Unprecedented summer cattle sales across province

Drought in stark focus as producers forced to cut herds

Unprecedented summer cattle sales across province

In Allan Munroe’s 10 years at the Killarney Auction Mart, he has never before needed to conduct a sale at his auction site in July.

However, desperate times for cattle producers called for having a sale of 285 butchers and feeders on July 26. Killarney was not alone as Gladstone, Grunthal, Winnipeg and both Heartland sites in Brandon and Virden all hosted sales during the week ended July 29. Ashern and Ste. Rose, after the latter originally planned on closing for the summer planned for sales on Aug. 4 and 5, respectively.

“I’ve been getting phone calls from guys who didn’t know what to do. They had to sell something,” Munroe said.

With the amount of producers wanting to sell their cattle, according to him, there is now a backlog of animals going for butcher.

“It’s taking awhile. The packing plants are getting all they want and more. So they have to hold those cows longer, so that costs (the plants) to feed them every day until they can get them into the plants,” Munroe added.

In total, 2,508 cattle went through the rings at Manitoba auction sites during the week in Manitoba, a slight decline from the 2,717 sold the week before.

At the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), the August live cattle contract closed at US$122.20 per hundredweight on July 29, nearly $2 more than on July 19.

Meanwhile, the August feeder cattle contract closed at US$158.50 per hundredweight, at the same level since mid-June.

The Canadian dollar has surpassed the 80-cent U.S. mark and risen by nearly two cents since July 19.

On June 22, federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau and provincial Agriculture and Resource Development Minister Ralph Eichler both announced new drought relief measures. Through the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC) hay disaster benefit, insured forage producers can receive an additional C$44 per tonne for every tonne below coverage. A 60 per cent adjustment factor to in-field appraisals will be applied on small grain cereals put to alternate use.

Munroe does not believe current government intervention is enough.

“It’s barely a start. We’re going to see a massive reduction in the cow herd in Manitoba and, unfortunately, it’s probably going to be after that happens that people understand the spinoff effects of the cattle business in this province and this country,” he lamented. “Not just my business, but we’re talking car dealers, machinery dealers. It’s massive and it’s unfortunate that it’s basically getting less service right now.”

As cattle sales march on despite the tough times, Munroe added there are some bright spots.

“Feeder cattle are very strong, even with the stronger feed prices,” he said. “We did have a bunch of yearlings, a handful of wet and old calves and they all sold very well. It’s looking very optimistic at the moment.”

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