Manitoba’s cattle sector took a hit during the week as a fire destroyed the historic Pipestone Livestock Sales yard in the southwestern corner of the province.
The blaze started at around 6:30 p.m. on March 1, with over 80 per cent of the structures and equipment engulfed in flames and destroyed, according to owner Gene Parks.
“Nobody got hurt, there were no injuries and no livestock losses — that’s the positive part and we’re thankful about that,” Parks said, adding “we can straighten out the rest as we go along — it’s just boards and nails.”
Investigations by the fire commissioner’s office and insurance adjusters were still underway a few days after the fire, but Parks was hopeful the go-ahead to start cleaning up would come soon.
“There’s a tremendous amount of cleanup to do, but we’ll get it done and go from there,” said Parks. “We’ll make a decision down the way as to whether we’ll rebuild, or just what we’ll do, but that’s a long way off at this point.”
The Pipestone auction yard was originally built in 1958, becoming the first cattle auction outside of Winnipeg in the province. “It’s served a lot of customers from southwestern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan,” Parks said, adding that many community members were also employed through the years, including about 15 at the time of the fire.
While the near future is uncertain at Pipestone, the auction has received a tremendous amount of encouragement from other auctions around the country. Pipestone has a sister site across the provincial border ar Whitewood, Sask., while other closer Manitoba auctions will likely see cattle originally destined for Pipestone move through their rings instead.
“We have competing markets, but we all work hand in hand,” Parks said.
Looking at local cattle markets during the week, prices held generally steady, although top-end feeder cattle bids were showing signs of coming off.
High-quality feeder steers in the 400- to 500-lb. category were still bringing over $250 per hundredweight in many cases, with sales up to the $280s reported. Butcher cows around the province were generally in the $75 to $90 per hundredweight area.
Spring temperatures will lead to muddy yards and could cause some disruptions to sales over the next few weeks, especially as spring road bans go into effect.
Live cattle futures in the U.S. moved lower during the week, while feed grain prices remain high. That discrepancy will also be followed closely going forward.