After weeks of above-average temperatures and dry conditions, a snowstorm travelling across southern Manitoba on April 12-13 affected local cattle markets during the week ending April 15.
The system, which brought 10-15 centimetres of snow to most areas, prompted many to wait until next week before selling their animals. Auction sites at both Ashern and Gladstone cancelled weekly feeder sales due to poor weather conditions. In total, only 2,525 head of cattle went through the rings during the week.
“We did have a few guys who backed off until next week concerned about the weather. But the reports were calling most of the storm for Monday (April 12) afternoon, Monday evening, Tuesday here,” said Allan Munroe of Killarney Auction Mart, whose feeder sale took place on April 12 and had 366 head auctioned. Killarney did not host sales on April 5 due to Easter Monday.
However, Munroe acknowledged precipitation was sorely needed in many parts of the province — not just for grasslands and pastures, but also to determine how the market will shape up.
“As much as we really don’t like snow in April, we need the moisture. It’s very, very dry out there and that’s caused a lot of uncertainty. That’s going to affect our numbers coming to market as much as anything if we don’t get more moisture.”
As summer approaches, prices for butcher cattle in Manitoba have increased from the previous week. Mature bulls sold for as high as $120 per hundredweight, while some D1 and D2 cows surpassed the $100/cwt mark.
“We are getting closer and closer to hamburger season. I think packers are needing cows and bulls to fill the orders they have,” Munroe said.
At the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) on April 16, June contracts for live cattle shed US$5 off last week’s price, a 15-month high, trading at US$119.85/cwt. Despite the week-long decline, the price has mostly remained steady since early February.
Meanwhile, May contracts for feeder cattle traded at their lowest values in a month at US$143.90/cwt, strongly resembling prices seen during the first quarter. Snowy weather in North Dakota, Montana and Minnesota, as well as below-normal temperatures in the southern Plains, threatened grain crops, but dry conditions persist as grain prices continue to rise.
“The futures bounce around by the minute,” Munroe said. “As far as (cattle) numbers, I think we’ll stay at seasonal numbers for now. If we start getting more hot, dry, windy weather, we could see numbers start to come up as people try to trim their numbers for the pasture that they have.”