Manitoba’s cattle auctions saw some good numbers move through the rings during the week ended March 23, although prices for heavier-weight animals came under pressure.
Roughly 12,000 head were sold at the major auction marts during the week, compared to 13,000 head the previous week. Activity will likely be down during the last week of March, with a number of auctions taking a week off ahead of Easter and the Good Friday holiday.
Prices for heavier cattle weighing 700 lbs. and up were softer overall, especially the heifers. “The heifers are certainly not selling where everybody thought they’d be selling at this time of year,” said Rick Wright of Heartland Order Buying.
Wright linked the weakness to the large inventories of cattle in North America, with the latest Cattle on Feed numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture showing a million more cattle in U.S. feedlots as of March 1, 2018, compared to the previous year.
“We’re expecting a large number of finished cattle to be harvested over the summer months,” said Wright. “These 700-plus-weight cattle come right into that ‘bad’ harvesting time.
“Transportation is taxed. We’re at the limit trying to find trucks to go east and west,” he added.
“Fellows who bought cattle in the fall are not turning a profit on them. They’re selling at a loss and looking to buy back at a more hedgeable price than they did in the fall.”
The fundamentals are negative and the market is responding accordingly, according to Wright.
However, the situation is more promising on lighter-weight cattle. “Anything that can go to grass, and will be harvested in November/December/January of next year, actually looks really promising.”
Improving moisture conditions across the Prairies have also brought some more optimism to the market.
“The last couple of snowfalls have put everybody in a much better mood, because there’s some moisture on top of the ground to get the grass going and we’ll have some run-off to go into the dugouts,” said Wright, adding the improving conditions “have kept a few of the negative factors off the grass cattle.”
The butcher market held steady during the week. More cows than normal were held back last fall, but those animals are still not finding their way to the market as prices are not that enticing, according to Wright.