MB cattle prices drift closer to Prairie counterparts

Prices for cattle at Manitoba auction marts are starting to settle closer to their Western Canadian counterparts after riding a high throughout most of the fall run.

“It looks like we’ve hit the peak. It has come and gone here. (Run) numbers are still quite good (though),” said Rick Wright of Heartland Order Buying.

A month ago while cattle prices were starting to soften in most of Western Canada, Manitoba was holding up quite well due to demand from Eastern Canada. According to Wright though, that demand has started to level off as buyers are having trouble moving their fed cattle.

“The plants are slow lifting them and that’s making some congestion at feedlots because they don’t have pen space to put the calves in. So the eastern demand is a little more tempered,” he said.

Cattle prices were down slightly during the week ended Nov. 22. At the province’s eight major auction marts feeder steers weighing 600 to 700 pounds sold for C$167 to C$213 per hundredweight (cwt). The previous week they sold for C$170 to C$213.50 cwt.

“The demand for lightweight heifers under 525 pounds has also picked one to two cents over the last week and so we’ve seen a significant decrease in the spread between the steers and the heifers than what we saw two to three weeks ago,” Wright said.

Feeder heifers in the 600 to 700 pound category sold for C$100 to C$191 cwt, compared to C$150 to C$185 cwt.

Volumes are also starting to fall. There was approximately 15,000 head run through Manitoba auction marts, compared to about 16,500 head the previous week. Seasonally this is in line with what is expected.

Heading into the next few weeks, Wright expects sales to drop off around Dec. 15 for the holidays and not pick up again until around Jan. 10 in the New Year.

“I think that we’ve probably seen the major adjustment on the pricing happen last week, so I would expect that we’ll see steady prices from now until the 15th of December on the feeder cattle,” he said, adding that after Dec. 15 the market could get quite volatile.

Wright has noticed lately that some of the calves coming to market have been lighter side, looking “woody”. Due to the dry pasture conditions, some producers weaned their calves later than normal and aren’t taking the usual six weeks before marketing them.

“Those calves that are showing some stress because of the late weaning and the winter conditions will be discounted, there’s no doubt about it,” Wright said, adding buyers aren’t interested in these calves as they aren’t strong enough to be shipped.

Looking into the New Year, Wright thinks there will be more volatility in the market. He doesn’t expect to see the market swing upward and there won’t be any real strong demand for grass fed cattle until February or early March.

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