not so much because of strength in itself. Rather, continuing weakness in the U.S. dollar has propelled its Canadian cousin to levels not experienced for the last few years. The greenback hovered between 90 to 91 points for most of the week, but slipped to about 89.7 points on Dec. 17. That made it significantly weaker when compared to other major global currencies, including the loonie.
Unrau said there has been increased demand for slaughter cattle. “The local plants were trying to buy some inventory for the holidays,” he said.
In particular at Grunthal, prices for D3 to D5 cows rose from $57-$68 per hundredweight on Dec. 8 to $60-$70.25/cwt this week.
Among the feeders, steers in the 700- to 800-lb. category saw prices slip from $165-$179/cwt last week to $160-$175 on Dec. 15. The 600- to 700-lb. steers were down from $180-$191/cwt the previous week to $170-$185 this week.
There was a drop in feeder heifer prices, such as those among the 500- to 600-pounders, albeit with some of the low-end bids increasing. Those cattle went from $170-$208 on Dec. 8 to $185-$193.75 on Dec. 15. Similarly, the 400- to 500-pounders declined from $180-$217.50/cwt, settling at $190-$210.
In terms of the number of head sold at Grunthal this fall run compared to that of 2019, Unrau estimated there were 15 per cent fewer cattle.
“That’s due to more retention by the producers,” he said. “The markets were pretty spotty and there’s lots of feed. Some guys decided they were going to hang on to their cattle into the new year.”
During the week ended Dec. 10, Manitoba cattle auctions saw more than 9,200 head go through their doors. For the week ended Dec. 17, that number was down to about 5,600.
The province’s cattle auctions will be closed for the balance of December, with some reopening the first full week of January, and others waiting until the second week. Winnipeg Livestock Sales had its final weekly auction of 2020 on Dec. 18.
Come January, “we’re probably going to see a little bit of strength in the market,” Unrau predicted. However, he based that on the Canadian dollar losing some of its strength.