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Snowstorm leads to snow day for Manitoba cattle auctions

Economic uncertainty drags on the Canadian dollar

The late-winter snowstorm which hit Western Canada the first weekend in March caused auction marts across Manitoba to cancel sales.

“I don’t think anybody sold anything until (Thursday). We had no cattle at all, either sale. And Brandon had no cattle, Killarney had no cattle,” said Robin Hill of Heartland Livestock Services at Virden.

Of the province’s eight major auction marts, five were forced to cancel sales due to the snowstorm which blew through the province on March 4-5. The remaining three auction marts’ sale days were later in the week, after the storm had passed.

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“We were open all day on Tuesday to receive cattle and never had an animal delivered. But I think everybody was pushing snow and cleaning out,” Hill said. He expected there to be a larger run this week to make up for the cancelled sale.

There were 3,220 head of cattle sold through Ashern Auction Mart, Ste. Rose Auction Mart and Winnipeg Livestock Sales for the week ended March 9. Prices for 800- to 900-lb. steers ran from $155 to $176 per hundredweight (cwt). Heifers the same weight sold from $135 to $164/cwt. On the slaughter market, heiferettes sold for $100-$141/cwt.

Across Western Canada, feeder cattle are sticking around $160/cwt, according to Brian Perillat, manager and senior analyst at Canfax.

“Feedlots (are) still making a little bit of money at this level and our prices are basically still higher than the U.S.,” he said. “So we have a very strong basis here, which is positive.”

Feedlots in Alberta are pretty full following a strong fall run, with rising feed grain costs starting to weigh on them. Feed barley at Lethbridge feedlots has rallied to the $5- to $5.15-per-bushel range while feed wheat is around $6.50 per bushel.

The U.S. futures markets have also been struggling, which could lead to problems later this year.

“If we look into the summer, there’s maybe a little bit of concern for some of these feeder cattle that are going to hit that summer market. It doesn’t look like a lot of profit potential in them,” Perillat said.

At market close on March 9, Chicago Mercantile Exchange live cattle futures hit a seven-week low. The April contract closed 1.2 U.S. cents lower, to 121.775 U.S. cents/lb., while the June contract dropped 1.55 U.S. cents, to 113.275 U.S. cents/lb.

Over the last week the Canadian dollar has trended lower against its U.S. counterpart, hanging around the 77-cent mark due to economic uncertainty following U.S. President Donald Trump’s planned tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Usually a weaker dollar is good for the Canadian cattle market and causes a bounce in the market, but that isn’t the case this time, Perillat said.

“It certainly may be helping keep our fed cattle prices steady… (but) the market isn’t going up by any means due to a drop in dollar.”

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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