Burger demand spurs need for butcher cows, bulls

Cattle movement in the province continued to remain at a brisk pace during the week ended Feb. 17, although values for the heavier-weight animals continued to weaken.

The quality of the animals being marketed was described as being in the average to above-average category, with premiums still being offered for the top-quality grass cattle.

The Louis Riel Day holiday in the province on Monday was not expected to have much of an impact, if any, on cattle marketings during the next week.

“I would call the market fully steady to a bit firmer on the cattle weighing under 800 pounds,” said Robin Hill, the manager of Heartland Livestock Services at Virden. Cattle weighing 800 pounds and above lost some ground in value.

The decline in value for the heavier-weight cattle was associated with a drop-off in demand from the buyers, Hill said. An increase in the marketings of the heavier-weight cattle was also a factor behind the price weakness.

The increase in the movement of the heavier cattle was linked to the fact that feeding these animals has become an expensive proposition, he said.

“While the fat market has seen some minimal price improvement over the past couple of weeks, there still needs to be more of a climb to offset the weight gain cost of these cattle,” Hill said.

Cattle weighing in the 800-lbs.-and-under class were in good demand, with values experiencing some strength as a result.

Cows and bulls heading for the butcher market experienced some price strength as demand from consumers for hamburger meat begins to pick up, Hill said.

“There has definitely been some improvement in the butcher market as of late,” he said, noting the climb in value was partly associated with the fact that there has been a drop-off in these animals being marketed.

“Cattle farmers just don’t have as many of those animals to market like they once did,” he said. Some of the animals were sold early, as producers were unable to sustain the cost of feeding those animals.

A ramp-up in demand from consumers for hamburger was also contributing to the price firmness.

Hill speculated that values for butcher cows and bulls will continue to increase over the next few months as supplies of these animals slowly diminish. End-users were seen trying to stock up on those cattle while they still can.

Packers from all over Canada and even the U.S. were expected to be actively involved in pursuing the butcher cows and bulls from Manitoba, Hill said.

“Every packer in Canada and in the U.S. is looking for hamburger, and they are going where there are those types of cattle on offer,” he said.

Buyers for the other classes of cattle being marketed in the province also continued to come from both western and eastern regions, including from the U.S. Hill described some of those buyers as fairly aggressive.

The dispersal of bred cows at auction yards was also garnering a lot of attention.

“There has certainly been a nice amount of people filling the stands at these auctions,” Hill said, adding that there are individuals very interested in the expansion of this sector.

“All classes of bred cattle are experiencing some great demand,” he said, suggesting the rebuilding of the cattle herd in the province was in the early stages.

The Canadian dollar continued to have little impact on the direction of values seen at the auction marts during the week. The Canadian unit continued to trade just above parity with the U.S. currency. There are indications that the Canadian dollar will continue to hold these levels although the on-again-off-again macroeconomic situation in Europe will remain a factor, determining whether the currency strengthens or weakens.

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