Prairies’ cattle markets starting to strengthen

Supplies may drag on prices heading further into summer

Cattle prices are starting to rise on the Prairies following a rebound for cattle futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, from where one Alberta analyst sits.

“(In) the last two, three weeks, (prices have become) pretty good finally. We really had a meltdown in the futures two, three weeks ago, (due to) trade worries and fed cattle prices,” said Brian Perillat, manager and senior analyst at Canfax.

At Manitoba’s major auction marts, prices were higher for the week ended April 27. Feeder steers (700-800 lbs.) sold for as high as $201/cwt, compared to prices of up to $179.25/cwt the previous week.

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A weaker Canadian dollar has also helped support cattle prices, ending the week at 77.78 U.S. cents, down 0.79 U.S. cents from the previous week.

“The overall market tones have been stronger and then you can add in the lower dollar,” Perillat said. “The last week or so it’s dropped almost two cents, so that’s pretty big.”

Volumes of cattle are also starting to increase. According to Perillat, the number of fat cattle up for sale usually rises during the spring.

“We’re kind of in-between for another month or so, in between yearlings and just starting to see the calf volumes pick up,” he said. “But we’ll see more volumes come forward straight up through till August, even till September possibly.”

Over 5,900 head of cattle moved through Manitoba’s major auction mart during the week ended April 27, down from 6,700 the previous week.

As the volume increases, however, prices will start to drop. The market usually comes under pressure and prices weaken as the auction marts head into the summer season.

Demand for exports is good, though, with interest in Manitoba cattle from buyers in Ontario and the U.S., while demand from the West is waning. A large fall run has Lethbridge feedlots full.

“They’re not coming west as fast. Guys (have) got to wait till they start marketing calves to place more feeders,” Perillat said.

The market could also feel pressure soon from rising feed costs. Lethbridge feedlots are grappling with a tight feed grain supply, which is driving costs up.

“With the later spring and that, we might see a little more barley getting seeded. So that’s not all bad for the cattle-feeding side of things. But prices are still relatively high,” Perillat said.

About the author

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Ashley Robinson - MarketsFarm

Ashley Robinson writes for MarketsFarm specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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