Pandemic spurs concern with fall run approaching

The COVID-19 pandemic’s resurgence in Manitoba has caused a great deal of concern for the province’s cattle producers, said Manitoba Beef Producers president Dianne Riding.

“It’s because of the fact there is so much uncertainty as to what our calves are going to be worth this fall, or our yearlings,” she said.

That concern was heightened this week with the Maple Leaf plant in Brandon ceasing exports of pork to China. That pork is likely to shift to the domestic market, adding more competition for beef, Riding said.

Also, the 60-plus cases of COVID-19 connected to the plant generate additional fears over the possibility of a beef plant shutdown in Canada. Should that occur, it would ripple through the cattle industry, she said.

“For folks who always sell their calves, there are some really hard decisions. We’re crossing our fingers that one of our plants doesn’t go down again,” Riding said, noting cow-calf producers lack pen space and water troughs to keep herds any longer than planned.

Added to that has been the continuing feed shortage in Manitoba. Riding said she’s grateful to producers who have extra straw and are willing to sell it to their fellow producers.

Cattle producers and the province have yet to hold consultations on a new provincial Crown lands policy, which have been delayed in the pandemic, she said. She stressed it’s important for the producers to know and understand how the Crown lands policy would now work.

Four cattle auctions held during the week, at Grunthal, Winnipeg and Heartland’s Brandon and Virden locations, sold almost 1,340 head.

Prices fetched by feeder steers in the 400- to 500-lb. class showed a smidge of a decline. During the week ended Aug. 13, those steers garnered $200-$240 per hundredweight; this week, they were $190-$235/cwt.

Feeder heifers in the same weight class went for $185-$215/cwt last week; this week they brought in $170-$215.

With the fall run approaching, some other cattle auction markets in Manitoba will be resuming sales. According to their respective websites, Ashern restarts on Aug. 26, followed by Ste. Rose on Aug. 27, Killarney on Sept. 14 and Pipestone on Sept. 18.

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Glen Hallick - MarketsFarm

Glen Hallick writes for MarketsFarm specializing in grain and commodity market reporting. He previously reported for Postmedia newspapers in southern Manitoba and the province’s Interlake region.

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