Recent rains in Manitoba have greened up pastures and in turn slowed down the number of cattle headed to market, said Kirk Kiesman, manager at Ashern Auction Mart.
In light of the severe drought on the Prairies, and especially in the Interlake region of Manitoba, the Ashern market organized a number of auctions this summer. That gave ranchers in the Interlake the opportunity to sell off cattle they believed became surplus with poor grazing opportunities and dismal hay production.
“The cattle are still going to continue to come in. We’re probably going to see three weeks of lower numbers just with the rain greening up the pastures. Guys are going to try to put a little more weight on their feeder cattle,” Kiesman said.
Despite the dire situation in which the western Canadian industry found itself this year, Kiesman said prices have been pretty good for the most part.
“Prices are really strong on the feeders and the calves. The cows are not so good, which we expected with the high numbers of cows in Western Canada,” he said.
Kiesman told a story of how one cattle rancher believed this was a bad time to sell cattle.
“But he got more than $1,400 for his calves straight off the cow. He was pretty happy on his steers. He didn’t know if we were to see better prices later on,” he said.
The greatest price movement at Ashern from week to week was with the feeder steers. The heavies increased from a range of $136.50-$185 per hundredweight at the Aug. 17 auction to $160-$200/cwt on Aug. 24. Lighter feeders were $187.50-$249/cwt, rising to $229-$255.50/cwt. Prices for feeder heifers remained steady.
Slaughter prices had some variation, with D3 to D5 cows selling last week for $37-$95/cwt and garnering $58-$64 this week. Also, D1 to D2 auctioned for $68-$82/cwt this week, with an insufficient number last week.
Mature bulls saw some change as well, going for $96.50-$142.50 on Aug. 17 compared to $88-$110.50 on Aug. 24.
From the sales, calves and yearlings have been heading to Eastern Canada while very little, or nothing at all, has been bound for the U.S., Kiesman said.
While it’s now too late for the rain to help with haying operations, he hoped the precipitation will green up pastures enough to provide an extended period of grazing – maybe into October, even November.
Otherwise, the rain should help to rebuild seriously depleted moisture levels in topsoil and subsoil.