This cattle market information is selected from the weekly report from Canfax, a division of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. More market information, analysis and statistics are available by becoming a Canfax subscriber by calling 403-275-5110 or at www.canfax.ca.
Fed cattle steady
A sizable volume of pre-holiday formula-priced cattle increased the size of the show list in the week ending Dec. 20, while the cash offering was generally modest and speculative.
A handful of cash cattle traded at live prices steady with last week.
Fed steers were mostly steady at $127.88 per hundredweight, and heifers edged up 25 cents to $127.
Light trade in rail grade heifers was reported at $216 per cwt. delivered, up $1. Sales volume fell 27 percent to 8,094 head.
The Alberta cash-to-futures basis was mostly steady at -$11.96.
Weekly western Canadian fed slaughter to Dec. 14 rose five percent to 28,074 head. Slaughter volume for the year to date was down four percent at 1,555,546 head. Weekly fed cattle exports to Dec. 7 rose 32 percent to 6,109 head.
Year to date, fed exports were down 17 percent to 330,721. Cash cattle for immediate delivery over the holidays were expected to see steady to slightly higher bids.
Cow prices stronger
Prices firmed $2.30 per cwt. in the week ending Dec. 20, despite continued large volumes of cull cows through auctions. U.S. and Canadian demand supported prices.
Western Canadian cow slaughter has been more than 10,000 head per week for four out of the last five weeks.
It had been rare to top 10,000 a week in the last few years.
Packers were aggressive procuring inventory for the holiday season and early January.
D1, D2 cows ranged $62-$80 to average $72.67 and D3s ranged $54-$72 to average $63.88.
The rail grade range was $145-$150.
Non-fed prices are expected to increase modestly into January, but volumes may not shrink until later into the new year. Butcher bulls fell 90 cents to range from $70–$92 per cwt.
Quality feeders rise
The calf and feeder market had a stronger tone in the week ending Dec. 20. Quality feeders traded $2-$4 per cwt. higher.
Calves under than 400 pounds and heavy feeders over 900 lb. were under pressure, likely because of inconsistent quality.
However, groups of quality calves in these weight categories saw strong demand, especially late in the week.
Feeder exports remained strong. In the week to Dec. 7, 14,305 head were shipped, the largest weekly export total since early 2009.
The feeder cash-to-futures basis was exceptionally weak at -$33.85, stimulating feeder exports. Auction volumes increased from the previous week and were 33 percent higher than the same week last year. Auction volumes through 2013 in Saskatchewan and Alberta were 10 percent larger than 2012.
Many calves traded this fall that normally would have been retained until the new year.
Replacement feeder supply in the spring will likely be tight, but some may be pulled out of feedlots if the price is right for the seller. The Canadian dollar and feed costs look supportive for the feeder market.
The basis is expected to remain weak, but tight feeder supplies and a glut of feed grain could help improve the basis in 2014.
U.S. beef mixed
U.S. boxed beef prices were mixed with Choice down $2.74 at $197.71 US per cwt. and Select up $2.16 at 188.78 per cwt.
As procurement for Christmas feasts wound down, Choice ribs plummeted $38.20 per cwt., with Select ribs and Choice loins down $11.55 per cwt. and $8.35 per cwt., respectively.
Soft demand during the holidays combined with weather problems in the United States were expected to stall beef movement, but reduced production would lend support to prices.
Weekly Canadian cutout to Dec. 13 was unavailable.
Montreal wholesale prices for delivery in the last week of the year were $225-$226 per cwt.