The fall cattle run shifted into full gear as all eight Manitoba cattle auction sites conducted regular sales during the week ended Sept. 16.
Rains helped extend the pasture season during the previous week, keeping many cattle producers at home. However, the season could only last so long, as producers decided it was time to bring their cattle through the rings.
“Some pastures got emptied out. I think that was kind of what provided the numbers for both of the markets I was at today,” Tyler Slawinski, auctioneer for Ashern and Gladstone Auction Marts, said Sept. 16.
During the week, 4,583 head were sold at auctions across Manitoba. The amount of cattle was up nearly threefold from the 1,528 sold in the previous week at only four auction sites. The largest increase in the number of cattle sold was at Virden, which saw 1,185 head on Sept. 15 compared to only 285 one week earlier.
While more cattle resulted in a wider range of prices, the influx of new animals did not result in a sliding market. Feeder cattle prices were stronger as all but one auction site (Winnipeg) reported a sale of at least $250 per hundredweight.
“Any little change in the stock market or anything political, the market fluctuates so quickly. It can be low (or) it can be a lot higher,” said Slawinski.
At the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), the October live cattle contract is starting to trade sideways after a two-week-long downturn. The contract closed at US$123.60 on Sept. 16, US$8.10 lower than its two-year high on Aug. 24. Meanwhile, the October feeder cattle contract also stabilized, closing at US$157.10 on Sept. 16, US$13.125 less than its own Aug. 24 peak. The Canadian dollar also supported cattle prices, losing 0.13 of a cent from the previous week, at 78.9 U.S. cents.
Slawinski added that most cattle are staying in Western Canada, but black Angus and Charolais cattle are moving east and butcher cattle are going into the United States. Feed is more readily available in Eastern Canada, he added, causing more animals to enter Ontario and creating a sense of optimism in Manitoba.
“The fat cattle futures have been reaching levels that we haven’t seen in quite a while. So the guys who finish a lot of cattle are feeling a little bit better about feeding cattle,” he said.
“The market (in the U.S.) has kind of perked up a little bit so those cows aren’t coming into Canada to be killed, like they were a few weeks ago when the big panic was on. It was cheaper to bring cows across the line and bring them here to be slaughtered than it was to buy local cattle, which really hurt us.
“I say we’re right around normal” for this time of year, he added. “When the drought hit and things were looking scarce, a lot of cattle were moved earlier than normal due to those extreme conditions. But with the rains we’ve had, it’s relaxed things a bit.”