Recent History – 2003
October 31, 2003 — Gary Rusak, Daily News Staff
For the first time in a long time there is optimism in the local cattle industry.
“The cattle prices are up now,” said Art Patterson of Peace Country Livestock Auction Ltd. “It looks a lot better than I thought it would. Eighty days ago I didn’t think it was going to be this good.”
The Peace Country Livestock Auction held its second auction of the week Thursday and sold 500 head of cattle. On Tuesday 2,200 head of cattle moved through the auction house. The prices held steady – comparable with last year’s – throughout the auction, which attracted buyers across the Peace Country. According to Patterson, the feeder prices have been steadily rising for the last three weeks. He attributes the increase to optimism surrounding the possibility of the U.S. border opening to Canadian meat.
“I think that people are betting that the border will open at some point soon,” he said, adding that when the border does reopen there will be such demand in the western United States that it will bolster Western Canada’s industry.
“Right now the most of the meat in the western states is coming from the eastern states,” he said. “When the border opens again we will be able to supply the west.”
The feeling around Peace Country Livestock Auction on Thursday was one of tempered optimism.
“I think everyone is hoping that the border will open again,” said Alvin Billings of High Prairie, Alberta, who made a few cattle purchases at the auction on Thursday. “We have been surprised (the market) has been as strong as it is.”
Prices fetched for 400 to 500-pound feeder calves hovered around $1.20 per pound, a substantial increase from the 70 cents a pound some experts had predicted after the first and only case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy was discovered on May 20th in Alberta. Besides optimism about a possible border reopening, another factor that has raised the price of cattle is the drop in the price of feed.
“The feed is about 20 per cent cheaper than it was this time last year,” said Patterson, adding that it has made it an incentive to buy more animals because maintaining them doesn’t cost as much. However, the underlying factor for the higher prices is the high consumer demand. Demand for beef, both locally and internationally has not dropped since the BSE case was discovered in May.
“People are still eating meat,” said Patterson. “As long as people still want it the price will be strong.”
Wayne Porter, a Dawson Creek buyer, explained that even the smallest sign of the border reopening has re-energized the market.
“Since they let boneless beef across there has been a real improvement,” he said. “It shows great possibilities in the future.”