Southern Alberta cattle prices remain steady amid COVID-19 pandemic

Click to play video 'Southern Alberta cattle prices remain steady amid COVID-19 pandemic' Southern Alberta cattle prices remain steady amid COVID-19 pandemic
WATCH ABOVE: Earlier this year, some of the largest meat-packing plants in Alberta temporarily closed due to COVID-19 outbreaks, leaving a lot of uncertainty for beef producers. As Quinn Campbell reports, despite all that, calf prices are holding strong as sale season starts. – Sep 18, 2020

No matter the industry, 2020 is in a league of its own when it comes to trying to stay positive about business.

“The cattle market is very volatile anyway, [and] with COVID(-19), there is a lot of uncertainty,” said Bob Balog of Balog Auction Services.

The global pandemic has left the industry on edge. Earlier this year, COVID-19 forced some meat-packing plants to shut down temporarily, which caused a backlog for feedlots.

Read more: Canadian meat-packing industry looks to make big changes following COVID-19

“Everyone was extremely afraid of what was coming, because we didn’t know from one day to the next — here or in the United States — and we depend on each other very heavily for markets to be made, and yes, there was a lot of worry this spring and certainly there still is now,” Balog said.

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Read more: Coronavirus: Cattle feedlot manager hopeful for ‘set-aside’ funding as soon as possible

The federal government stepped in to help the feedlots with funding but it still left major uncertainty for cow-calf producers waiting for fall run.

“Now it’s time to wean the calves in the next 30, 40, 50, 60 days, so the calves will be coming to town, the grass is starting to dry up, the yearling cattle have already been coming to town — so that’s what we call fall run, when the cattle start to be merchandised and sold,” Balog explained.

He said the feedlots are getting the backlog of cattle moved and good weather has brought the bottom line for the cattle industry up.

“Most places in Western Canada — for the first time in three years — have lots of hay,” Balog said. “They’ve got lots of straw [and] they’ve got lots of feed , so they had pasture and they’ve got feed and that’s putting a lot of the producers in quite a bit better mood than they’ve been in the last three years.”

Read more: Feed prices for cattle climb as pasture and hay fields fall short in hot, dry weather

That demand is holding up the price as producers begin to sell their calves.

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“We’re very pleasantly surprised,” Balog said. “The prices are very similar to last year. In fact, the light-weight calves — the 400-, 450-, 500-weight calves — are perhaps a little bit higher than a year ago.”

With how uncertain 2020 has been, Balog said it’s a payday producers are banking on.