All of Manitoba’s cattle auction yards were back in operation for the first time since June during the week ended Sept. 15, as the weather turned from summer to fall and the local cattle sector geared up for the busiest marketing time of year.
“We’re starting out better than we did last year,” said Allan Munroe of Killarney Auction Mart after holding his first sale of the season. While prices were down from where they were in the spring, he said they were still profitable and up from where they were at the same time a year ago.
Some calves born in January and February were coming in, Munroe said, with smaller groups of yearlings kept over the summer also finding their way to market.
While the market is better than last year, it’s “still a far cry off from the spring,” he said, adding that some ranchers who didn’t sell before the summer may be regretting it now.
The fat market took a significant drop since spring, but has levelled out and is looking steadier.
However, Munroe said, the cattle trade is now closely watching the Canadian dollar, which “took on a whole new life over the summer.” The currency is trading at roughly 82 U.S. cents, an increase of about seven cents from mid-June, when Killarney last held a sale.
That sharp rise in the currency makes Canadian cattle much less attractive to U.S. buyers, likely limiting some of the cross-border movement.
Looking ahead, Munroe expects the fall run will get moving earlier than normal this year, as harvest operations are also ahead of normal.
“The harvest a year ago was an absolute nightmare,” said Munroe. As a result, farmers were busy on their fields and maybe waited a week or two to turn their attention back to cattle. However, this year he expected the big numbers would start up by the end of September, with the auction yards running “flat out” by Thanksgiving.
As far as feed is concerned, “there’s adequate hay around, but if we don’t get a boost to these pastures, guys will have to start feeding a little earlier,” said Munroe.